KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip —
At the family home, friends spoke with open affection, saying Mohammed Assad had shown them and the world that just because they were the children of refugees, it didn't mean that they couldn't make it, in Gaza or out.
A friend, Mohammed Abu Jaber, 23, told of how Assaf tried to enter Egypt through the Rafah crossing to journey to Cairo for the "Arab Idol" auditions but was denied permission, requiring him to pay fixers to smooth the way. He arrived an hour too late, and the gate to the recital hall was locked.
His mother, the story goes, told him on the telephone to hop the wall, and he did. Security guards took pity on him, but there were no more slots for the audition. Assaf began to sing in the hallway, and another contender who heard him told Assaf that he could win — and gave him his ticket to try out.
The winner of "Arab Idol" will be crowned June 21.