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Migrant worker from the Philippines triumphs in Israel's 'X Factor'

By Matthew Chance, CNN
updated 11:04 PM EST, Wed January 15, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Israeli version of talent show won by Rose Fostanes from the Philippines
  • Fostanes has lived in Israel for six years working as a caregiver
  • Rare for migrant workers to have a public profile in the country
  • Over 100,000 foreign workers are in Israel

(CNN) -- There are moments when reality television can highlight a country's sensitivities.

And Israel's version of the "X Factor" has done just that -- won not by a Jewish Israeli, but a migrant worker from the Philippines.

Filipina caregiver Rose Fostanes won the country's version of the talent show, Wednesday, making it through the early rounds singing tunes by Tina Turner and Christina Aguilera among others, before her rendition of "My Way" by Frank Sinatra in the grand finale.

"Thank you so much for all the Israelis who support me, thank you so much," said Fostanes on winning the competition. "Thank you so much also for giving us the chance to join in a competition like this."

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For a migrant worker to have any kind of public profile is highly unusual in Israel, but for one to win ones of the country's most popular talent shows is a surprise to many, including Fostanes.

Read more: All-American wows judges on 'Arabs Got Talent'

"I was surprised to be on 'X Factor.' First, I'm not an Israeli, and I don't even have residency," she said.

Most 'X Factor' winners can expect a record deal and a shot at being a professional singer, but Fostanes is in a different situation.

Her visa status means that despite being the most high-profile singer in the country at the moment, she cannot make money performing or recording in Israel, unless an exception is made.

If nothing else Fostanes says that she has received "a lot of love and care" from her fans in Israel.

However that is very different to how many migrant workers in the country feel. In recent weeks, there have been regular protests by activists, demanding greater rights for migrants, accusing the authorities of discrimination, and turning a blind eye to abuse.

According to a 2012 survey by the country's Central Bureau of Statistics there were 109,000 foreign workers in Israel.

Read more: 'Arab Idol' winner takes on the U.S.

The winner, who has been working in Israel for the past six years, says she has also experienced prejudice in the country and is unsure if her win might help change negative perceptions.

"I don't know. But I think there are good communications between employers and the caregivers now, since they saw me on 'X Factor,'"

At least for Fostanes -- singing her way into the hearts of Israelis -- attitudes have indeed changed.

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