Editorial |

In Israel It Won't 'Be All Right'

The deaths of the 10 teenagers in the flash floods are a result of the 'trust me' culture that leads many Israelis to cut corners even when it jeopardizes their lives and others

Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial
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Israelis watch flooded water running through a valley blocking the main road along the Dead Sea in the Judean desert on April 25, 2018.
Israelis watch flooded water running through a valley blocking the main road along the Dead Sea in the Judean desert on April 25, 2018.Credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP
Haaretz.
Haaretz Editorial

Beyond the horrendous disaster that befell the families, the terrible deaths of the 10 teenagers in the flash floods at the Tsafit River is a very Israeli tragedy. The wanton decision by the heads of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy to endanger young lives by ignoring warnings, along with the attempts of the government organizations presumed to be in charge of such trips, are painfully embarrassing — all the more so because the incident wasn’t an isolated event but a symptom of a malignant national disease.

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Ella Or, Gali Balel, Agam Levi, Shani Samir, Adi Ra’anan, Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Romi Cohen and Tzur Alfi were killed in a flash flood April 27, 2018

The same tendencies to improvise and ignore convention that sometimes give Israel a decisive edge on the battlefield and in high-tech become a significant disadvantage when they invade other areas. The “trust me” culture leads many Israelis to cut corners even when it jeopardizes their lives and others.

There’s a straight line connecting the 1997 Maccabiah Games bridge collapse, the 2001 Jerusalem wedding hall disaster, the 2012 Mount Herzl lighting-rig collapse and the 2016 Ramat Hahayal parking garage collapse, as well as the dozens of accidents that occur at Israeli construction sites every year as a result of safety failures, killing and injuring hundreds.

The same arrogant “trust me” culture also leads thousands of Israelis to ignore the warnings by the state counterterrorism bureau against traveling to Sinai, and accounts for the astonishing fact that even after the tragedy in the Arava Desert, hundreds of Israelis have continued to hike the rain-swollen streams of the south. “It won’t happen to me,” they tell themselves, until it does.

Rescue helicopter over Nahal Tsafit, April 26, 2018.Credit: Eli Hershkovitz.

The attempt by the defense and education ministries as well as other agencies that are supposed to oversee teen trips to absolve themselves of responsibility is also a fairly typical disgrace. Even after such an appalling tragedy, the politicians and petty officials mainly focus on whitewashing their roles in the debacle. The absence of a civilian culture of acting cautiously, admitting errors, drawing conclusions and taking responsibility is one of the reasons for the increased “judicification” of Israeli public life. That’s why we keep making the same mistakes.

Yitzhak Rabin, who stood out for his willingness to accept responsibility for blunders that occurred on his watch, called out the dangerous and disgraceful phenomenon a quarter-century ago. In an address to the national defense college, he called the saying “it’ll be all right” “arrogance, unprofessionalism and overweening self-confidence” that affects “many communities in Israel, not necessarily the army.” We learned the hard way, Rabin added, “that ‘it’ll be all right’ means that ‘nothing is all right.’” The disaster in the Arava proved that nothing has changed.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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