The state prosecutor’s office on Monday filed charges in Be’er Sheva District Court against Yuval Cahan, dean of the pre-military academy Bnei Zion, and against Aviv Berdichev, formerly the academy’s educational program director who served as an instructor in the preparatory program, for their roles in the Tzafit River disaster of April 2018.
The indictment charges them with negligent manslaughter and causing serious injury, over their responsibility for the deaths of 10 preparatory students and the injuries of two prospective candidates.
The disaster took place when the flood waters that rushed with tremendous force downstream, from the river’s drainage basin towards the Dead Sea, hit some members of the school’s team.
According to the indictment, the two school officials ignored the accumulating warnings about the flood threat, and insisted on starting the class trip as scheduled. The indictment indicates that the dean, Cahan, who was told on the day of the trip that his students were traveling in the stream, did not attempt to stop the trip, even as some of the warnings suggested life endangerment.
Shortly before the teens hit the gushing flood waters, the counselor, Berdichev, received a targeted warning regarding the rain that began to fall in the river’s drainage basin, but instructed the teens to continue into the creek, instead of stopping the hike immediately.
Dean Cahan, who also received real-time information on the rainfall in the drainage basin, also did nothing to stop the hike.
The parents of the ten students who perished in the disaster expressed satisfaction with the indictment, saying that “the serious manslaughter charges speak for themselves.” However, they noted, “nothing will give relief to the tormented and bleeding souls of the bereaved families […] after ten children had perished.”
The indictment states that “the defendants caused the deaths of ten members of the group and serious injuries to two candidates in their unlawful deeds and their failures, as they callously took an unreasonable risk which caused these harsh results, hoping they would succeed in preventing them.”
According to the indictment, a few days before the trip, academy staff working on the trip’s preparations decided to postpone the trip. Nevertheless, Dean Cahan was dissatisfied with the decision and asked the trainees to bring their rain equipment, including tent sheets and dry cloths, and sent reassuring messages over the team’s WhatsApp group ignoring the expected danger, saying: “At worst, they’ll get to see a flash flood, which would be great.”