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Eurovision Song Contest defends itself after Israeli band dropped out to avoid singing on the Sabbath

The Eurovision Song Contest is answering for itself after an Israeli band dropped out of the competition because it learned its members would be forced to work on the Jewish Sabbath.

The Shalva group says Wednesday it’s quitting Israel’s qualifying competition after the Eurovision organizers said it would make no exceptions for Israel’s ultimate winner. The competition is held on a Saturday night and the compulsory rehearsal falls on the Sabbath.

“All broadcasters commit to abide by the Contest’s rules when agreeing to participate. The rules state that each broadcaster will undertake to enter a national song and a Contestant that complies with the present rules. These rules include obligation of attendance across all rehearsals and live shows, for delegation members and contestants,” a spokesperson for Eurovision Singing Contest told Fox News in a statement.

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The spokesperson explained that any application by a broadcaster to waive these rules under mitigating circumstances must be run through the contest’s governing body and changes would be made at its discretion based on its impact on the other contestants.

“In this instance a change to the rules to exempt a Contestant from performing in both the Jury Final and the Grand Final dress rehearsal would involve disruption to the production schedule and compromise the fairness of the competition. It would also deny audiences in Tel Aviv the chance to see the home country’s participant perform in both shows,” the statement read. “For these reasons, the Reference Group felt that it would not be possible to grant KAN’s request.”

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Shalva, which has several members who are blind or have Down syndrome, has become a fan favorite and serious contender to sing Israel’s entry. Israeli critics say the Eurovision seems tolerant of all besides Orthodox Jews.

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The Eurovision final is on May 18. Israel earned the right to host the competition thanks to Netta Barzilai’s win last year with “Toy.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.