Monday, February 18th, 2019
  
 

‘She is home’: thousands of mourners lay Aiia Maasarwe to rest in home city

Many residents wore black t-shirts with the slogan: “Aiia, rest in paradise.”

Relatives and friends carry the coffin of Aiia Maasarwe through the city of Baqa El Gharbiye, Israel.Credit:AP

Much of the city was shut down for the morning in preparation of the funeral.

Ahead of the funeral, women from the family and the wider community gathered at the Maasarwe’s family home, in the entrance to the city, to prepare her body for burial.

One of Maasarwe’s family members thanked the community in Baqa al-Gharbiyye, Israel and Australia for their outpouring of support.

Women cry during the funeral for Maasarwe.Credit:AP

“She was an angel,” Rawda Maasarwe told the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. “But now we feel much better… after she is home, in the right place, where she must be. God will take care of her.”

Maasarwe was buried in a hilltop cemetery next to the central Abu Bakr mosque, where an imam said prayers over her body as male family members stood around the newly-dug earth.

After the burial service, mourners gathered to hear speeches by family, religious leaders and government officials, including the Australian ambassador to Israel Chris Cannan.

A billboard along the street leading to the mosque in Aiia Maarsawe’s home town in Israel reads ‘To the gardens of God’.Credit:AAP

Speaking directly to the Maasarwe family, Cannan passed on a message from Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“There are moments in life that have no explanation, and we are tested beyond what is possible to bear… this is one of those moments,” he told the congregation. “Aiia was our guest, and by all accounts she lived a life full of family, love and joy. The goodness of her life contrasts with the darkness of those that took it.”

Mourners spill outside the packed mosque where the body of murdered international student Aiia Maasarwe was taken.Credit:AAP

“The Australian people are grateful Aiia chose to share her life amongst us”” Cannan said as he read a statement by the Prime Minister. He said Australia promised to stand with the family “as long as it takes”.

Speaking to reporters outside the funeral, Cannan said he was struck by how men and woman of Australia from all communities, faiths and sides of politics have “come together to express their sympathy over the death of Aiia”.

Also in attendance was Mohammad Baraki, head of the Arab committee in Israel.

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Baraki thanked Australians for their solidarity, calling on Israelis to learn “this message as to how we cope and respond to victims of crime”.

However, Shareef Maasarwe, who accompanied Said Maasarwe to Israel on the flight back from Australia, told the press he did not want his cousin’s death to become a political issue. He said he was proud of how much help he had seen from the community in Israel and in Australia.

Residents of Baqa al-Gharbiyye told the Age and the Herald many people were worried about their own children.

Raid Sawalha, a close neighbour and friend of the family, said he would now refuse to send his own children to study abroad for fear of their safety.

“The situation is too hard, despite Australia being a good place,” he said.

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“It’s a very difficult day today, and it is not over. Our whole city is worried about the children who are studying abroad. It will be hard now for them to continue or finish their studies.

“For seven days, no one left the family alone. It has been very hard for the city. It is the first time anything like this has ever happened to us.”

Earlier, at the airport on the arrival of Maasarwe’s body, a member of Israeli Parliament, Ahmed Tibi, called out Israeli authorities for their silence on Maasarwe’s murder.

“The Foreign Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was silent… This silence is a disgrace,” he said.

He added that the community had, however, been brought together by the tragedy.

Aiia Maasarwe’s coffin covered in flowers.Credit:Gabrielle Weiniger

“We have seen empathy from both Jews and Arabs, because it touched all people. Because of Aiia’s smile, we are all here.”

A Palestinian with Israeli citizenship, Maasarwe had moved to Melbourne for a one-year exchange program to study at La Trobe University.

Codey Herrmann, 20, has been charged with her rape and murder.