Just past midnight on Thursday night, the bodies of five Israelis who left for vacation in Bulgaria less than 48 hours earlier, returned to Israel in flag-draped coffins.

“We face these silent coffins and our hearts are broken,” said Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, who spoke at a small ceremony at Ben-Gurion Airport.

He faced the relatives of the five victims, who sat in front of him on four rows of folding chairs set up on a large paved lot inside the airport complex.

The relatives had been bused to the site, and were already seated when the airplane carrying the bodies taxied in front of them.

Six soldiers then marched to the plane.

One by one, they hoisted a coffin on their shoulders and marched it to a small black podium, set up by the chairs.

One black podium for each coffin.

As the soldiers marched, a man chanted kaddish, the Jewish mourning prayer, and psalms in a wailing voice that was carried over a loudspeaker.

“I cast my eyes to the heavens from whence comes my salvation,” the man cried out.

Once all the coffins had been moved out of the plane, they were laid out in a straight line.

Meseznikov stood by the coffins as he spoke to the victims’ relatives. He called out the name of each victim: Elior Price, Maor Harush, Itzik Colangi, Amir Menashe and Kochava Shriki.

“Five coffins, five dreams and one large giant hole in our hearts,” Meseznikov said of the five victims, who were part of a group of 154 Israelis that had traveled to Bulgaria for vacation.

They had just boarded buses outside the airport Wednesday when a suicide bomber attacked one of the buses.

“These were five Israeli citizens, women and men in the prime of their lives, for whom the paradise they traveled to turned into hell,” said Meseznikov.

“We are shocked and grieving. We lack the words to comfort you for your lose.

But in spite of the great pain and sorrow, we won’t be deterred and we will not break,” the tourism minister said.

“Only yesterday you sent your loved ones off on a summer vacation. Who could have imagined that the moment they landed in Bulgaria they would have been targeted by the cruel arm of terrorism,” he said.

“Who could have imagined that these people, who had their whole lives in front of them, were not parting from their families yesterday for a quick trip, but forever,” Meseznikov continued.

“The only sin those dear to you were guilty of, and the only sin for which they were murdered, was that they were Israeli and Jewish,” he said.

He blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the attack, who he said had invested extraordinary efforts in the past months to target Israelis and Jews.

When he finished speaking, relatives crowded around the coffins. They called out the names of the victims and cried.

Some threw themselves on the coffins.

Others simply placed their faces on it, crying.

One man fainted. One woman tried to walk away, but her legs buckled out from under her. A chair was immediately placed under her to keep her from falling.

Minutes later, a second woman who walked away, similarly started to fall, and was also immediately guided into a chair.

One man called out, “God, why did you take him from us?” The coffins were then carried by soldiers onto ambulances, which had stood waiting with flashing lights throughout the ceremony.

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