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`God is with me' claims Eurovision victor Dana.

Eurovision Song Contest winner, Israeli transsexual Dana International, has refused to denounce the ultra-orthodox Jewish critics who have condemned her.

Speaking in Birmingham yesterday, Dana, following her success in one of the most closely-fought contests in its 43-year history, said she "forgave" her critics in Israel.

"My victory has proved that God is with me," she said.

"I don't have to open my mouth. You can never argue with Number One. The majority of Israelis are for Dana.

"I want to send them a message of forgiveness and say to them, 'Try to accept me, and try to understand my kind of life, and my kind of choice'.

"Yes, I have critics. But they are in the minority. Unfortunately they are the minority who have the power and money," said the former drag queen who underwent a sex change operation in 1993.

She said that Israel's Prime Minister Mr Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to find the money for his country to host next year's Eurovision Song Contest.

More than 100million viewers across 33 countries, including Australia and Korea, tuned in for the pounds 5million three-hour show beamed live from the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.

The Israeli star, who was born Yaran Cohen, tied with Malta on the last-but-one vote.

But the contest, the largest Eurovision staged with 25 countries competing, was decided when the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia awarded eight points to Israel in the last round.

The song - Diva - which has already been a hit in Israel, was criticised by orthodox Jews who also wanted to ban Dana from competing.

Yesterday Rabbi Shlomo Benizri, Israel's deputy Health Minister from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, said the win was a "sign of the bankruptcy of Israeli song".

"In order to win the Eurovision after 20 years, we had to send a gimmick," he said.

"God is against this phenomenon. It's a sickness you must cure and not give legitimacy."

Reports/Page 5

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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 11, 1998
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