International student Aya Maasarwe has been farewelled in a Melbourne with a traditional Muslim ceremony, as her father prepares to return to Israel with her body on Tuesday.
In his last address to the public, Saeed Maasarwe thanked Australians for their support and welcomed them to attend his daughter’s farewell prayers on Monday night.
“This is the message we want to send, to make the world more peace and more safety, and more beautiful, and more smile; and more forgive each other,” he said.
“This is not me, this is Aya. I talk in my voice, but this is Aya in mine.”
The service was held at the Albanian Islamic Centre of Dandenong and involved a cleansing ritual performed on the body called a janaza and a multi-faith communal prayer session.
Ms Maasarwe’s body arrived at the mosque at 8pm AEDT on Monday and was greeted by a large gathering of supporters.
“Even though it is happening at a mosque and we are praying and we are Muslim, we are welcoming all people of all religions and all faiths if they want to come and show their support,” Ms Maasarwe’s cousin, Sharef Masarwa, said ahead of the ceremony.
Mai Saif, a family friend who assisted in organising the service, said such ceremonies are not usually open but Mr Maasarwe had wanted to include the Australian public because of the “outpouring of support and love that they’ve received”.
Mr Maasarwe is set to return home to his hometown of Baqu al Gharbiyye, one hour north of Tel Aviv, alongside his daughter’s body early on Tuesday, where she will be buried on Wednesday.
On Monday, Mr Maasarwe said he was “surprised” by the outpouring of support in Australia and that the family was very grateful.
Ms Maasarwe, a Palestinian Arab of Israeli citizenship, was attacked shortly after midnight last Wednesday as she returned home from a comedy show in North Melbourne. Her body was found in Bundoora early that morning, just metres from where she had alighted from the 86 tram.
Her alleged killer Codey Herrmann, 20, appeared at Melbourne Magistrates Court earlier on Monday for the second time since being charged over the January 16 attack.
The family has contacted media organisations asking for the spelling of the name to be changed to Aya, instead of Aiia – which police had been using based on her passport information – to reflect their wish for her to be identified as Palestinian.