An eight-year-old boy was tragically killed on Thursday when a landslide occurred near the Nahal David waterfall at Ein Gedi, near the Dead Sea.
Yehuda Levi, son of Moshe and Rachel Levi, a resident of the Hemdat settlement in the Jordan Valley, was hiking with his family at around 9 a.m. and intended to continue traveling to Eilat when the landslide occurred.
His mother and sister were also injured and admitted to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba before being discharged in the afternoon. The funeral date for Yehuda has not yet been determined.
One of Yehuda's preschool teachers told The Jerusalem Post's sister paper, Maariv, "He was with me in nursery school. This is so sad. I took care of him until he was 3. I'm in denial that this happened, unable to comprehend that it's true."
Who were the other victims of the Nahal David landslide?
Eight others were injured in the incident, at least three moderately. The victims were treated at hospitals nationwide, including Soroka Medical Center, Safra Children's Hospital at Sheba Medical Center and Hadassah Medical Center at Ein Kerem.
"This is a difficult day and a terrible disaster," Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman said. "I send condolences to the family members of the child who was killed while on a trip with his family and send wishes for recovery to the injured."
The Environmental Protection Ministry said it would establish a special investigative committee to determine how the incident occurred.
"In the coming days, I will bring together the relevant professionals to establish the committee," Silman said.
She added that she had spoken to the head of the Tamar Regional Council and the Nature and Parks Authority director and instructed them to close the Nahal David and Nahal Arugot reserves until further notice.
Israel Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrived at Ein Gedi. They said the police would investigate the incident and assess whether it could have been prevented.
Nahal David is part of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve beside the Dead Sea. The site includes a waterfall, a stream, and a hiking path that goes up to Mount Yishai. The Nature and Parks Authority said the event was "highly unusual."
Immediately following the event, Southern District Commander, Brigadier General Amir Cohen, declared a mass-casualty incident and helicopters from Magen David Adom and three Israel Air Force helicopters were dispatched to assist in the rescue and evacuation efforts. Additional Magen David Adom teams, police forces, and special units from Eilat, Ein Gedi, and the Megilot Regional Council were alerted.
Israel Air Force helicopters and the 669 Search and Rescue Unit were dispatched. United Hatzalah said it had sent its Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit to the scene.
The section of Highway 90 between Ein Gedi and the Metsoke Dragot checkpoint was temporarily closed to traffic due to the incident but was reopened in the afternoon.
“We reached the waterfall, and suddenly rocks fell on us,” Lavi Bar David, an eight-year-old who sustained minor injuries, told reporters. He said his five-year-old sister was screaming in pain, her finger badly bleeding. “I used my shirt to bandage my sister; I know to do this when you need to stop the bleeding. We had nothing else, so that’s what I did.”
Bar's father, Yonatan, shared, "We saw enormous rocks falling. I regret not being able to shield the kids; it was a split second – everything happened in one hit without warning. The rocks hit the ground, creating a dust cloud. At first, you couldn't see anything."
He described the rocks as being "the size of vehicles."
David told the media that his older daughter called the police first and told them to send a rescue helicopter while he held his younger daughter in his arms. She had been hit in the head.
“I prayed, and we ran to the entrance of the reserve,” he said.