One of the 10 high school students killed Thursday when a group of hikers was swept away in torrential floods warned her friends a day earlier that she would die if the trip went ahead despite the severe weather warnings.
“I cannot believe I’m going on a trip in such weather,” she told a group of friends in a WhatsApp group chat aired by Hadashot TV news. “It doesn’t make sense for us to go to a place where everything is flooding. It’s tempting fate — we’re going to die, I’m serious.”
The girl and the rest of her group were on a bonding hike for students who had been accepted to the Bnei Zion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv for the coming year.
Another friend, who was not on the trip, wrote, “It’s really strange that they are taking you out like this, sorry.”
“Don’t exaggerate,” a third friend said. “I’m sure they are sensible and will take you to other places.”
The group of 25 was hiking in Nahal Tzafit, a riverbed in the southern Dead Sea area. In all, nine girls and one boy were killed. The remaining 15 members of the group were found and retrieved by rescuers, with two listed as lightly injured.
The pre-military academy had sent a reassuring message to students ahead of the trip, telling them not to worry about the storm forecasts, the Kan public broadcaster reported.
In a WhatsApp message, they insisted to participants that the hike would be “fun and wet and an experience.” The students were urged to bring “a rain coat,” “a rain cover for your bags,” and “a change of dry clothes in case you need [it].”
“Don’t worry,” the message read. “We are well-prepared for the hike and the academy has checked with the relevant authorities. It will be fun and wet and an experience!”
The father of a current student in Bnei Zion said that the school had a “history of irresponsibility.”
The parent, who did not wish to be named, told the Walla news site that during a similar trip last year, several students were dehydrated and a rescue team was alerted to rescue them. “It showed a terrible lack of judgment,” he said.
He added that a few years earlier, the school took a trip to Jerusalem during severe storms that had caused power outages in large parts of the city. He said that several students suffered from hypothermia.
“At the time I had a conversation with the training director and was told that they had an ideology of achieving the mission, taking trips in all weather and never cancelling anything,” he said. “The problem with this program is that it allows the students to organize the trips with only very minor supervision from the directors, who rarely intervene.”
On Thursday, police units, the Air Force’s elite 669 rescue team and the local Arava emergency search and rescue unit mounted a massive operation to find the missing students.
The Education Ministry said it was not informed of the students’ trip.
“The trip was not reported to us, our situation room was not told in advance, and we did not give any permission for such a trip,” the ministry said in a statement.
Police were questioning the head of the academy and two guides late Thursday, Army Radio reported.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this article.