(JTA) — The body of Ayman Safiah, a renowned Arab-Israeli ballet dancer, was found on the beach after he went missing while swimming.
Safiah, 29, had gone missing on Sunday while swimming off the coast of the Neve Yam kibbutz in Israel’s north. Israeli media reports said Safiah had been trying to rescue a friend who was struggling in the water and was swept away. The friend made it back safely.
Police launched an intensive search and found his body washed ashore on Wednesday near the coastal town of Atlit, close to Neve Yam.
Safiah, who was known as one of the top Arab-Israeli performers and the first Palestinian male to become a professional ballet dancer, was born in Kufr Yassif, an Arab town in Israel’s north.
He started studying dance at the age of 16 and studied at Rabeah Murkus Dance Studio, Israel’s first Arab dance studio. He won an award from the American Academy of Ballet and received a scholarship to study at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London. He later returned to Israel, where he taught dance and performed.
Safiah spoke about facing opposition both from Arabs, who did not approve of a man dancing ballet, as well as Israeli companies, who he said were reluctant to admit Palestinians. He also spoke openly about the challenges he faced as a gay man in a traditional society.