Scenes Mark Arrival of Air Crash Victims’ Remains in Israel
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Scenes Mark Arrival of Air Crash Victims’ Remains in Israel

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Heartbreaking scenes took place at the Israel Air Force airfield near here today as relatives of the 58 victims of the EI AI air crash in Bulgaria came here to view the first 15 coffins to arrive from Sofia via Istanbul. More coffins are expected late today and the funeral is expected to be held under military auspices tomorrow.

The coffins came to Istanbul by rail from Sofia where religious services were held in the Great Synagogue of the Bulgarian capital. Thousands of Jews and non-Jews flocked into the Sofia synagogue for the services. Present in the temple were a British diplomatic and a Swiss diplomat, the latter representing the United States which has no diplomatic relations with Bulgaria.

The military authorities have taken over the funeral arrangements, as well as flying the remains here. Transportation from Istanbul was provided by two military planes and one commercial transport. After the coffins were unloaded from the planes, they were placed in a huge hangar under a special honor guard of police.

The Chief Chaplain of the Army delivered a eulogy over the coffins and the Army’s senior cantor recited portions of the Psalms. Diplomats and top Army and police officers were seen wiping their eyes during the religious services. Present beside relatives and officials were the American consul, British air attache, French Charge d’Affaires, French military attache, a representative of the Soviet Embassy, the Turkish military attache, a representative of the Austrian consulate and an official of the Canadian Embassy.


After the arrival of the last coffins, probably late tonight, it will be decided when the remains will be buried in Tel Aviv’s cemetery–probably tomorrow. There were five non-Jews among the victims, none Catholics. A Protestant clergyman will participate in the funeral services as well as rabbis. Final attempts to identify the various victims will be made tonight by the Army’s chief pathologist and representatives of the Chief Rabbinate. A search of the luggage is expected to provide many clues to identification.

Men and women broke down and cried unashamedly as they looked at the coffins. A number of relatives fainted as four small coffins were taken out of one of the transports, reminding the viewers that among the 58 who were killed when Bulgarian fighter planes downed the Israel Constellation were four children.

Among the women who fainted was one whose elderly parents died amid the flaming wreckage; she had not seen them for 15 years and they were coming from the USSR to be reunited with her. One of the mourners was Max Sacks, an American industrialist, who lost his wife and two teenage daughters in one blow.

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