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‘Oh Jerusalem my tears are scattered,’ Mohammed Assaf sings in occupied Bethlehem


Mohammed Assaf performed Ya Tir Ya Tair/ Oh you bird going home to a packed audience in Bethlehem on Thursday night. It’s the hugely popular national song that qualified him for the Arab Idol competition and has “struck a chord with Palestinians and Arabs everywhere.”

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Mohammed Assaf at the Church of Nativity
Bethlehem, Palestine (photo: Facebook)

Just in case anyone thinks this obsession with Mohammed Assaf is some kind of passing phase, it isn’t. The concert was not only about patriotism and Palestine, it was about classical Arabic songs, and oldies from around the Arab world. Assaf is  introducing a younger generation who grew up on flossy pop music, to great music. And there is a thirst for this music. His performance is magical, hypnotic and spellbinding. We have no other words for it.

This performance is a must view/listen. The song Ya Tir Ya Tair is actually longer than the version he sang in Arab Idol and here he is singing the full version, then singing other songs, it’s a medley of patriotic songs. But it begins with the same lyrics we posted in our original coverage:

Oh you bird going home
My eyes will watch over you and May God protect you

Oh you traveler, you make me jealous
Palestine is my beautiful country

Go to Safad and Tiberias
Send my love to Acre and Haifa

Don’t forget the Arab Castle, Nazareth
Tell Bissan, its people are coming back


Oh Jerusalem, my tears are scattered
My people is, around the world, scattered

History is proud of us,
for my people have beared a lot

(end of Mawwal)

Pass to Gaza, kiss its sands
Its people are brave and its men are strong

Jerusalem, the capital, and Al Aqsa its center
May Allah unite us with its land.

Here are more lyrics which the chorus is singing backing him at 6:56:

Palestine My mother…my soul
Palestine enough of my wounds
Palestine you will not be humiliated .. you will not be degraded
Palestine you are the balm for my wounds
Palestine for your sake we will fight
Palestine The free will come to your soil in convoys
your people called in the highest platforms
the Flags will be raised

then he transitions into another song..

Raise your flags, asmar with the keffeyeh your forehead is high…decorated with the Keffeyeh.

(Previous Mohammed Assaf reports on Mondoweiss available here)

(Rawan Yaghi contributed to this report)

Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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11 Responses

  1. philweiss on August 4, 2013, 2:57 pm

    When Assaf at 2:48 says Come on come on, is that Arabic, or is he using an American idiom?

    • annie on August 4, 2013, 3:27 pm

      i have no idea phil…i can’t stop listening to it. i love the last half w/the percussion and chorus really kicks in. last night i must have listened to it at least ten times. i’m hopelessly addicted. lol

    • Enass T on August 4, 2013, 3:49 pm

      he is saying Kaman Kaman (كمان.. كمان)
      that is arabic

  2. philweiss on August 4, 2013, 4:12 pm

    Thanks Enass, and thanks much for the post. I find this guy incredible. Such restraint, for such a young man.

    • Pamela Olson on August 5, 2013, 11:20 am

      Kaman means “Also” or “Again” or “More.”

      For example, “Ana kaman” means “Me, too.”

      “Kaman marra?” means “Another time?” or “Once again?”

      “Kaman shai?” means “More tea?”

      A lovely and flexible word :)

  3. Inanna on August 4, 2013, 8:22 pm

    To the Mondo team and especially Annie and Enass a huge SHUKRAN JAZEELAN to all of you for your continued coverage of Mohammad Assaf. You’re right about his impact on the Arab world and it makes me incredibly happy to know that non-Arabs are as affected as we are by his talent and his incredible poise.

    At around the 12 minute mark he did a little bit of a lovely Bedouin song which just goes to show just how wide his range is. He reminds me of Fairouz (not only for the amazing voice) but like Fairouz he sings for all Arabs.

    • annie on August 4, 2013, 10:08 pm

      Inanna, yes we are die hard fans! as enass says “:)))))))” it’s so wonderful you like the posts, i just love this song/video. and there are so many others…omg. it’s incredible. he also sang “I was slayed by her black eyes” !!

      i’m so lucky to have met habibti enass. needless to say we’ve shared just a few emails about assaf since our last post about him here.

      At around the 12 minute mark he did a little bit of a lovely Bedouin song

      yes we were discussing that earlier…the ending is transcending..and the percussion.

      anyway, very very much appreciated. even if one mondoweiss reader enjoys it as much as we do it makes it all worth sharing here. shukran jazeelan ;)

      and just in case anyone wants to hear the intro ..the song from the very beginning starts around 15 minutes

      • Enass T on August 5, 2013, 8:35 am

        Annie and Inanna,

        in one of his performances in Arab Idol, Mohammed sang a part a traditional song, a sentence stuck with me.
        “Salute the circumstances that got us together”

        I am so happy to share my love of Mohammed Assaf and what he represents for me as a Palestinian with you all. This site helped go through hard times regarding the situation in Palestine.
        It is so amazing that we can share some happiness produced in Palestine , not just struggle and tragedy.

      • saramus on August 5, 2013, 2:06 pm

        Dear Annie. I too am an ardent fan–I am moved to tears every time. I am very grateful to the native speaker(s) of Arabic who translated the lyrics and should like to respectfully emend a few tricky words in the English text. For example, “I was slain by her black eyes”; “my people have borne a lot”; “Palestine, you are the balm for my wounds.”

      • Susan A on August 5, 2013, 4:44 pm

        Well, here’s another one who’s enjoying the post! And Definitely not just a passing phase. I’m going to be obsessed, that is, listening daily, for at least six months! I’m like that when I love a great, great singer. :) Not only have I been listening to the Arab Idol playlist created by Farah Nasser daily, usually all of it, but I’ve also been watching all the videos that Mohammed himself has posted. Of course, I’d already seen the Bethlehem video, but I’d no idea it was in Bethlehem, a place that he had absolutely no chance of visiting such a short time ago. So once again, thank you beautiful people for keeping me informed. It’s great to see Phil’s input too, he even wrote a piece about Mohammed after he’d won, didn’t he? I too thought he was saying “Come on, come on” so thanks for the Arabic lesson Enass and Pamela. Even when I’m not watching/listening, his voice is with me always. Did you see Reem Kelani’s piece on EI? She too, thinks he’s a great singer. As to whether he’ll be compromised by politicians, I say, not unless he wants to be and thus far he’s been true to himself, to Palestine and its people. Keep it up young hero! We love you!

  4. just on August 5, 2013, 4:25 am

    Mohammed Assaf is a joyful Gandhi . I was in Bethlehem many years ago– it was not “occupied” then. Bless him, and Annie, Enass Tinah and Mondoweiss.

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