Israel's complicated diplomacy with Ukraine will cause a humanitarian crisis along Ukraine's southern border as tens of thousands try to reach Uman for Rosh Hashanah, Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Tradition Minister Meir Porush warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a letter on Monday.
Breslov hasidim traditionally spend Rosh Hashanah at the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, something that has not changed in the last couple of years since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war.
In 2022, despite Israel putting out a travel warning and Ukraine saying it could not guarantee the safety of people who traveled to Uman, thousands still made the trip.
However, due to Ukraine's skies being closed to civilian flights, Porush said that last year saw a humanitarian disaster unfold for those who tried to get to Uman.
"Due to a lack of proper preparedness, a severe humanitarian crisis was caused at the borders in which the border checkpoints could not withstand the heightened traffic, and many had to wait at the border in difficult conditions for many hours, and in some cases, even a whole day," Porush wrote to Netanyahu.
As such, Porush said that he was working with the National Security Council to figure out a way to safely and productively help worshippers get to Uman.
With the help of various ministries and embassies, Porush said that Israel has made significant deals with Moldova, Poland, and Hungary to have travelers land in their countries and cross the border on foot through them.
The issue is, however, that "the complicated diplomatic relations between Israel and Ukraine led to the authorities in Ukraine refusing to cooperate and hold talks about arranging the passage of travelers productively and safely."
Keeping a brewing humanitarian crisis at bay
Porush added that without Netanyahu's involvement, there could be another humanitarian crisis as many are unable to cross the border. He urged Netanyahu to help sort out the operation with Ukraine in any way he could, including by speaking personally with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"We, as the people who are responsible for the citizens of Israel and as a country that has always looked after Israelis and Jews worldwide, cannot allow a situation where tens of thousands of people pay the price for the State of Israel's diplomatic interests," wrote Porush.
"In the absence of a change in discourse with the Ukrainian government, I will be unable to fulfill the task handed to me, and the failure will be listed in the name of the government. I will continue to do all I can to serve the traveling citizens in other ways in which I have the ability to help and improve the situation."
Israel and Ukraine have experienced tense relations in the last couple of years since the war began due to disagreement on the nature of Israel's aid. While Israel supplied Ukraine with humanitarian aid from early on in the war, Ukraine has repeatedly asked for military aid which Israel has refused to give aside from a missile early warning system that reached Ukraine in May.
Relations became more tense again after Israel announced that medical insurance had expired for Ukrainian refugees. After Zelensky and Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk threatened to revoke entry permits for Israelis visiting Uman, Israel announced that medical insurance would be increased until the end of the year.