After Deaths of 10 Students in Flood, Pre-army Academy to Close for a Year

Bnei Zion's Board of Directors recommended temporarily postponing the preparatory program, 10 of whose students were killed in a flood, in order to 'rebuild itself'

The 10 Bnei Zion pre-army academy students who died in a flood in southern Israel.

Following the death of 10 of its students in a flood in the Negev, the board of directors of the Bnei Zion pre-army academy on Thursday recommended that the school’s activities be suspended for a year. 

Board members urged that the preparatory program “rebuild itself in a transparent public process to which the Council of Preparatory Programs will be a part.” 

Last month police recommended that the head of the preparatory course, Yuval Kahan, be prosecuted for negligent homicide, and tour guide Aviv Berditchev for manslaughter. No decision has been made yet regarding the other guide on the trip, Noam Dor, who warned about the potential danger of the floods. 

The decision to postpone the preparatory course was supposed to be accepted by the members of its administration, but they resigned this week. If the school does close, then pupils will be dispersed among various other preparatory programs.

The police investigation into the death of the students revealed that the decision to change the route of the trip from Nahal Tze’elim to Nahal Tzafit was okayed by Berditchev, the tour guide, even though he was warned by a meteorological forecasting company not to travel around the area. Berditchev even received an email alerting him of the danger of flooding in the area.

The investigation also found that Kahan knew that the route of the trip had changed but claimed during his interrogation that he had relied on Berditchev’s decision.

The other suspect in the investigation, Dor, was the daughter of the deputy commander of the Arava rescue unit, and was aware of the danger of the floods, having been warned by her father. 

Dor passed the message along  to Kahan and Berditchev, but they were not convinced and decided to leave the original route and hike along Nahal Tzafit. 

Berditchev also consulted with a preparatory school graduate who serves in the air force and asked him for information about the potential of floods in the area. According to the investigation, Berditchev said he was not aware of the floods, but was told that rain was expected to fall in the area around 3 P.M.

The course of the investigation upgraded the offense attributed to Berditchev from manslaughter to negligent homicide. The difference between negligent homicide and manslaughter involves knowledge: While manslaughter implies that suspect could not have predicted the consequences of his or her actions, negligent homicide requires indifference or recklessness with regard to the consequences.  

According to the investigation, the warnings brought to Berditchev were more clear and emphatic than those presented to Kahan, and therefore the decision was made to upgrade the charge against Berditchev. 

The day after his release from detention, Kahn resigned as director of the preparatory program.

Israeli rescue services personnel operate near the site where a group of Israeli youths was swept away by a flash flood, near the Zafit river bed, south to the Dead Sea, Israel, April 26, 2018
Reuters/Amir Cohen