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Jew-rovision Song Contest

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2006-04-20

Tina Karol

Tina Karol

There's just a few weeks to go before the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest takes place in the Greek capital Athens – and this year it's not just Israel who are providing the Jewish interest.

In fact, there's several Semitic stars taking to the Eurovision stage this year, the most notable being Ukrainian singer Tina Karol. The 21-year-old is hoping to make an impact with the song Show Me Your Love, a bouncy little number which blends ethnic rhythms with modern dance beats – but she's got to make it through the semi-final on May 18 first if she wants to stand a chance of scoring a second Eurovision victory for Ukraine.

The daughter of two engineers, Tina – whose real name is Tatiana Liberman – was born on January 25 1985 in the Magadan region of Russia. Her musical career began when she was a teenager, taking part in Jewish and Israeli music festivals both in her home country and abroad. "For four years, I performed with the dancing ensemble at the Kiev branch of the Jewish Agency, and my repertoire included songs in Hebrew and in Yiddish," she recently revealed.

She also made her mark in a series of charity concerts all over the US, as well as performing for the Ukranian Armed Forces and going on peacekeeping missions to Iraq and Kosovo. However, little is actually known about her Jewish background – and Tina hasn't given much away.

"There was a period in my life when I was deciding on my religious beliefs, but now I think I've found my stand on this," she says. "I believe in God, but I don't identify with any particular religion."

If Tina makes it through to the Eurovision final on May 20, she'll face some stiff competition from fellow Jewish hopeful Liel. The 16-year-old Israeli singer is a big star both at home and across Europe, and is probably best known for performing with former president Bill Clinton – and she's hoping to add Eurovision success to her list of achievements. However, she's not representing Israel, as you might expect, but is in fact one member of Six4One, a multi-national group representing Switzerland (which also features members from Bosnia , Malta and Portugal among others). Their song, If We All Give A Little, has qualified directly for the final and is being tipped to do well.

And what of Israel themselves? Well, they're in the final too, although their participant isn't actually Jewish, but is in fact an African-American who lives in Jerusalem and is currently undergoing conversion to Judaism. Eddie Butler previously sang for Israel as part of the band Eden in 1999 (when the contest took place in Jerusalem), and this year is back as a solo performer with the ballad Ze Hazman. Whether he'll bring the contest back to the Holy Land remains to be seen, but after Israel 's superb performance in last year's contest he has a hard act to follow.