Israeli police said on Thursday it would not increase the number of liaison officers sent to beef up security at the annual Rosh Hashana pilgrimage to Uman, in Ukraine, later this month despite last year’s violence which left one Israeli dead and dozens wounded. The pilgrimage is to Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s grave.

“We’re sending six police officers to provide security the same way we did last year and in coordination with local police,” said police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld. “If the events of last year repeat themselves we’ll respond accordingly.”

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Asked if that number was sufficient, Rosenfeld said the onus of providing security to tens of thousands of visiting Jewish worshipers is on Ukraine, not Israel.“At the moment it’s their job to provide security for the event,” he said.

The Ukrainian embassy in Israel on Thursday did not respond to inquiries about preparations for the event expected to draw a record number of participants this year.

Jewish worshipers have been visiting the sage’s gravesite since his death in 1810. During the early 20th century, thousands of Orthodox Jews would travel to the small Ukrainian town over Rosh Hashana, but the tradition was suppressed by the Soviet Union, only being reborn after its disintegration.

Over the past decade the number of Jewish worshipers to the grave has skyrocketed.

Last year’s gathering in Uman – the largest ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union – drew about 40,000, but was marred by violence.

Several riots between visiting worshipers, local residents and police erupted and had to be forcibly dispersed.

Shmuel Tobul, a 19-year-old hassid from Israel, was stabbed to death in an altercation with a thief on Succot. His murderer has not been found.

The ZAKA rescue and recovery organization said it was taking added safety measures.

“This year we’re putting up cameras around the gravesite,” said ZAKA spokesman Moti Bokjin. “There was simply no evidence to work with last year.”


The Fellowship of Christians and Jews announced on Wednesday it had donated NIS 1.2 million toward making improvements to the gravesite, including the installation of a communications center, an emergency generator and improved lighting.

Still, with the growing number of participants many fear a repetition of violence to be inevitable.

ZAKA said on Thursday it was better prepared to treat casualties than it had been the year before, adding that it is setting up a makeshift hospital in Uman, bringing seven doctors and 70 medics from Israel, and it has purchased an ambulance from Germany to replace the aged ones in Uman.

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