BAQA AL-GHARBIYYE, Israel (AP) — A female Israeli student who was killed in Australia last week, sparking a nationwide uproar, was laid to rest Wednesday in her hometown in northern Israel.
Thousands of mourners crammed outside the family home of Aiia Maasarwe for a traditional Muslim burial in the predominantly Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye.
Friends and neighbors carried flowers and Arabic signs, reading “Your beautiful soul will not be forgotten.” They huddled and prayed as her family lowered Maasarwe’s coffin into the ground.
“She was a special girl from all aspects, it’s very hard to describe her in words,” said her uncle, Jamil Maasarwe.
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Maasarwe, a 21-year-old exchange student at La Trobe University in Melbourne, was coming home from a night out in a nearby suburb when she was killed in what appears to have been a random attack.
She was speaking to her younger sister in Israel via FaceTime when the assault occurred, police said.
Her death quickly captured international attention, sparking demonstrations in Australia demanding an end to violence against women and shocking her tight-knit hometown.
Following her funeral, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said he had called Maasarwe’s father and offered his condolences.
Vigils and memorials honoring Maasarwe’s life and raising awareness about gender-related killings have drawn thousands of supporters in Australia and Israel over the past week.
Her family said Maasarwe had decided to study in Australia because of its reputation for safety.
“I mean, that’s unbelievable, how could something like this happen to someone like Aiia,” said a cousin, Baker Maasarwe.
Maasarwe’s father flew to Australia to identify his daughter’s body and bring it home after a passer-by stumbled upon it near the tram station where she was killed.
A 20-year-old man has been charged with rape and murder.