Israeli songstress Noa Kirel departed for Liverpool on Sunday as fans gathered at Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion Airport to see her off and wish her luck.
“I have to admit, I never expected to feel this level of excitement. It’s an enormous honor to be chosen to represent our country,” the 22-year-old told reporters before boarding her plane.
“To share my song with the world and to feel the overwhelming love and support from my fans is truly a dream come true. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my parents and of course, all of you,” she said.
Even though Kirel was born with unilateral renal agenesis, meaning she has one kidney, she was drafted into the IDF in February 2020 and served in a military band. She completed her two-year mandatory service in February 2022.
“There was never a doubt in my mind,” she told Billboard in 2020. “My father and grandfather both served in significant roles, and even if my medical condition would’ve prevented recruitment, I would volunteer.
“Ultimately, I fought for this,” she said. “I influence many young teenagers and it’s important for me to encourage them to enlist as well. I’m fortunate to experience many exciting things in my career, but the army connects me to my people. I’m about to go through something powerful, like every other girl my age, and I wasn’t about to give that up.”
The Eurovision Song Contest is taking place in England after 2022 winner Ukraine was unable to host the annual event.
Kirel, who will perform her song “Unicorn” during the first semifinal on May 9, hopes to become Israel’s fifth Eurovision winner.
Israel most recently won in 2018 when Netta Barzilai fused pop style and feminist lyrics for the song “Toy” at the contest held in Lisbon.
“Netta,” as she is known in Israel, and other past Eurovision winners are also slated to perform during the finals.
The Eurovision finale is on May 13.