Family members of Bulgaria victims.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post))
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
“We face these silent coffins and our hearts are
broken,” said Tourism Minister Stas Meseznikov, who spoke at a small ceremony at
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
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.
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.
all the coffins had been moved out of the plane, they were laid out in a
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 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
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
“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
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
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.