Family, Friends Fear Internationally Renowned Dancer Drowned Off Northern Israeli Coast

Ayman Safiah, nicknamed Arab 'Billy Elliott,' was swept away into the sea on Sunday morning, and his family says police hasn't done enough to find him

Noa Shpigel
Jack Khoury
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Ayman Safiah
Ayman SafiahCredit: Ayman Safiah's Facebook account
Noa Shpigel
Jack Khoury

Ayman Safiah, 29 an internationally renowned dancer and artist from the Arab town of Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, has been missing since Sunday, after last being seen that morning entering the water at Neveh Yam beach in Atlit, south of Haifa.

The police is conducting searches both along the shore and in the sea, but Safiah’s family says that the authorities have not done enough to try to find him, claims which the police vehemently rebuff. Friends have launched a social media campaign to assist the search. Fishermen with motorboats and friends with jet skis joined the search Tuesday, as they expanded their area north all the way to Rosh Hanikra on the Lebanese border and south to Caesarea, almost halfway to Tel Aviv.

Ayman Safiah's latest project, 'Between Two Worlds'

According to Safiah’s friends, he joined them on the beach on Saturday. On Sunday morning, one of Safiah’s female friends got into trouble in the water and he tried to pull her out. “The waves were high and the sea swept them away,” his cousin, Khaled Safiah, told Haaretz. The woman he was trying to save managed to come back to shore safely, but Safiah did not.

“The last connection we had with him was on Sunday at 9:30 in the morning,” said Khaled. “He sent messages on the family WhatApp that he was coming to ours for the holiday eve, and he posted a few pictures. We are very worried and not very optimistic. It’s been a long time and they haven’t found him.”

Amru Hader, a close friend of Safiah’s, said Ayman was known to be a good swimmer and was often at the beach, which is why they were having a hard time processing what happened. “It isn’t logical that Ayman, who is in excellent shape, would disappear like that,” said Hader. “We are shocked and hope for good news, although as the hours pass the situation is getting much more serious.”

Safiah had been dancing professionally since he was 16. He was a member of the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and had appeared with dance troupes in Europe. In 2009, Yehudit Arnon, founder of the Kibbutz dance company, described Safiah as the “Billy Elliot of Kafr Yasif” in an interview with Haaretz in Hebrew. Khaled, his cousin, said, “For him, dancing was his whole life.”

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