Pit where Nehemia Aharoni drowned
Pit where Nehemia Aharoni drownedEtzion-Yehuda rescue services

Three days after the tragic drowning of 14-year-old Nehemia Aharoni of Beit Shemesh while on a school trip, the circumstances surrounding the incident are becoming clearer.

The trip took place last Thursday, and around noontime, Nehemia and his classmates stopped at a recognized picnic site on the outskirts of Beit Shemesh, near a bridge that was being built to connect Route 38 to the city.

Nehemia and his friends were playing in the field there near the tables, two of which are just four meters (twelve feet) away from the edge of the pit in which he drowned. The pit, which doesn’t seem especially deep, is filled with water from Nahal Sorek, possibly due to the construction work ongoing in the area, and some of the boys, including Nehemia, went down to the edge of the water to fill clear plastic bottles with water and the tadpoles found there.

Not long afterward, the boys returned to the school bus to continue on their way, but Nehemia had forgotten his bottle not far from the pit, and asked for the others to wait for him while he ran to get it. The moments passed, and Nehemia did not return.

After a short while, the other boys and their teacher set out to look for him, calling his name – but already at that point, Nehemia was no longer among the living. He had clearly slipped on the slope leading down to the pool and fallen into the water.

After the tragedy, it emerged that the pool concerned is around three meters deep and almost full with water. A volunteer from the Beit Shemesh branch of the ZAKA organization, Rabbi Avraham Kop, who led the search for the boy, warned of the danger of the area.

“This was a terrible tragedy that occurred in a recognized picnic area with a playground nearby, with picnic tables spread out of which two are just a few feet away from the deadly pit,” he said.

“The boy who drowned was fully clothed and with his shoes on, and he clearly slipped on the slope leading down to the pit and fell into the water. There is no sign anywhere nearby warning of the danger of deep water – there’s no barrier, not even red tape around the pool,” he stressed. “Absolutely nothing to give anyone any clue of the danger. It’s absolutely irresponsible, like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Kop added that he visited the site again after the tragedy, on Friday afternoon, to see what it looks like by daylight, as Aharoni was only found after dark. “I was horrified to see that just a few yards away from that pit, around seven children were playing happily, their parents nearby,” he said.

“Neither the parents nor the children had any idea of what had happened there or what could happen, G-d forbid. And, unbelievably, I visited there once again and yet again found people there, still with no warning sign, no barrier or anything. Nobody has bothered to close off the area or to warn people of the dangers.”