Head of Pre-Military Academy That Lost Ten Students Resigns

YERUSHALAYIM -
Military helicopters search for missing teens swept away in the flooding of Tzafit Stream near the Dead Sea in Southern Israel, last week. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

Yuval Kahan, the principal of the B’nai Zion pre-military academy, resigned from his post Wednesday afternoon. The beleaguered head of the academy that lost ten students on an outing in Israel’s Negev last week said that he was resigning because he felt he had lost the trust of parents and students, and “the job of principal is one that requires the full faith and trust of students, their families, and everyone else touched by this institution.”

Kahan, who was arrested last week after ten students were killed when the bus they were on was inundated in a flash flood in Nachal Tzafit, was released to house arrest several days ago. That was “a terrible tragedy, an unthinkable event for the Academy. I am torn and broken as a result of this tragedy. I will never be able to find the words to express my sorrow.”

Danny Zamir, head of the umbrella group of pre-military academies, responded to the announcement by saying that the decision was appropriate. “We have no doubt that Yuval is suffering terribly in the wake of the tragedy. We will continue to offer assistance to the families of the victims and assist students and staff of the B’nai Zion Academy at this difficult time.”

The ten teens were on an outing organized by the school when their bus was overtaken by flash floodwaters near Nachal Tzafit, a riverbed in the Aravah located east of the Dead Sea. Investigators said that the teens ran off the bus when the floodwaters hit it, 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.

Details of the police investigation of the incident emerged on Tuesday, with sources saying that Kahan and a second suspect in the case – head of staff Aviv Berdichev – providing conflicting versions of who decided that the outing, in extremely rough weather, was appropriate. The Negev was inundated with rain, and the danger of flash floods was high – but according to Berdichev, Kahan was determined to go through with the trip. Kahan, on the other hand, accused Berdichev of hiding from him key information, such as an e-mail from the Meteortek weather forecasting service specifically warning against an outing to the area.

Earlier this week, Israeli media outlets quoting police sources said that the school had decided to cancel the trip three days before it took place, due to the rough weather the country was experiencing. It was decided, however, to go ahead with the trip anyway. Police, the sources said, are holding both Kahan and Berdichev responsible for that decision.