Wonder Begets Tragedy as Israeli Students Swept Away in Mighty Flood
After 10 killed, school directors arrested for taking students on dangerous desert hike despite weather warnings
All of Israel marveled at the tremendous "latter" rains the country received over the past two days.
Heavy downpours, accompanied by spectacular lightning shows, turned streets in downtown Jerusalem and Tel Aviv into rivers and brought the dramatic desert flash floods for which Israel's southern Negev and Judean deserts are so famous.
But the wonder quickly turned to tragedy on Thursday when a group of high school students suddenly found themselves in the path of one of those mighty desert floods.
Following hours of dangerous rescue work, soldiers with the Israel Air Force’s elite 669 rescue unit managed to extract the surviving students, along with the bodes of 10 of their classmates that had been washed miles away.
One of the girls who perished heartbreakingly predicted her own death hours before in a WhatsApp group with fellow students. "I cannot believe I’m going on a trip in such weather," she wrote. "It doesn’t make sense for us to go to a place where everything is flooding. It’s tempting fate — we’re going to die, I’m serious."
Incredibly, one of the counselors responded that all precautions had been taken, and that the students had no reason to be worried.
A boy who survived the flood recounted the harrowing ordeal through his father for Hadashot News:
"I saw bodies floating in the water, I didn’t know if they were alive or if what I saw were dead bodies. At one point there was a wave that was 3 or 4 meters high. I was holding on to one of my friends really tight… but we couldn’t stand against the massive water current. She slipped away from me in front of my eyes."
Two directors at the Bnei Tzion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv have been arrested and are being investigated for putting the students' lives in mortal danger.
Most Israelis are aware of the types of floods that accompany such heavy rains in this land. For those who weren't, there was ample warning on radio and television news to avoid inescapable valleys and ravines at risk of flooding.
The ravine, or wadi, where the students were hiking is known as Nahal Tzafit. It is one of the more popular hiking routes in the Judean Desert, and one of those most prone to flash-flooding.