1,000 hassidim trapped between Belarus and Ukraine trying to get to Uman

Israeli embassies in both countries are working to supply those trapped, who were forced to sleep outdoors on the ground, with humanitarian supplies.

Breslov hassidim on the border between Ukraine and Belarus  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Breslov hassidim on the border between Ukraine and Belarus
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Some 1,000 Breslov Hassidim and other Israelis seeking to visit Uman in Ukraine for Rosh Hashanah are stuck on the Ukraine-Belarus border, and slept out in the open on Monday night.
As of Monday, there were 2,500 hassidim and others in Belarus seeking entry into Ukraine.
According to an official from the Breslov community, Belorussian authorities said on Monday night that the border with Ukraine was now open to them, and 1,000 pilgrims subsequently flocked to the border crossing.
But Ukrainian border officials refused them entry.
According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the authorities in Belarus are allowing those at the border crossing to return directly to Israel.
Chaim Weitshandler, a Breslov Hassid from Betar Illit who is currently among those waiting, told The Jerusalem Post that the group has little food, have to go to the bathroom in the bushes of the open territory they are stuck in, and had to sleep out in the cold.
He said the Red Cross distributed water and blankets, and that a delivery of sandwiches from a Breslov donor arrived but there was enough for less than half of those trapped.
Ukraine banned the entry of foreign citizens for a month at the end of August, but thousands of Breslov Hassidim nevertheless sought various avenues to enter.
Approximately 2,000 hassidim made it to Uman before the ban went into effect.
Weitshandler said furiously that Israel was to blame for the crisis, having pressured Ukraine to shut its borders, and accused ultra-Orthodox politicians of being “uncaring and evil” in their failure to assist those stuck.
Shas MK Ya’acov Margi said the responsibility for the situation was on those who traveled to Belarus while aware of the travel ban.
The Foreign Ministry said the Israeli embassies in Ukraine and Belarus are working with the authorities of both countries to ensure the provision of humanitarian supplies to those waiting between the two countries.
The ministry noted that the Ukrainian authorities had given advance notice that pilgrims would not be allowed into Ukraine, and that direct return to Israel for those waiting for entry into Ukraine was still possible via Belarus.
Interior Minister and Shas chairman Arye Deri, however, wrote directly to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, asking him to allow the pilgrims to travel to Uman.
He said those waiting for entry in Belarus were doing so “under utterly inhumane conditions” and asked that they be allowed into Ukraine “on extraordinary humanitarian grounds” subject to “complete adherence” to COVID-19 regulations in the country.