It’s been four years since the Mechinat Bnei Zion disaster in Tzafit Gully. In that calamity, which shocked the mechinot and the entire country, mechina candidates Agam Levy, Ella Or, Galy Balely, Yael Sadan, Maayan Barhum, Adi Raanan, Tzur Alfi, Romi Cohen, and Shani Shamir lost their lives. This Sunday, the heads of the mechinot and the families of some victims gathered in Yad Binyamin to remember the victims and scrutinize the commitment of the mechinot to keep such a thing from happening ever again. On Tuesday, the event (Hebrew) was broadcast on the Joint Council’s YouTube channel and screened for the students at every mechina.
The memorial began with a discussion led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Eliezer Shkedi. Later, President Isaac Herzog said: “We must ask ourselves time and again what ought to be done to prevent the next disaster. By convening here, you create an important foundation for ongoing learning and identification of lessons. … My heart and all our hearts are with the grieving families, whose lives ceased moving forward on that day.”
Itzik Or, father of victim Ella Or, said at the ceremony: “We strive with all our strength to carry on the love that Ella bequeathed us, to carry on what she wrote: ‘Time is short and love is ample.’ I address the heads of the mechinot and the students, and I say to them: Know that you, the mechinot, are on the right path, and even though we lost our daughter on a hike on the mechina world’s watch, we believe in you and we believe in the mechina world. … I ask that in every activity of yours at mechina and in the future too, when you are commanders in the army, you make sure that everyone returns home unharmed. We greatly appreciate this ceremony and hope to keep coming to this important ceremony every year.”
Arik Shamir, whose daughter Shani was among the victims, said: “Shani did everything to get into mechina, and you’ve got to do everything so a disaster like this won’t happen, so this disaster, as Dani Zamir said here, really will be the turning point for the mechina world. Some of the other parents and I take part in safety training courses for staff members, and the lessons are indeed being absorbed... There’s still a long way to go, and we are here because Shani did everything to get into mechina, and you need to do everything to be worthy of these children.”
Yael Cohen, mother of victim Romi Cohen, said: “Together with those who share my pain, these ten parents, we’ve done everything in our power so students who come to the mechinot come to a safer place. … It’s your spirit, Romi, that gives me the strength to get up on my feet again every day, to keep believing in the people of Israel, to keep believing in you, the young generation, to keep believing in the human spirit.”
Hila Gerchman of Mechinat Aderet also offered remarks: “Four years have passed since that terrible day, and the pain is incomprehensible. Nine young women and one young man, so talented and loved, just beginning to blossom as mature individuals. Worlds taken away before their time. … Since the disaster, every year we go and walk in Tzafit Gully with the mechina’s educational staff to remember and commemorate and learn together how great our mission is and how weighty a responsibility rests on our shoulders. Four years of working hard, each mechina on its own and together as the Council, to ensure that such a disaster will not happen again. Four years of restructuring the system, changes to culture and organizational language, and rebuilding the world of the mechinot, in the field and in the everyday, to be more on target.
We are in the midst of a process, and we understand that it’s a long process that needs to continue. … The disaster was a formative event for the mechina world, an event that required us to stop, think, and reevaluate our path. Today, we are educating the leaders of our next generation to lead with responsibility toward the nation, with integrity, with professionalism—but lest we forget, also with modesty and humility, which are no less important.”
The mechina world will continue inculcating the lessons of the disaster to ensure that such a thing never happens again.
May the ten victims of that terrible event rest in peace.