Principal resigns following students’ deaths in flash flood

Yuval Kahan, the principal of the school that organized a hike on which 10 Israeli students perished last week, announced his resignation amid a police investigation.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The principal of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy, which sent a class of incoming students on a hike last Thursday in a flash flood-prone area, ending in the deaths of ten of teenagers, resigned his post Wednesday. The hike proceeded despite public warnings that the region should be avoided.

Yuval Kahan, who led the Tel Aviv institution since its founding 11 years ago, acknowledged in his statement that it was impossible for him to continue, under the circumstances.

“The role of the head of the preparatory program is first and foremost an educational one that requires the full trust of the students, their families and all those who are involved in the program,” he wrote. “I know that in the shadow of this horrific tragedy, this trust, which is the basis of the ability to lead and educate, cannot exist.”

He also expressed sorrow and pain over the deaths of the nine girls and a boy, who were buried Friday in cemeteries across the country.

“Since the disaster, I am torn and broken,” Kahan said. “”I will never be able to find the words to express my grief…. I cannot comfort the families who lost that which is the most precious of all. I share in their terrible pain.”

Kahan was arrested the day after 10 of the 25 teens in the excursion were swept away in a flash flood at Nahal Tzafit near the Dead Sea, as was Aviv Bardichev, one of the group’s guides and an instructor in the academy.

Bardichev was questioned on suspicion of manslaughter, as he allegedly decided to go on the hike when it was dangerous to do so. The possible charge against Kahan was negligent homicide, which applies when death is caused due to circumstances that the suspect should have foreseen.

Both men were released to house arrest on Monday for five days, as the police continue to investigate the circumstances of the tragedy. This includes whether the trip’s organizers lied to participants about the safety of the desert trail they planned to take, and if the administration coordinated the outing with any relevant authorities.

According to both the Ministry of Education, which is ostensibly responsible for high school students, and the Ministry of Defense, under whose rubric pre-military academies function, no-one in the private institution asked for permission to go on a trip in such hazardous weather.

The excursion had been meant to build camaraderie among the students accepted to the upcoming year’s course in the pre-military academy.

While pre-military academies are not currently bound by the safety rules that all other educational institutions in Israel must follow, this tragedy may change that.