Instructor who pleaded to cancel ill-fated hike released to house arrest
With 7 of flash flood's 10 victims laid to rest, instructor and former student at academy arrested on suspicion of negligent homicide, released after claiming she pushed for hike to be canceled, consulted with her father—head of search and rescue unit that was rushed to scene of disaster—who concurred; another instructor, academy's principal remand extended by 5 days.
The instructor, 25, herself a former student of the academy school, claimed under interrogation that she warned authorities and asked for the trip to be canceled due to possible floods.
She added she shared her concern with her father, deputy commander of the search and rescue unit that was rushed to scene after the disaster, and that he had also attempted to get the trip canceled—but his warnings went unheeded as well.
The instructor was released to house arrest when investigators were satisfied her culpability for the scandal was lesser than those of another instructor and the school's principal, both of whom were arrested as well.
The special investigative team was put together by commander of the police's Southern District Motti Cohen and is led by an officer from the district's interrogation and intelligence division.
The instructor recently published a Facebook post in which she sought to find potential instructors for the academy, adding a photo of one of the instructors who were arrested. She said the position was a "dream job."
The instructor wrote regarding her own work at the school that, "I never thought I would work someplace that's a home, a family, where 40 students will enter my heart as deeply as they did, where I would do the most intensive—but also the most fun and fulfilling—work ever for a year."
The arrest of the head of Bnei Zion Yuval Kahan and instructor Aviv Bardichev, 27, was extended by five additional days Friday. Judge Itay Gonen-Bresler of the Be'er Sheva Magistrates' Court determined that the remand extension stemmed from fear of possible tampering with the investigation.
Attorneys for Kahan said, "It should be remembered we are dealing with a 50 year enterprise of both secular and religious pre-army programs, an enterprise of great worth for the State of Israel."
"The incident is a harsh one," they added. "It is incumbent upon law enforcement authorities to investigate the matter in full and reach the truth, but it is improper to render any verdicts at this point. (Kahan) has spilled his soul under interrogation, and should not be judged at the town square."
Bardichev's attorney added his own comments, saying, "It's apparent (Bardichev) is a value-driven young man. There's immense grief here, and at midnight he said he didn't even understand why he needed legal counsel."
Attorney Zion Amir added that his client said that people had died, and it was not something he should be busying himself with. "This is not someone who tampers with an investigation but who assists it. These are not people hiding behind the right to remain silent, or any other right," he protested the remand extension.
Accompanying the investigation into the disaster was buck-passing between the education and defense ministries regarding responsibility for similar trips. The Education Ministry thus announced Saturday it will form a joint committee with the Defense Ministry and the Joint Council of Pre-Military Academies with the intention of regulating the academies' outdoor activities.
Heading the committee will be Education Ministry Director-General Shmuel Abuav, and it will also be staffed by Defense Ministry and council representatives.
The nine girls and one boy killed in the disaster were identified as Ela Or from Ma'ale Adumim, Romi Cohen from Moshav Maor, Yael Sadan from Jerusalem, Maayan Barhum from Jerusalem, Agam Levy from Moshav Herut, Gali Balelli from Givatayim, Shani Shamir from Shoham, Adi Ra'anan from Moshav Mikhmoret, Tzur Alfi from Mazkeret Batya, also in central Israel, and Illan Bar Shalom from Rishon LeZion.
Thousands accompanied Ela Or, Maayan Barhum, Agam Levy, Shani Shamir, Illan Bar Shalom, Tzur Alfi and Yael Sadan to their final resting places Friday. Romi Cohen, Adi Ra'anan and Gali Balelli will be interred Sunday.