The singing Filipina caregiver who is winning Israel’s heart

In our home, as in many homes throughout Israel, she is known simply as Rose.

My kids — ranging from elementary school to post-high school — and I have been gathering around the television twice a week for the last three months to cheer on the Filipina caregiver as she continues to advance in the first season of “X-Factor Israel.”

This week she became one of four finalists who will perform on Tuesday in the show’s grand finale.

Rose Fostanes is not your ordinary reality-show contestant. She is short, dumpy and pushing 50. But when she opens her mouth and sings, you forget all that and just focus on the music.

On Tuesday she used her powerful voice to sing the Kelly Clarkson song “Because of You” as dancers floated in the air behind her. She also has belted out Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Lady Gaga’s “You and I” and Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful,” bringing tears to the eyes of her mentor, Shiri Maimon, an Israeli pop singer who was the first runner-up in the first season of Israel’s “Kochav Nolad,” the equivalent of “American Idol.”

When it comes to singing contest shows, Israelis seem either to be blind to religious and ethnic differences, or just suckers for a good story. Earlier this winter there were the haredi Orthodox Gat Brothers, the long-sidecurl-sporting singing rabbis who came in second place, losing by only a razor-thin margin in the new Israeli  show “Rising Star.”

Now Fostanes is a favorite to win “X-Factor.”

Fostanes has been working as a caregiver in Tel Aviv for the past six years and lives in a small apartment in Tel Aviv with 7 other Filipinos. She has been working abroad as a caregiver since she was 23, and worked in both Egypt and Lebanon before coming to Israel. She has not been home to see her family in two years.

Her sister Nancy told a newspaper in the Philippines that Rose was 15 years old when their father left the family, and Rose was left to raise her two sisters.

On Tuesday, “X-Factor” host Bar Refaeli asked Fostanes to tell the viewing audience why she should win.

“I think people should vote for me because I really need this badly. And because of you, because of your vote, maybe my life can change,” she replied. “When I was young, I’m dreaming to be a singer and please don’t let my dream end.”

I guess that’s better than saying “vote for me because I am the best.”

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