Likud MK Nir Barkat paid a secret visit to Ukraine on Friday, Hebrew media reported.
He flew despite the travel warning provided to the country and amidst the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Foreign Ministry is reportedly angry and shocked upon receiving word of his trip, Maariv reported. He did not inform any official of his trip prior to flying, according to a Ynet report.
Barkat met with the Uman local governor. The former mayor of Jerusalem was also photographed praying there in the memory of Nachman of Breslov with Ukraine's Chief Rabbi Moshe Asman.
במשרד החוץ ובמל"ל הזדעזעו לגלות כי ניר ברקת טס בחשאי לאוקראינה ואף תועד מתפלל באומן. בכירים במשרד החוץ ובמל"ל, שהשקיעו מאמץ רב במסע שכנוע של הציבור שלא לטוס השנה לאומן עקב המלחמה,מותחים ביקורת חריפה על ברקת ואומרים כי מדובר בצעד בלתי אחראי ופופוליסטי שלא תואם עם אף גורם רשמי. pic.twitter.com/4IMs8eWR5e— Anna Rayva-Barsky אנה ברסקי (@AnnaBarskiy) September 9, 2022
Foreign Ministry officials sharply criticized Barkat and say that this was an irresponsible step.
"I am concerned about members of Knesset who, instead of serving as a personal example to the large public, choose to ignore the unequivocal travel warning to Ukraine and endanger themselves and others," said Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll. "I ask that you refrain from traveling to Uman this year for your safety. Shabbat Shalom."
Prime Minister Yair Lapid also warned citizens earlier this month to not travel to the city during the upcoming holidays in light of the danger.
"I am concerned about members of Knesset who, instead of serving as a personal example to the large public, choose to ignore the unequivocal travel warning to Ukraine and endanger themselves and others."Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll
Why did Nir Barkat travel to Uman?
Barkat reportedly was invited by the chief rabbi, in order to get to know them and think about solutions for assistance due to the situation in Ukraine.
"Unfortunately, the Israeli government is the one that is absent from Ukraine at this difficult time of a war in which innocent people are being hurt," Barkat's office responded. "The American Secretary of State, the British Defense Minister and senior officials from all over the world came to Ukraine. The atrocities in Ukraine are shocking and we as Jews should be the first to express support for the Ukrainian people and the Jewish community in Ukraine.
ח"כ ניר ברקת והרב הראשי של אוקראינה הגיעו היום (שישי) לתפילה בציון רבי נחמן מברסלב באומן.במהלך הביקור נפגשו עם יו"ר איחוד ברסלב הרב נתן בן נון ושוחחו על ההיערכות וההכנות לראש השנה. pic.twitter.com/DZSkMrwHew— ציון רבי נחמן מברסלב באומן - החשבון הרשמי (@ichudbreslev) September 9, 2022
"MK Barkat came to Ukraine at the invitation of the Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Rabbi Moshe Asman, to support the Ukrainians and act to prevent harm to the innocent. As part of the visit to Ukraine, Barkat went to Kyiv, Irpin, Bucha, Brantzelka and Uman."
Asman was the one who accompanied Barkat while traveling through the ruins of the houses and said that it was a "visit of sympathy to the Ukrainian people and the Jewish community," according to Ynet.
Earlier this week, opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu met with Asman and said that he would help Ukraine end the war with Russia if he were reelected as Prime Minister.