My article from April 2013 when Mohammed Assaf was on the way to winning Arab Idol..blazing like a “rocket” into the hearts of the Judges and world audiences.
Two days ago Mousheera Jammal and I went to Palestine University to talk to Lecturers and fellow students who know Palestine’s rising Arab Idol star…Mohamed Assaf.
Mohamed has been setting the stage alight and bewitching the Arab Idol judges with his depth of soul and soaring vocals. Ragheb Allama described Mohamed as “a rocket that was heading for the stars, the Arab Idol is born”. Nanci Ajram ” you are incredible, my vote is already cast!”.
Talking to those who know him at his University in Gaza, we understood why.
Mohamed is described, without exception, as an unassuming, humble student who has endured great hardship in Gaza without complaint. His voice has been his escape from the day to day survival in Khan Younis refugee camp where his family would have experienced regular incursions and attacks from the Israeli forces permanently camped at the border fences.
One young girl, Sharouk Aljor also a singer for many years shyly said that she is living her own dreams through Mohamed’s success on the TV talent show.
The pride in Mohamed’s achievements is palpable. There is a real sense that he is putting Palestine on the map, where it belongs, not only in the Arab world but further afield where his voice may touch hearts that years of political campaigning and international activism have failed to affect.
Israel’s concern at his unexpected star status is evident. They are attacking him for the traditional song choice that sings of the ancient villages of Palestine. The song describes a bird that flies from village to village bringing greetings and love to the displaced inhabitants of Palestine.
Hussein Saad, his lecturer at the University had pride in his eyes as he described how Mohamed will bring honour to Palestine. “It is resistance through Art that will put our cause in the spotlight and highlight our suffering worldwide”. Hussein remembers Mohamed as an 11 year old who had seen more horror than any 11 year old should have to witness. ” His voice carried him away to a world far from his life of terror and fear. He sang to forget and now he sings so the world will remember Palestine and support our fight for Freedom. Mohamed is the symbol of all that is Palestine, we support him and pray that Arab nations will take him to their hearts so he can carry our message further than it has ever gone before”