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The Israel Song Festival

Long-term cooperation between the Israel Broadcasting Authority and ICC Jerusalem led to one of the Hebrew song events that has become identified with both bodies and has made an indelible mark on the history of Israeli singing and songwriting. 
The the Israel Song Festival competition was established in 1960 and was broadcasted on Kol Yisrael radio. The festival moved to ICC Jerusalem in 1965, and was accompanied by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Moshe Vilansky. The song "Ayalet Hachen" performed by Arik Einstein and Yaffa Yarkoni won first prize that year. The songs "Hagavia" and "Layla Karev", performed by the Gesher Hayarkon Trio and Nechama Handel won second and third prizes, respectively. In 1969, the festival was broadcasted on live  Television in Israel for the first time.

Among the songs that have been written for the Israel Song Festival and have become inalienable assets in  Israeli music are: "Leil Stav" performed by Arik Einstein and Yaffa Yarkoni, "Lo Pa'am Ba'kayitz" performed by Edna Goren and Arik Einstein and "Balada La'hovesh" performed by Yehoram Gaon. The inclusion of this song in the Song Festival during the War of Attrition was accompanied by public criticism and was banned from being played on the radio for a number of years.
In 1967, the Mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek asked for five songs for the festival that were sung outside of the framework of the competition, among them Naomi Shemer's song "Jerusalem of Gold" performed by Shuli Natan. A few months later, with the outbreak of the Six-Day War, this song became a symbol of the war and of Israel's victory. 

Other songs that were etched into the public consciousness were "Ba'derech Hazara" performed by the soldier Avi Toledano, "Al Kapav Yavi" performed by Rivka Zohar, "Prague" performed by Arik Einstein (who also concluded his appearance at the Song Festival with this song), "Ahavatiha" performed by Shlomo Artzi, "Rabbi Akiva" performed by Rivka Zohar, "Ahavata shel Teresa Dimone" performed by Ilanit, "Mayim Le'David Hamelech" performed by the Hagashash Hahiver group and many other favorites. The songs of the Israel Song Festival have often become hits during their time and became springboards for the careers of those performing them. Many songs written for the Song Festival have reflected the spirit of their time, referencing central historic events and expressing mainstream mindsets in Israeli society.

In 1978 it was decided that the winning song of the festival would represent the State of Israel at the Eurovision competition.  Consequently, the nature of the songs in the competition changed, becoming lighter and catchier in order to try to fit the European audiences tastes. The song "A-Ba-Ni-Bi" performed by Izhar Cohen took first place at the Song Festival and first place at the Eurovision and brought the Eurovision competition of 1979 to ICC Jerusalem. An Israeli song, "Hallelujah", performed by Gali Atari and the Milk and Honey Group won this competition as well. 20 years later, in 1999, ICC Jerusalem again hosted the Eurovision competition, this time after Dana International won the competition the previous year with the song "Diva". 
 
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