Hundreds of thousands of Arabs across Eretz Israel and millions across the Middle East crowded in homes, cafes and open-air venues to watch the final episode of the popular Arab Idol reality show, Ma’an reported.
Eretz Israel Arabs are hoping that their 23-year-old contender from the Gaza Strip Mohammed Assaf will be declared the winner of this year’s series, which would be the first time for any Eretz Israel Arab.
The Arabs in Israel, including Judea, Samaria and Gaza, have traditionally enjoyed Egyptian singers, actors and soap-operas, but now they seem ready for a local victory.
The Libyan born Assaf grew up in Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip. He says he had to plead with Hamas to let him leave Gaza, then bribe Egyptian border guards to let him enter the country en route to Lebanon. A fellow Arab from Eretz Israel gave up his slot during the audition phase because he believed Assaf had a better chance at winning.
One remark from Egyptian member of the jury Hassan al-Shafii gave them more hope than usual. He told the audience that a voice like Assaf’s comes around only once every 500 years.
But if Assaf is to rely on only the local Arabs voting for him, his chances are slim because the two other finalists, Muhammad Jamal from Egypt and Farrah Yousif from Syria, have a much bigger pool of voters compared with the much smaller population of Eretz Israel Arabs.
Still, early indications show that large numbers of young people across the Arab world are voting for Assaf based on his singing abilities rather than nationality.
Hassan gained popularity in Eretz Israel and across the Arab world through his participation in a similar show broadcast on the Lebanese satellite TV Future. He was one of the three finalists, though he didn’t win the title, which went to a Libyan competitor.
Speaking to Ma’an by telephone, Hassan added, “It’s a great, thrilling voice. Whether he wins the title or not, his career starts now after he attracted a large number of fans through his great performance.”
Assaf performed three songs on Friday, the last of which was the popular Arab song Alli al-Kufya, or “Wave High the Kufiya,” the traditional Arab men’s headdress.