Gaza crowds welcome home 'Arab Idol' star

Song contest winner, Mohammed Assaf appeals for harmony among divided Palestinians upon return to Strip.

By REUTERS
June 25, 2013 17:58
1 minute read.
Mohammed Assaf with flag after Arab Idol win, June 22, 2013

Mohammed Assaf with flag after Arab Idol win370 . (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later Don't show it again

GAZA - Tens of thousands of joyous fans turned out on Tuesday to welcome "Arab Idol" Mohammed Assaf on his return to the Gaza Strip and the song contest winner appealed for harmony among divided Palestinians.

The fresh-faced 22-year-old from humble roots in a Gaza refugee camp has endeared millions of voting television viewers with his Palestinian patriotic anthems and folk songs.

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


Police from the Islamist Hamas movement that controls Gaza could barely hold back the crowds that waited for the grey-suited Assaf outside the gate of the territory's Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

His car drove through a sea of cheering Palestinians, some of whom climbed electricity poles and took to rooftops for a better glimpse of the young star, who was declared the winner of the popular pan-Arab competition in Beirut on Saturday.

"Thanks everyone, without you I would have never won," Assaf said at a news conference after his arrival.

He returned to a Palestinian enclave where political rifts run deep. Hamas, which won a 2006 parliamentary election, seized control of Gaza from forces loyal to Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party in 2007.

"I call for an end to division and I will continue to call for unity in all speeches I make," Assaf said.



Signalling its tacit endorsement of the singer, Hamas - which frowns on non-Islamic songs and the Western-style glitz of TV talent shows - sent officials from the Gaza-based Ministry of Culture to the border crossing to welcome him.

Fatah officials were also there, and many in the crowd waved the mainstream movement's yellow flags.

After his victory, Assaf was named by the United Nations as its first youth ambassador to Palestinian refugee camps in the territories and in neighboring countries. He is expected to visit the West Bank to perform.

"We won hope," said Abu Khalil, a 65-year-old Gaza resident. "I hope political leaders can learn something from Assaf - that love unites people, not hatred."

Related Content

Euro (illustrative)
August 19, 2018
German firms in line with U.S. Iran sanctions

By REUTERS