This has already been called his victory performance.
Mohammed Assaf, a talented Palestinian singer, is largely considered the front-runner in this season’s Arab Idol singing competition. His rise in popularity can be accredited to his skill, his confident stage presence, and his personal background. Hailing from Gaza’s Khan Younis refugee camp, Assaf is considered by many Palestinians to be a national hero and a treasure with which the world fell in love. Support for Assaf comes from every part of the world, including from within Israel.
Assaf’s rise to success had a shaky start. It took the singer two days to travel from the Gaza Strip to Cairo where auditions were being held. By the time he arrived, the gates were closed shut. With encouragement from his mother, Assaf scaled the wall and managed to sneak his way into the audition center. Here he faced yet another problem: he couldn’t register as a contestant. Committed to performing on the grand stage, Assaf began to sing right then and there, wowing all of the contestants who were anxiously lined up. One man was so impressed that he handed Assaf his contestant’s number, saying that Assaf could very well win this thing.
In tonight’s performance, his final one before votes are counted and a winner is decided, Assaf takes listeners through the letters of the word Falasteen. He honors the prisoners and the struggle. He even inspires the audience and the judges to let loose. There comes a point when an excited fan takes to the stage and joins Assaf in a soft dabke step.
With much of the Middle East following Assaf’s every note, with Palestinians in the West Bank lining entire city blocks to cast their votes, and with Palestinians in Gaza pushing large televisions out into the streets to make his performances as “live” as possible, there is hope in the air that he will walk away with a victory.