Israel is down to its final four Eurovision hopefuls!

On Sunday night’s show, singers Eli Hulil and Inbal Bibi advanced to the finals of this season of X Factor Israel. (For more information on THEM, click here.) Tonight, the four remaining singers battled it out for the two empty slots in the next round. After a series of duels and truels, the lucky performers given tickets to next week’s shows were … Michael Ben David and Sapir Saban. Let’s meet the new finalists:

Michael Ben David

Unlike his three fellow finalists, flamboyant 25-year-old Michael Ben David does not have a history of competing on reality singing shows. Michael graduated from a school for the performing arts at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and, aside from some theater work, had mainly worked as a waiter before the X Factor Israel auditions came around. On tonight’s show, he performed covers of songs by ABBA and Billie Eilish. [Click the artists’ names to view Michael’s performances.]

He has also covered songs by Pet Shop Boys (see above), Lizzo, and The Mamas & the Papas this season. During Eurovision week, he performed a jazz-ed up rendition of Chocolate, Menta, Mastik‘s “Emor Shalom”, Israel’s 1976 entry.

Sapir Saban

27-year-old singer Sapir Saban is of Turkish descent and was mentored on this season of X Factor Israel by Aviv Geffen, an Israeli rocker and producer. Aviv Geffen was also a coach on the fourth season of The Voice Israel in 2017, a season Sapir went on to win. After her victory, she released a number of singles, and her debut album, It’ll Be All Right, was released late last year. On tonight’s show, she performed songs by Israeli rock musician Dudu Tassa and Israeli pop star Noa Kirel. [Click the artists’ names to view Sapir’s performances.]

During her time on X Factor Israel, she performed songs by Olivia Newton-John and Cher, as well as “Shvil ha’bricha” (see above) by Israeli pop singer Rita, a hit song that competed in the Israeli national final in 1986. She missed the January 6 episode of the season due to a Covid-19 scare and was almost eliminated after last week’s shows.

The selection process tonight was not without contention. The judges (including Eurovision 2018 winner Netta) argued about the purpose of X Factor Israel. Is it a show in search of a singer with ‘the X Factor’? Or is it a competition to select Israel’s next Eurovision act? And, after the judges’ scores placed Michael Ben David in this year’s final, the vote between Sapir Saban and fellow semi-finalist Anna Stefanie for the last remaining slot was tied. It came down to a tie-breaker vote, with each judge picking the singer they most wanted to advance. In a 3-1 decision, Sapir Saban came out on top.

Now that these four Eurovision hopefuls have been selected, X Factor Israel moves to the final round of its process. On Sunday, at 12 PM local time/11 AM CET, the broadcaster will present the two potential songs that have been selected for each singer. Public voting will open, and, next Thursday, the finalists will perform both tracks and find out which one the audience has chosen.

Finally, on Saturday, February 5, Michael, Eli, Sapir, and Inbal will each perform their potential Eurovision entries, with the winner being determined by 50% public voting, 25% judges’ scores, and 25% broadcaster committee.

Which of the finalists are #YOU rooting for? Are #YOU ready to join the #ShaharWasRobbed movement? Cuz he was. Sound off in the comments below, in our forum, or on social media @ESCUnited.

Special thanks to @stateofesc2020 for ALL their guidance.

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