'The Deep Sorrow We Feel': Aiia Masarwa's Town Fears Sending Their Daughters Abroad
Aiia Masarwa's home town remains in mourning as family and friends face the loss of someone they held dear and they grapple with their once widely held view of a safe Australia.
The community of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, a majority Palestinian city in northern Israel, came together to lay to rest the 21-year-old student on Wednesday, a week after she was murdered while walking home from a comedy show in Melbourne.
Masarwa had travelled to Australia to study and experience the world.
Fluent in multiple languages and one of the most popular students at her school, she had what those closest to her described as an extremely bright future.
"You could say she was the perfect student," her school principal, Faris Keblawi, told 10 News First.
"She was a girl who had a vision and within our traditional society she had very very impressive ideas. She wanted to be a businesswoman. We have seen more and more women entering this venture, but I think that she was very, very special in this case, she was a pilot.
"We expected her to achieve a lot."
Masarwa's murder sent shockwaves through their entire community, Keblawi said, perhaps best demonstrated by the sheer number of people who attended her funeral in Tel Aviv.
"The very fact that thousands of people showed up, many people came to show sympathy with the family, shows how much people are shocked here. The deep sorrow that we feel."
The tragic circumstances under which one of the community's youngest and brightest was taken from them has left many now unsure whether it's safe for their daughters to pursue their dreams abroad.
"They are talking about Australia right now as a not safe place," Al Tayab Ghanayem, a spokesman for the city, told 10 news first.
"I'm talking to the Arab citizens and they are shocked because they know that Australia is, was, a safe place and they are shocked this murder has been done. I personally talked with more than one father who is very concerned about his girl his daughter that she studies abroad."
Masarwa "broke the mold" by travelling so far to study, Ghanayem said, as a woman from a cultural minority in her homeland.
"I don't want to believe that this murder might stop our girls, our daughters, to run towards their dreams."
Masarwa's cousin Sharef agreed with Ghanayem, confirming the community was deeply shocked the young woman was murdered in what many citizens think of as "one of the safest places in the world".
"Most young girls from here in this village they don't tread too far away from their home," Sharef said.
"And she, you know because she was a dreamer she loved life, and she trekked all the way to the end of the almost the end of the world."
Despite the concerns, Ghanayem said the young woman and her legacy is an inspiration to the younger generation, with privately commissioned billboards dotting the city in her honour.
In home videos shared with 10 News First, Masarwa's vibrancy and warmth so commonly discussed by her family and friends is obvious.
After watching the videos, Sharef said the image of his cousin smiling and laughing while making the peace sign, was exactly as he remembers her.
"We hope that’s the legacy that she will leave behind and that we as a family must continue to keep that legacy strong for the people of here the village of Baqa where she is, the city of Melbourne and for the Australian people," he said.
"And for people around the world, for this message of love for life, this message of peace, this message of happiness continues to live on because that’s how she was as a person.”
Sharef is expected to return to Melbourne next month, to see through plans to establish a university scholarship in her memory and erect a memorial where she was murdered.
You can watch the full story on 10 News First tonight at 5pm, where reporter Candice Wyatt is in Israel.