Report: Despite flood deaths, pre-military schools may not see tighter oversight
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Report: Despite flood deaths, pre-military schools may not see tighter oversight

Committee set up to investigate Tzafit disaster, in which 10 died, said not to force academies to adhere to Education Ministry’s situation room during field trips

Military helicopters search for missing teens swept away in the flooding of the Tzafit River, a riverbed near the Dead Sea in southern Israel, on April 26, 2018. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)
Military helicopters search for missing teens swept away in the flooding of the Tzafit River, a riverbed near the Dead Sea in southern Israel, on April 26, 2018. (Maor Kinsbursky/Flash90)

A committee jointly set up by the Education and Defense ministries in the wake of April’s Tzafit River disaster will not recommend tighter oversight of pre-military academy field trips by the Education Ministry, Ynet reported Thursday.

Following the deaths of 10 academy students in a flash flood in the south, there had been reports that henceforth academies could be placed under the jurisdiction of the ministry’s situation room, which has the authority to cancel school trips.

Since the disaster academies have been temporarily instructed to obey the situation room’s instructions.

But according to the report, the investigative committee does not plan to make the policy permanent, and will leave it up to academy heads to decided whether to keep to it.

The Education Ministry would not confirm the report, saying the committee “has yet to complete its work. When conclusions and recommendations are finalized, they will be released in an orderly fashion.”

Besides the culpability of leadership at Bnei Zion academy, much of the public criticism after the disaster focused on the lack of clear responsibility over student safety in pre-military academies, which are overseen by both the Education Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

In April, Bnei Zion organized a hike to the Tzafit riverbed for incoming participants of its fall pre-army program, despite warnings of stormy weather and flash flooding 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.

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)

Police have recommended that the counselor, Aviv Bardichev, be indicted for manslaughter while academy director Yuval Kahan — who resigned last month — be charged with the lesser offense of negligent homicide.

Both allegedly ignored several warnings by forecasters not to travel in the area due to flooding. The trip was not sanctioned by the Education Ministry or police.

In a WhatsApp message sent to participants on Wednesday ahead of the trip, organizers had assured participants that there was nothing to worry about.

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