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Shock and anger in Israel as young flood victims laid to rest

Ten left dead by freak heavy rains and flooding caused by unseasonal weather.

    The final three funerals of the 10 young Israelis killed in last week’s flash flood were held yesterday.

    The victims were part of a group of 25 teenagers hiking around the Dead Sea on Thursday for a pre-military programme.

    The group was “washed away” by freak heavy rains and flooding caused by unseasonal weather.

    Romi Cohen was buried at midday in the village of Maor, near Hadera; Gali Balali was laid to rest at 1.30pm in Tel Aviv; and the funeral for Adi Raanan was held at 6pm in her home village of Mikhmoret on the coast.

    A candle-lit vigil was also held in Tel Aviv on Saturday evening, with thousands of mourners gathering in Rabin Square to remember the victims.

    The other seven victims of the flood, Ella Or, Agam Levy, Shani Shamir, Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Tzur Alfi, and Ilan Bar Shalom, were buried on Friday, drawing thousands of mourners.

    Speaking at her daughter’s funeral, the mother of Ella Or praised her “energy and joy”, describing her daughter as a generous leader.

    She criticised the pre-military school in her eulogy, saying: “In the beginning I didn't agree to let you go on this trip with my permission. I spoke with the counsellors and they promised me everything would be okay. But nothing was okay.”

    At Tzur Alfi’s funeral, his grandmother recalled his heroism as described by the survivors of the flood. According to their testimony, Mr Alfi let others climb on him to escape the flood, before he was carried away by the current.

    She said: “I heard that you tried to help your friends, to save them. That’s the noblest kind of sacrifice, of someone born to lead. It fits you. You loved everyone and you sacrificed yourself for them.”

    Yael Sadan’s boyfriend of six years said at her funeral: “I am who I am because of you. Thank you for letting me be in your company so many years. I’m trying to figure out how I continue from here. You will always be my first love, and I won’t ever forget you.”

    A teacher at Ms Sadan’s school said: “She was a stunning, smiling girl with a sense of humor, a talented dancer and a skilled choreographer. It was always fun to be with her.”

    Police arrested Yuval Kahan, head of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy, on Friday on the charge of negligent homicide. Officers are investigating whether the organisers lied to the teenagers about the safety of the trail and the weather conditions awaiting them.

    A staffer at the academy has told investigators that she suggested the trip be cancelled because her concerns over the group’s safety.

    Mr Kahan’s lawyers described his “agony” over the deaths, saying that his “heart is torn because of the terrible disaster and loss of the lives of the youths, his students, and those who were supposed to study at the academy”.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement: “In this difficult hour, our hearts are with the families who suffer in their grief, a sorrow of which there is none heavier. Their children were taken at the dawn of their lives. They were full of love for the nation, the land, the people. They just wanted to give.

    “There are no words of comfort apart from the embrace we give to the families, friends and students of the Bnei Zion pre-military academy,” he said. “We’re with you. We’ll always be with you.”

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