Thousands gathered in Tel Aviv Saturday evening for a candlelight vigil in memory of the 10 Israeli teens killed in a flash flood while hiking in the Judean Desert on Thursday.
Most of those in attendance at Rabin Square were current students or recent graduates of the country’s dozens of pre-military academies.
The Facebook event calling on the public to attend the vigil was created by a young woman who wrote that she did not know any of the teens killed while on a pre-program bonding hike ahead of the commencement of their studies at the Bnei Zion pre-military academy.
“But they all were (or were about to be) part of the pre-military academy community, which I became a part of this year. The memory, love, mourning, and support are common among us,” wrote Ori Dvir.
Speaking to the Ynet news site Saturday evening, the teen said “it felt right to unite, support, and remember together.”
Dvir referred to “many young people who have been feeling the need to endure the pain together and share.”
התגובה הכי טבעית ואנושית לאסון בדרום. עכשיו בכיכר ציון בירושלים ובכיכר רבין בת"א – מוזמנים להצטרף. pic.twitter.com/KBOiMsk3fZ
— שני גרנות (@ShanyGranot) April 28, 2018
Attendees converged on Rabin Square from around the country, lighting candles and singing somber songs to memorialize those killed.
A cloth was hung between the trees on the outskirts of the plaza bearing the names of the 10 victims.
The Tel Aviv municipality building overlooking the square was also illuminated in the colors of the Israeli flag.
Similar vigils in memory of the victims were held at Jerusalem’s Zion Square as well as in the central town of Mazkeret Batya, where one of the flash flood’s victims — Tzur Alfi — resided. Both memorials attracted hundreds of young Israelis.
Israeli police are investigating whether the organizers of the hike from the Bnei Zion pre-military academy lied to participants about the safety of the desert trail they planned to take, as well as about their coordination, or lack thereof, with relevant authorities.
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. They remain in custody as of Saturday night.
Seven of the 10 teenagers who were killed in the flood — Ella Or, Maayan Barhoum, Yael Sadan, Romi Cohen, Agam Levy, Shani Shamir, Adi Raanan, Ilan Bar Shalom, Gali Balali and Tzur Alfi — were laid to rest on Friday, with their bereft parents, siblings, and friends eulogizing them in turn as noble would-be leaders, firm “lovers of life,” and their “little girls.” The final three funerals were to be held Sunday.
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 riverbed where they were hiking, Tzafit, shocked the country.