Thousands of mourners on Thursday attended the funeral of renowned ballet dancer Ayman Safiah, 29, whose body was found a day earlier off the coast at Atlit after a four-day search.
Safiah, considered one the most talented Arab Israeli dancers the country has ever produced, disappeared after entering the Mediterranean off the coast of Neve Yam in northern Israel on Sunday.
At the funeral, the head of the regional council of Kafr Yasif said that Safiah was an example to all.
“He was a groundbreaking and talented young man and inspires many young people in Arab society and in general,” said Shadi Shviri, according to Channel 12 news.
Safiah’s father told the outlet that his son’s death had led to an outpouring of love toward his family.
“Ayman was supposed to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with us, but the sea caught him off guard. These days we as a family are feeling the immense love everywhere, and that is what sets Arab society apart,” he said.
Culture Minister Hili Tropper said that Safiah’s death was a “great loss” to the world of dance.
“I was sorry to hear of the death of the gifted dancer Ayman Safiah in tragic circumstances. This is a great loss to the dance world. Safiah was one of the greatest dancers and has made notable achievements all over the world,” he said according to Channel 12.
الالاف يشيعون جثمان الشاب الفنان المرحوم ايمن صفية من كفرياسيف????????אלפים מלווים בדרכו האחרונה,האומן איימן ספייה מכפר יאסיף. pic.twitter.com/Xm4y1qz632
— |فرات نصار|פוראת נסאר|FURAT NASSAR (@nassar_furat) May 28, 2020
According to Hebrew media reports, Safiah was with a friend when the two were pulled out to sea by currents.
Safiah managed to push the woman he was with back toward the shore but was unable to pull himself from the water.
قبل قليل العثور على جثة الشاب المرحوم ايمن صفية في عتليت????????????לפני זמן קצר סמוך לחוף עתלית, אותרה גופתו של איימן ספייה,וכעת מבצעים הליך זיהוי. pic.twitter.com/JRbWm9lhtq
— |فرات نصار|פוראת נסאר|FURAT NASSAR (@nassar_furat) May 27, 2020
Police launched a search for him after he was reported missing and in the following days dozens of friends, family and volunteers, including divers, have joined the operation.
A relative told Channel 12 news that the family had received concerned messages from people in Israel and abroad, “something that testifies about the person and his character.”
MK Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List alliance of predominantly Arab parties, who had arrived at the scene on Tuesday to watch the searchers and speak with the family, tweeted on Wednesday that “the hundreds of Arab and Jewish volunteers who arrived to support his family prove that his spirit is still with us.”
“Condolences to the family,” he wrote. “What a terrible loss.”
He had previously said he found the family disappointed with the police efforts.
“The family tells us that they are the ones leading most of the searches over the past few days and sharply criticized emergency services for waking up too late,” Odeh tweeted earlier this week. “I am full of appreciation for the hundreds of young people who came to help search and our hearts are with the Safiah family.”
In a statement Tuesday the Israel Police said it was “investing the best operational forces, resources and technological capabilities to find the missing person.”
Searches had been carried out in the air using a helicopter and drones as well as at sea and by divers, and along beaches in the area, the statement said, adding that police appreciated the efforts of the volunteers who were helping in the search.
On Saturday Safiah had posted on his Facebook page a video of himself dancing.
פורסם על ידי Ayman Safiah ב- יום שבת, 23 במאי 2020
He began his dance studies at a school in Kibbutz Ga’aton in northern Israel. He later went on to complete a masters degree in dance in London and, after performing internationally, returned to Israel to continue his career and teach dance.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.