Five of the ten teenagers who were killed in flash floods in Nahal Tsafit were laid to rest on Friday in their hometowns throughout Israel.
Most of the victims were 12th graders who were enrolling in the Bnei Zion pre-military academy starting this fall for the next academic year’s program before enlisting in the military.
The victims of the floods were: Ella Or, from Ma’ale Adumim; Gali Balali, from Givatayim; Agam Levy, from Moshav Herut; Shani Shamir, from Shoham; Adi Ra’anan, from Mikhmoret; Yael Sadan and Maayan Barhum from Jerusalem; Romi Cohen, from Moshav Maor; Tzur Alfi, from Mazkeret Batya and Ilan Bar Shalom from Rishon Letzion
The families are demanding answers as to how such a disaster could have occurred. The body of the tenth and final victim was located and identified late Thursday night.
Ella Or was a 12th grader at the Amit high school for girls in Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank, one of six children and the daughter of an elementary school principal in the city. Two of her siblings also attended pre-military academies, said her uncle. She was an outstanding student, said her principal.
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At her funeral on Friday in Ma'ale Adumim, her mother praised her as a generous leader, "full of energy and joy," who wanted to give back to her community before she joined the army.
"In the beginning I didn't agree to let you go on this trip with my permission," her mother said in her eulogy. "I spoke with the counselors and they promised me everything would be OK. But nothing was OK."
Hundreds attended the funeral of Maayan Barhum, who was in 12th grade at the Mae Boyer High School in Jerusalem.
"Dear Maayan, at the end of every conversation you would say, 'Don't worry, I'll handle it.'" her teacher eulogized. "I'm waiting for you now to wake up and tell me- I've handled it.'
Gali Balali was a student at the Shimon Ben Zvi school in the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim. She was outstanding in every way and a volunteer for various groups, said the mayor, Ron Kunik. Her mother is a member of the city council.
Tzur Alfi, the only boy among the victims, was a 12th grade student at the Yitzhak Rabin school in Mazkeret Batya in the center of the country. He died while helping others to escape to safety “until he could no longer hold on,” said his girlfriend. He hoped to serve in the Air Force’s ultra-elite 669 search and rescue unit.
Yael Sadan graduated from the High School for the Arts in Jerusalem last year with a major in dance and was a student at the academy. She was one of this year’s students at Bnei Zion who accompanied the 12th graders on the hike. Her dance teacher in high school called her mature, caring, insightful and with vision. Her father works for the Jerusalem municipality.
Shani Shamir was in 12th grade in the high school in Shoham in central Israel. She was the coordinator of young counselors in the Scouts and a member of the youth council in the city. The mayor called her smart and a leader in every way.
Agam Levy from Moshav Herut in the center of the country studied at the Dror school in the Lev Hasharon regional council. She majored in physics and Land of Israel studies. She was always smiling and considerate, an outstanding student and kind-hearted, said one of her teachers. She volunteered with special needs children and was a counselor in a youth group.
Romi Cohen lived in Moshav Maor near Hadera. She was an outstanding dancer and musician, active in social issues and twice was sent to the United States as part of Jewish-Arab delegations. She was laid to rest at Moshav Maor.
Police have also begun making arrests in their investigation into the death of the young Israelis, and have taken members of the staff of the program which took them on the trip. After the staff members were questioned, two were arrested and a third was released to house arrest.
Yuval Kahan, the head of the Bnei Zion preparatory seminar, was arrested for alleged negligent manslaughter for his decision to take the group out on the trip, despite the harsh weather conditions. Aviv Bardichev, a fellow staff member, was also arrested and both will remain in custody until Tuesday.
Text messages show that one of the girls who was killed told friends she was worried for her safety on the hike, the Israel Television News Company reported. "I can't believe I'm actually going hiking in weather like this. It doesn't make sense to go to a place that's completely flooded. It's tempting fate. We're going to die – I'm serious," she wrote to her friends on the messaging application WhatsApp a day before the trip.
As of Thursday evening, fourteen other members of the group were rescued, two of whom were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva with hypothermia.
The incident is the most lethal of such accidents in Israel's history.