Academy that organized fatal hike closing for year to ‘start over’
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Academy that organized fatal hike closing for year to ‘start over’

Board of Bnei Zion urges pre-army school to rebuild public trust with ‘transparency’ after 10 teens killed by flash floods during a school trip in April

People seen outside the Bnei Zion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv, from which 10 youths were killed in a flash flood in the Judean Desert, on April 27, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)
People seen outside the Bnei Zion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv, from which 10 youths were killed in a flash flood in the Judean Desert, on April 27, 2018. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90)

The Bnei Zion pre-military academy, 10 of whose students were killed in a flash flood in April, will not re-open its doors next academic year, Hebrew media reported this week.

In a statement, the Bnei Zion board of directors said they urged the academy to “start over, in an open manner that is transparent to the public.”

“We believe that [Bnei Zion] should not re-open until this process has been completed,” the board said, according to the Ynet news site.

In April, Bnei Zion organized a hike to the Tzafit riverbed for the participants of its fall pre-army program, despite warnings of stormy weather and flash flooding warnings in the Dead Sea area. Ten of the 25 teens on the trip were killed when they were swept away by a three meter-high wall of water that came rushing down the riverbed.

Police are investigating whether the organizers lied to participants about the safety of the trail and their coordination with relevant authorities.

A composite photo of the 10 victims of a flash flood in southern Israel on April 27, 2018. Top row, left to right: Romi Cohen, Ilan Bar Shalom, Shani Shamir, Adi Raanan, Agam Levy. Bottom row, left to right: Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Tzur Alfi, Gali Balali, Ella Or. (Courtesy/Facebook)

The April 26 hike to Tzofit was not sanctioned by the Education Ministry or police, but organizers nonetheless assured participants there was nothing to worry about, despite forecasts of heavy rain in the flash flood-prone area.

On Tuesday, Channel 10 reported that the Tel Aviv-based institution would shut its doors next year to “reorganize and take responsibility” after the April tragedy.

Volunteers from the ZAKA emergency response service transport the bodies of Israeli teenagers killed in a flash flood near the Dead Sea on April 26, 2018. (ZAKA)

Last month, Hadashot news reported Bnei Zion’s principal, Yuval Kahan, didn’t take the advice of an Air Force weather forecaster who warned him the morning of the trip that weather conditions were not suitable for hiking. Another warning from a private weather forecaster also went unheeded by Bnei Zion staff.

Yuval Kahan. (Courtesy: Bnei Zion pre-military academy)

Days after the hike, police arrested Kahan on suspicion of negligent homicide in ignoring the flash flood warnings. Aviv Bardichev, the group’s instructor, was arrested on the same suspicions.

Kahan has since resigned his position, saying in a statement communicated by his lawyers that he was “in agony and his heart is torn” over the tragedy.

Last month, police recommended that Bardichev be indicted for manslaughter and Kahan with negligent homicide.

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