Israeli Soldier Dies From Heatstroke After Collapsing in Jerusalem's Old City

Private Dan Sela, 18, from Afula was on a tour with his unit when he collapsed in the sweltering summer heat.

Moti Milrod

An Israel Defense Forces soldier died of heatstroke on Tuesday after collapsing on a tour of Jerusalem’s Old City with his unit.

Pvt. Dan Sela, 18, of Afula became dehydrated during the tour and collapsed. He was taken to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center in critical condition and pronounced dead on Tuesday afternoon. He was doing his service in the army’s combat support center, known as Magal.

Maj. Gen. Guy Zur, chief of the Ground Forces Command, has appointed a committee to investigate the incident, the IDF said. Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot ordered all commanders to review the instructions for army activity during exceptionally hot weather. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said the army “shares the family’s sorrow” and will do “whatever is needed” to help it.

Every year, the IDF warns officers to refrain from putting their soldiers through unnecessary exertion during heat waves and to make sure to give them rest and water.

Almost exactly two years ago, another soldier was hospitalized in critical condition after suffering a heatstroke.

IDF Spokesman's Office

A study by the IDF’s medical corps found that soldiers are most likely to suffer heatstroke during their first six months of service.  Therefore, standing orders require officers to pay special attention to new recruits or soldiers returning from leave during heat waves and to adjust training activities accordingly.

A second person was also hospitalized due to heatstroke on Tuesday – a 59-year-old man working in a factory in Ma’aleh Adumim. After he collapsed and lost consciousness, he was taking to Jerusalem’s Hadassah University Hospital, Mt. Scopus in serious condition.

On Monday, a toddler was hospitalized in moderate to serious condition at Rebecca Sieff Hospital in Safed due to dehydration. The girl, about 18 months old, had been on a bike trip with her parents in the Golan Heights. A 35-year-old man on the same trip was taken to the hospital with light to moderate symptoms of dehydration.

Some 150 yeshiva students who were using their annual summer break to hike the eastern slopes of Mount Carmel suffered from the heat and called for help Tuesday. Most were located promptly, and rescue workers aided by a helicopter were searching for the rest.

Two other hikers suffering from the heat were rescued by the Northern District police this week – a woman about 30 years old who was hiking in Nahal Hasbani and a man of about 20 who was hiking in Susita. The latter fainted and fell off a cliff that was located between two minefields, but he managed to contact the police at about midnight Monday night, and they extracted him safely.

In July, the Northern District police rescued eight hikers who became dehydrated.

According to Beterem, a child safety organization, two children died during hikes last summer – a 16-year-old boy who drowned in a waterfall on the Golan Heights and a 13-year-old boy who fell from a cliff in Ein Gedi.

Although Tuesday was actually cooler than Monday by about two degrees Celsius in most of the country, it remained exceptionally hot, and the humidity was much higher. In Jerusalem, for instance, temperatures hit a high of 35 degrees Celsius, two degrees lower than Monday, but humidity rose from 25 percent to almost 40 percent, according to the Meteo-Tech company.

The highest temperatures were recorded in the Hula Valley, at 41 degrees Celsius, and the Jordan Valley, at 44 degrees, though in both places, temperatures were two degrees lower than on Monday. Temperatures were expected to remain unusually high last night.

Wednesday will be slightly cooler and less humid, but only slightly. A more significant decline in temperatures, of about three degrees, is expected only on Thursday.

An Israeli soldier collapsed and died of heatstroke on Tuesday, during a tour of the Jerusalem's Old City.

Private Dan Sela, 18, from Afula was on a tour with his unit. After he collapsed in the sweltering summer heat, he was transferred to Shaare Zedek Medical in Center critical condition, and later died. His family has been informed.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that the commander of GOC Army Headquarters, Major-General Guy Tzur, has appointed an panel of inquiry to find out what happened.