Families, friends prepare to bury last 3 victims killed in flash flood
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Tzafit River disaster

Families, friends prepare to bury last 3 victims killed in flash flood

Funerals for Romi Cohen, Gali Balali, and Adi Raanan to be held in their home communities, following burials Friday of 7 of 10 pre-military academy students

Flood disaster victims to be laid to rest on April 29, 2018, from left to right: Adi Raanan, Gali Balali, Romi Cohen (Courtesy)
Flood disaster victims to be laid to rest on April 29, 2018, from left to right: Adi Raanan, Gali Balali, Romi Cohen (Courtesy)

Three of the 10 young Israelis killed in a flash flood during a hike in the Dead Sea area on Thursday will be buried Sunday, following emotional funerals for the rest of the victims that were held on Friday.

The 10 were part of a group of 25 students on a hike organized by the Bnei Zion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv, and were set to attend its program in the coming year. Their deaths Thursday amid unseasonable rains and warnings of flash floods in the Tzafit riverbed where they were hiking shocked the country.

Romi Cohen will be laid to rest at 12 p.m. in the village of Maor, near Hadera; Gali Balali will be buried at 1:30 p.m. at the Nahalat Itzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv; and the funeral for Adi Raanan will be held at 6 p.m. at her home village of Mikhmoret on the coast.

Seven of the funerals — those of Ella Or, Maayan Barhoum, Yael Sadan, Ilan Bar Shalom, Agam Levy, Shani Shamir and Tzur Alfi — took place on Friday, drawing thousands of mourners.

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)

The mother of Ella Or, Sarit, spoke at her funeral at the Mishor Adumim cemetery near her hometown of Ma’ale Adumim.

“Our Ella, we came to say goodbye. A little girl, a girl with so much energy and happiness,” she said, recalling the concern she had expressed for her daughter’s well-being on the hike and the assurances she received from the pre-military academy’s guides.

“They promised that everything would be okay and safe. But nothing is okay,” she said.

“You sent me a picture in the morning in the tent and wrote to me not to worry,” she said, addressing Ella over the grave. “I asked you not to put too much weight on your back. You haven’t answered me since.”

At Tzur Alfi’s funeral at the municipal cemetery of his home of Mazkeret Batya, his grandmother Pnina recalled the testimony of the surviving youths about Alfi’s heroism. They said he was holding on to a rock in the torrent, and, instead of scrambling to safety, let others climb on him to get out of the water. He was carried away by the flood before he could get out himself.

“I heard that you tried to help your friends, to save them. That’s the noblest kind of sacrifice, of someone born to lead. It fits you. You loved everyone and you sacrificed yourself for them,” his grandmother said.

“We have no anger, only love,” added Alfi’s father. “We embrace all the group from this precious program. Condolences to all the program/ We aren’t angry at anyone. Continue hiking and being good.”

Mourners at the funeral of Maayan Barhoum at the Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem, April 27, 2018, after she was killed in a flash flood in the Judean desert, during a hike on April 26, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Hundreds took part in the funeral for Yael Sadan in Jerusalem’s Givat Shaul cemetery.

Her father Kobi called her his “supreme happiness. I just can’t believe it. This isn’t how the world works, my child. What wouldn’t I do for your happiness? What kind of life is this, when you can be picked off like that, for no reason? I can’t leave you. You will be engraved on my heart forever.”

Sadan’s boyfriend of six years eulogized her. “I am who I am because of you. Thank you for letting me be in your company so many years. I’m trying to figure out how I continue from here. You will always be my first love, and I won’t ever forget you.”

A composite photo of victims of a flash flood in southern Israel on April 27, 2018. Ilan Bar Shalom (TL), Shani Shamir (TC), Agam Levy (TR), Romi Cohen (ML), Tzur Alfi (MC), Ella Or (MR), Gali Balali (BL), Maayan Barhum (BC), Yael Sadan (BR) (Facebook/courtesy)

At her funeral in Shoham, Shani Shamir’s sister called her “part of me. You may not have returned from the hike, but you’re definitely hiking up there in heaven right now. I won’t forget your last picture you sent us all on WhatsApp [with the caption] ‘I’m alive.'”

Her mother Yael added, “You loved life and life loved you. You were taken too soon.”

Family and friends mourn during the funeral of Maayan Barhom at the Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem, April 27, 2018. Maayan was killed yesterday along with 9 other teens when they were swept in a flooding at the Tzafit Stream during a class trip near the Dead Sea. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

As the seven funerals got underway, President Reuven Rivlin sent his condolences to the families.

“How much sorrow is sweeping the nation this morning,” said Rivlin on Friday. “We lost wonderful children, the best of our youth. Full of promises, full of expectations and [leaving us with] a broken heart.”

Rivlin thanked the rescue crews, IDF, police and volunteers who helped rescue and locate the survivors and bodies.

“From here I turn to the citizens of Israel with a plea: Please, go out to hike only after you checked you’re in a safe area. Don’t take unnecessary risks,” he said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that “all of Israel” mourned the students.

“In this difficult hour, our hearts are with the families who suffer in their grief, a sorrow of which there is none heavier,” he said. “Their children were taken at the dawn of their lives. They were full of love for the nation, the land, the people. They just wanted to give.”

“There are no words of comfort apart from the embrace we give to the families, friends and students of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy,” he said. “We’re with you. We’ll always be with you.”

The head of the pre-military academy and an instructor were arrested on Friday on suspicion of negligent homicide in ignoring the flash flood warnings.

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