Bethlehem's finest: Shaheen wins Arab idol, Palestine ululates

Bethlehem's finest: Shaheen wins Arab idol, Palestine ululates
2 min read
26 February, 2017
Palestinians celebrated enthusiastically after Yacoub Shaheen was announced the 2017 victor of the popular TV talent show
Palestinians went crazy back in 2013 after winning Arab Idol [Getty]

For the second time in the competition's history Palestinians are celebrating in the streets, and ululating after a victory on the immensely popular TV talent show Arab Idol.

Yaqoub Shaheen, from Bethlehem, stormed to victory to follow in the footsteps of his compatriot Mohammed Assaf - the Gazan singer who won the title in 2013.

The final, which took place in Lebanon, featured two Palestinians. Competing against Shaheen were American resident Ameer Dandan, from Majd al-Krum village in Israel, and Ammar Mohammed from Yemen.

After he won Shaheen draped himself in the Palestinian flag and sang a patriotic song, including the line: "My pledge and my oath, my blood is Palestinian".

In the West Bank and Gaza it was standing room only in the coffee shops, in scenes reminiscent of a crucial football match, many families reserved their sets in advance in front of giant screens.

"It is a national day. A national historic day for Palestine," Mohammed Abu Ali, 40, told Reuters as he sat with his wife and three children in a cafe in Gaza watching the final.

The competition this year took on extra political significance, as high profile politicians recognised its popularity. Yemeni and Palestinian dignitaries pandered to populism by urging people to vote with their nationality.

On Friday night a high-profile Palestinian delegation led by the president's son attended the first night of the final at the MBC studios in Beirut, reported Reuters.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who was in Lebanon for an official visit, hosted the three finalists at his embassy's residence.

Amid the scenes of celebrations on the streets in Palestine after Shaheen's victory, many of the crowd were moved to hope as car horns sounded in jubilation.

"There are faces of victory, political and musical. Today it is musical, but we hope one day we will have our political victory," said Abu Ali.