Israel is collectively mourning the death of 10 youths who were killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea.
Youth gathered at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and in the center of Jerusalem on Saturday night and lit candles at improvised memorial ceremonies for the Israeli teens who perished.
The flooding victims were among a group of 25 teens who were accepted to the Bnei Zion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv. They were participating in an excursion meant to build camaraderie prior to the beginning of the program in September.
Survivors recounted how a massive body of water crashed into part of the group as they walked through a dried riverbed, washing 10 of the 25 students away. The 15 who managed to avoid the wave or climb out of the water were saved by rescue teams and treated for light injuries and hypothermia.
The victims were all 17 or 18 years old and described as top-of-the-line youth who were leaders in their communities and examples of outstanding conduct.
Tzur Alfi from Mazkeret Batya, the only boy killed in the tragedy, was described by the head of the Mazkeret Batya Regional Council as “a child with values, a sociable person who aspired to be an educator.”
Ella Or of Ma’ale Adumim was described by her five siblings as “the most beautiful flower, the most charming and sweet smile, always caring, always embracing, always optimistic, the most talented and successful sister in the family.”
Agam Levy from Herut was described by her grandfather as “endlessly volunteering, having tutored sick children in Africa, and taught in a school in Vietnam.”
Shani Shamir of Shoham was described by the town’s mayor as “the daughter every parent hopes for. Smiling, wise, brilliant, a leader.”
‘A Tragic Turn’
Israeli police arrested the principal and an instructor at the academy for suspected negligent homicide in connection to the tragic deaths. Police said that both suspects knew about the weather warnings ahead of the trip, but nevertheless decided to proceed with the hike, even after some students voiced their concerns about the potential for fatal consequences.
The second day of the European Judo Championships, which was held in Tel Aviv on Friday, opened with a moment of silence in memory of the teens.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: “Israel today mourns the promising lives that were cut short in the massive tragedy in the Arava [Valley, running from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea]. We painfully embrace the grief-stricken families and pray for the speedy recovery of the injured.”
“A terrible grief has fallen on Israel this evening,” stated Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. “The soul cries and the heart is torn.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman took to Twitter to offer his condolences on Friday.
“Rain in Israel is a blessing. But this week that blessing took a tragic turn,” he tweeted. “Americans are heartbroken by the loss of life resulting from this week’s flash floods. We send our condolences to the families of all the victims and pray for all those who are in mourning.”
By: UWI Staff & JNS