One of the teenage girls who was killed in a flash flood during a hike near the Dead Sea Thursday told friends a day earlier she was worried for her safety during the hike, the Israel Television News Company reported.
"Everything is yellow, oh my god," she wrote on the messaging application WhatsApp in a reference to the color of the desert landscape, which turns yellow when the sand is mixed with rain.
"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.
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Another member of the WhatsApp group, who was not going on the trip, answered: "It's very strange that they took you out like this, excuse me." A third replied: "Haha, don't exaggerate. I'm sure they are sensible and will definitely take you to other places. And sleep in a closed space."
The girl was part of a group of some 25 who went hiking by a stream near the Dead Sea as part of a pre-army preparatory program. Nine of the 25 were killed when they were swept away by a flash flood. All of the victims, eight girls and one boy, were around the age of 18.
The nine have been identified by authorities as Ella Or, from the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim; Gali Belali, from the central city of Givatayim; Agam Levi, from Moshav Herut in central Israel; Shani Samir, from the central town of Shoham; Adi Ra’anan, from the coastal community of Mikhmoret; Yael Sadan and Maayan Barhum from Jerusalem; Romi Cohen, from Moshav Maor in the north and Tzur Alfi, from the central town of Mazekeret Batya.
Police have opened an investigation into their deaths, with the focus expected to be on the organizers of the program on suspicion of death by negligence. All of the agencies responsible for collecting rainfall and flooding information in the south issued rather clear warnings on Wednesday and Thursday regarding the risk of flooding in the area where the group was hiking near the Tzafit stream. The Israel Meteorological Service also issued a warning on the risk of flooding in the Dead Sea region, the southern Judean Desert and the Arava. It should be noted that even relatively small quantities of rainfall in the desert can cause powerful flood waters.
"Israel grieves the promising young lives that were cut off by this tragedy in the Arava," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in response to the news. "We embrace the families with grief and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded."