Ukraine embassy: Jewish pilgrims unable to travel to Uman due to war

The annual pilgrimage to Uman will not be able to take place due to the "blatant Russian war," Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk said.

Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish pilgrims pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov on the eve of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year, in the town of Uman, Ukraine September 20, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO/FILE PHOTO)
Ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish pilgrims pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov on the eve of the Rosh Hashanah holiday, the Jewish New Year, in the town of Uman, Ukraine September 20, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS/VALENTYN OGIRENKO/FILE PHOTO)

Jewish pilgrims will not be able to travel to the Ukrainian city of Uman during the High Holidays, the Ukrainian embassy in Israel wrote in a Thursday Facebook post.

Uman, the site of an annual pilgrimage by Breslov hassidic Jews to the grave of rabbi Nachman of Breslov every Rosh Hashanah. 

"Due to concerns for the lives and well-being of the visitors to Ukraine and in light of the blatant Russian war in our country,  we can not guarantee the security of pilgrims and do not currently allow tourists and visitors to enter Ukraine," Ambassador Yevgen Korniychuk said.

Korniychuk added a request to pray for the Ukraine-Russia War to end before Rosh Hashanah.

  Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk in Tel Aviv, March 11, 2022.  (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk in Tel Aviv, March 11, 2022. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Groups of Breslov hassidim, the main hassidic sect that visits Uman, are planning to find alternative ways to visit the holy site.

"There is a group of us that is considering going to Uman from Israel at least a month before Rosh Hashana, if not earlier," a source in Breslov told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. He explained that during COVID there were also situations in which Ukraine wouldn't let Israelis into the country, "we brought large groups of guys who wanted to be in Uman for Rosh Hashana, so we went there a month before the holiday began."

Last year's COVID-ridden pilgrimage

Last year, Ukraine eased restrictions for Jewish pilgrims entering the country in the midst of the COVID-19 Delta variant outbreak. Approximately 25,000 Israelis traveled to Uman in 2021 and some 14.3% percent of the pilgrims returned from Uman positive for COVID-19.

Following the pilgrims' return, Israel's Population Authority stated that several dozen infected pilgrims boarded flights to Israel with fraudulent documentation. 16 of these people were detained upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport

During last year's pilgrimage, a 45-year-old father of 10 from Bet Shemesh was killed and 10 hassidim were injured in a car crash on a road leading to Kyiv Airport.

Caught in the middle of the Ukraine-Russia War

In March, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Israeli lawmakers that Russia had struck Uman on the first day of the invasion in February. 

Russia denied Zelensky's claims, showing pictures of what it said were Ukrainian forces loading arms near a synagogue there.

The remarks by Russian officials were heavily disputed by the local Jewish community, who said claims that Ukrainian military forces using their synagogues were completely untrue. All synagogues and Jewish sites in Ukraine are used exclusively for their intended purpose, the Jewish community said on their official Telegram channel.

This was confirmed by the Rabbi Nachman Foundation, which stated that the synagogue hasn't been used since Rosh Hashanah back in September, according to Pravda.

Zvika Klein contributed to this report.