Names of Teens Released as Police Arrest Two Staff Members of Pre-Military Academy

Rescue forces near the tragic scene where a group of teenagers were swept away in the flooding of Tzafit Stream on Thursday. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The names of the ten teenagers who were tragically lost in a Negev flash flood were released Friday morning, and levayos for most of them will be held on Friday. They were named as Ela Ohr, a”h (Maale Adumim), Tsur Alfi, z”l (Mazkeret Batya), Yael Sadan, a”h (Yerushalayim), Maayan Barhoum, a”h (Yerushalayim), Romi Cohen, a”h (Moshave Ma’or), Shani Shamir, a”h (Shoham), Agam Levi, a”h (Herut), Adi Raanan, a”h (Kfar Sava), Gali Balali, a”h (Givatayim), and Ilan Bar-Shalom, a”h (Rishon LeTzion). All were 17 to 19 years old.

Police said Friday morning that they had arrested two staff members of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy in the context of their investigation into the tragedy. The teens were on an outing organized by the school when flash floodwaters near Nachal Tzafit, a riverbed in the Arava located east of the Dead Sea caught the trekkers in the usually bone-dry area by surprise. Investigators said that the teens tried to run to safety, with many of them able to climb to higher ground in order to avoid the water – while the others who were unable to do so were swept away.

Police questioned several members of the school’s staff to determine who made the decision to send the students on the trip, despite the inclement weather and flood warnings for the region. Police said they would ask for an extension of the remand of the two detainees, but have not announced what the charges against them are.

The road where the tragedy occurred had not been closed by police, and no special permits were needed from security authorities in order to hike there. Danny Zamir, head of the National Council of Pre-Military Academies, said that “Bnei Zion, like all other academies, does not have to seek permits to take their students on hikes or trips. They decide on their own where and how to take these trips, and consult with relevant authorities. The head of the academy is solely responsible for the decisions made in this institution, including this one.”

Israeli media on Thursday night broadcast social media messages sent by youths on the bus, indicating that many of them were concerned over the bad weather. In their messages to family and friends, teens wrote messages including “everything here is yellow [from the dust], how can we hike here,” “who decided that today would be a good day for this,” and with one youth writing “I don’t think we are going to come out of this alive.” Guides working for the school accompanying the teens responded by writing “don’t worry, we can handle this – it’s going to be a great experience.”

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