Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank erupted in jubilation Saturday night after Yaqoub Shaheen won the popular Beirut-based TV singing competition “Arab Idol.”
Shaheen, from Bethlehem, beat out Yemeni Ammar Mohammed as well as US resident Ammer Dandan, who hails from the northern Israeli town of Majd al-Krum. Shaheen joined Mohammad Assaf, who won in 2013, to become the second Palestinian to be crowned champion in the show’s four seasons.
After being announced the winner, Shaheen performed the song “My Blood is Palestinian” alongside Dandan. With Palestinian flags draped on both their shoulders, they joined audiences in the studio as well as cities throughout the Middle East in singing the line: “My pledge and my oath, my blood is Palestinian.”
Thousands of viewers in both the Palestinian territories and Arab cities inside of Israel poured into coffee shops and restaurants to watch the results. Those who did not fit thronged outside in the streets, whistling, cheering and hugging one another in celebration.
“It is a national day. A national historic day for Palestine,” Mohammed Abu Ali, who brought his wife and three children to a local Gaza cafe to watch the final, told Reuters.
Audience members choose the show’s winner each year by text message. Palestinian and Yemeni politicians encouraged supporters to vote and phone companies offered special promotions to boost participation.
Already in Lebanon on an official visit, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas hosted the three finalists at his embassy residence on Friday.