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Let’s talk about Ayman Safiah: Palestinians are fighting their own battle

Amidst the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, USA, our people have been reacting towards the legal injustices that have yet again made waves on our headlines. Our world has yet to open, but our current restrictions placed seem to have a polarizing effect on the voices of those involved in disclosing truths.

The echoes of those who are enraged have little chance of becoming stifled under our curtailment. It seems the feeling of universal shackles has ignited a fire within the people.

America is on fire.

On the other side of the world, the East is feeling a familiar torment. Palestinians are suffering from yet another poorly strategized, ill-documented, authoritative reaction to the death of an innocent man.

Ayman Safiah, a 29-year-old Palestinian born in Kafr Yasif of the mountainous Galilee region, lived a life of constant battle against prejudices. 

At the age of 16, he was already studying at the Rabeah Murkus Dance Studio, known for being Israel’s “first Arab dance studio.” 

“I was the only male student in the ballet class at the local cultural center in Kafr Yasif,” he told BBC in 2012. Known for being the first renowned male Palestinian ballerina, the interview touched upon his struggle on finding a school that existed in Israel where he could dance freely. 

“When Yehudit Arnon founded the Kibbutz Dance School Gaaton, where I studied, the idea was to bring Arabs and Jews together,” Safiah explains.

“But now that the founder is no longer in charge, that ethos has changed and the school is reluctant to accept Palestinians.”’

Ayman’s bright outlook and persona seemed to pay off. On Instagram, he could be found sharing his successes internationally. While taking his dance around the world, it’s apparent that Ayman spent a lot of time revolving around Israel’s main artistic hubs, spreading art throughout the country.

From the historical cities of Jaffa and Nazareth, the progressive cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, Ayman was open about sharing his passions and love.

Just weeks ago, he shared a project called “Between Two Worlds,” a contemporary dance project that focused on the process of dancing, rather than the results. Anyone who watches it can easily see just how submerged Safiah was in his work, community, and life-long goals.

Ayman was last seen on Sunday morning, May 24, 2020, on a camping trip with two friends. They entered Neve Yam Beach. Media reports mention Safiah helping his friend out of the water before being swept away by currents. 

His father expressed how surprised he was to have so many people have turned up for the search. Amongst the search, police threatened to ticket them those who remained on the shore looking. 

“The police and country were supposed to use their best equipment to find him as fast as possible. I’m not surprised. We’re Arabs.”

On May 26, 2020, writer and activist Amer Zahr wrote:

“When you talk about Israel, the first thing you have to understand is that it does not see us Palestinians as human beings. Period. Ayman Safiah is a Palestinian professional dancer. Two days ago, he disappeared while swimming in the Mediterranean. He is an Israeli citizen.”

“The Israeli authorities, however, spent almost no resources or time searching for him, simply because he is not Jewish. His life simply does not matter to them. The story of Ayman is all too common for Palestinians living in their homeland. Let us make his name and story heard. #SearchForAyman #Palestine #KeepMoving

Communities all over Palestine have been expressing their condolences to Ayman, his family, and friends. Responses are serving as backlash towards Israel’s lax exploration for Ayman’s body.

The reaction of the Israeli government is being compared to responses towards situations where a Jewish citizen is in trouble. Backtracking to 2019, Israel is reminded of the Russia-capture of Israeli woman Naama Issachar.

The event garnered so much attention that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Vladimir Putin in Jerusalem in January of this year. Though Naama was jailed for smuggling nine grams of marijuana into Russia, following the Prime Minister and President’s meeting, Naama was released and was allowed to fly back to Israel on Jan. 30, 2020. 

There are no reservations expressing the betrayal Palestinians feel regarding Ayman’s untimely death. While the ache is raw, Ayman’s life and legacy can and will be carried forward towards new beginnings, new voices, new rules, and new receptions.

Just as George Floyd does, Ayman Safiah’s voice carries the weight of the world but also the emergence of the neo-political climate that is determined to rise.