"A wave over a meter high simply hit the girls and washed them away. I never saw anything like it — they didn’t stand a chance.” That’s how one survivor of last week’s flash flood that took the lives of ten Israeli students describes the terror of seeing friends being carried to their deaths. Surely it was the Hand of G-d, but was anyone else to blame for negligence?

“We started out with 25 hikers, but only 15 returned. Who could have fathomed that half our group would literally be washed away?” Adiel Chassid, a student at the Bnei Zion pre-military academy in Tel Aviv, still can’t come to terms with the tragic aftermath of the trip to Nachal Tzafit in the northern Aravah, south of the Dead Sea, where ten of his friends perished in a flash flood.

By the time this magazine hits the stands, exactly a week will have passed since the tragedy that rocked the country, taking the lives of teenage girls Ella Or of Maaleh Adumim, Gali Balel of Givatayim, Agam Levi of Moshav Cherut, Shani Shamir of Shoham, Adi Raanan of Machmoret, Romi Cohen of Moshav Maor, and Yael Sadan and Maayan Barhum of Jerusalem. Tzur Alfi of Mazkeret Batya, the only boy in the group killed, saved the lives of several friends by grabbing them one by one and letting them climb over him to safety against the rushing floodwaters — until he could no longer hold on and was washed away by the torrent.

“It was about 1:15 p.m., and we’d just come to a fork in the riverbed. Suddenly we heard a roaring noise from behind us, rocks crashing against the walls of the canyon. The medic who was with us started screaming, ‘A flood! Everyone climb up to a high place!’ and then everyone started screaming ‘A flood! A flood!’ I jumped over a ledge, and the second I turned around I saw the girls being washed away by the roiling water. It happened in a matter of seconds,” Adiel told Mishpacha.

At the beginning of the week, search-and-rescue workers were still in the area, searching for Iman Jaber, the driver of a fruit truck that was also washed away in the flash flood. The truck was found completely crushed, and the chances of finding the missing driver alive are next to nil. Mishpacha spoke to Yigal Zohar, deputy commander of the southern firefighting unit, who has been at the scene since the previous Thursday. “You can’t imagine how peaceful it looks today,” Zohar said. “The riverbed looks so pastoral and serene, as if it hadn’t claimed the lives of ten teenagers just a few days ago.”

Zohar was among the first on the scene last Thursday, racing to Nachal Tzafit together with Magen David Adom staff and Ichud Hatzolah volunteers. At the same time, the IDF 699 search-and-rescue unit was deployed. “Within minutes,” he says, “they managed to reach two of the hikers and pull them out, in light-to-moderate condition, after they’d been dragged hundreds of meters by the floodwaters. Thirteen hikers, who stood on relatively high ground, managed to climb out of the stream, and were rescued with just minor wounds. It was clear to all of us that every minute was critical. In this kind of an area, you encounter very deep canyons, with massive boulders and mudslides. There’s no way to withstand the mammoth current — it washes away everything in its path.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 708)