Ultra-Orthodox Jewish pilgrims pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov during the celebration of Rosh Hashana holiday, the Jewish New Year, in Uman, Ukraine, September 21, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A fire near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov forced the evacuation of the site on Tuesday just after 10 a.m. local time Tuesday morning. Local United Hatzalah volunteers evacuated school children and removed Torah scrolls from the building.
The grave, located in Uman, Ukraine, is a popular destination for both Breslover Hasidim and other tourists every year on Rosh Hashana, making it a major factor in Ukranian tourism.
Ukranian officials prepared for a total of 40,000 visitors this past September for Rosh Hashana, according to JTA, an increase from the 25,000-30,000 they had expected in the years prior. It is estimated nearly 150,000 people visit the grave-site yearly.
The Hasidic giant Rabbi Nachman was born in the city of Medzhybizh in 1772 and was the grandson of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidic movement. He moved to Uman in 1810 and passed away a few months following the move.
In early November, Israeli authorities raised the issue of transferring Rabbi Nachman’s remains to Israel, though a move looks unlikely.
Ukrainian Jewish Committee director Eduard Dolinsky told the Post he doubted Kiev would agree to relocate the grave.
“It’s a kind of national treasure, bringing millions of dollars every year to the state and city budgets as well as to Uman inhabitants,” he said.
The site has been a hotbed of antisemitic activity in the past, especially during the tourist season around Rosh Hashana, punctuated by a pig’s head and red paint thrown at the grave in late 2016.
Tuesday’s fire originated in a building adjacent to the grave and caused a loss of power to the building housing the grave, though no damage to the Torah scrolls or other Judaica in the building was reported.
"Last night we graduated another 12 EMT volunteers in Uman, this morning they already went into action," said President of United Hatzalah Eli Beer.
No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.
Tamara Zieve contributed to this article.