Assaf’s parents are delighted with their son’s rise to stardom, but fear there is no future for his career at home.
“The youth in Gaza want to live normally,” his 50-year-old mother, Umm Shadi, said. “They don’t lack talent or ambition, but they need to break out of their tough circumstances.”
There was little room for artistic creativity in Gaza, the teacher at a school for refugees added.
“Politics trumps everything here,” she said.
Jaber Assaf, Mohammed’s 55-year-old father, cheered for his son alongside fans in Gaza.
However, he warned that if Assaf were to pursue his musical career, “he can’t stay in Gaza, because the art scene here is limited.”
There are no accredited music institutes in Gaza and people have to fund themselves to pursue the performing arts.
Before competing on Arab Idol, Assaf usually sang at concerts and parties in the Gaza Strip, but never got paid for it.
Last season’s Arab Idol victor won a Chevrolet sports car and a recording contract with United Arab Emirates-based Platinum Records.
Assaf, born in Misrata, Libya, in 1990, started singing aged five after returning to Gaza when his father finished his accountancy work in the North African country.