Thousands leave on holiday pilgrimage to Uman

Breslov Hassidim make their way to Ukraine for the annual pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nahman.

religious guy at airport 311 ariel (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
religious guy at airport 311 ariel
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Transportation Minister Israel Katz visited a bustling Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday to bid a Happy New Year to the hundreds of passengers in the departure hall, the vast majority of them Breslov Hassidim making their way to Uman for the annual pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nahman.
With the sounds of the shofar trumpeting in the background, Katz wished the travelers a good trip and a safe return.
“I want to wish all the passengers, and in particular those who are departing for Uman, a Happy New Year. This year an unprecedented number of people are traveling and for the first time, they can go there on direct flights.
“As Rabbi Nahman of Breslov said, it is a great mitzva to always be joyous. This year the joy is even greater than usual,” Katz continued.
“On the eve of this Rosh Hashana, the largest air convoy ever, numbering 18,000 people is leaving Israel for Uman and this year we are also marking 200 years since the death of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov.
“The Transportation Ministry is doing everything to ease and assist the passage and the Israel Aviation Authority is at the front line, assisting a smooth departure."
“I sincerely hope that with the cancellation of visa requirements between Israel and the Ukraine, the number of flights will rise substantially,” Katz continued. “And I also hope that one day the rabbis’ remains will be brought from Uman to Israel and pilgrims will be able to come from the Ukraine to Israel, instead of the other way around.”
According to the IAA, Monday saw 9,000 passengers leave Ben-Gurion for various destinations in Eastern Europe on 50 flights operated by standard and charter airlines.
Despite the large number of passengers, the airport appeared to be well organized, with management and staff looking well prepared to receive the pilgrims.
“We are already well-trained in catering to this special population. We gained experience in previous years and have been planning for these three days for the last four months. We call it ‘Operation Uman,’” said the IAA spokeswoman.
“We have extra personnel on hand, both on the security and the logistics side, we opened check-in counters well ahead of time, cordoned off space for the travel agents to assist with lastminute travel arrangements and brought in ushers to help maintain the lines.
“Today was the busiest day, but we anticipate several thousand passengers coming through on Tuesday, too,” she said.
Binyamin Machler, a spokesman for the Breslov community, said that they were pleased by the level of organization at the airport and that their only complaint was about the price of tickets.
“It doesn’t make sense that a ticket to Kiev costs about $800, when a ticket to Paris, which is further away, costs less than $400. The airlines and the travel companies are overcharging because they know people desperately want to go. I hope the transportation minister can do something about the high ticket prices,” said Machler.
When asked about the ticket costs, Katz said that the best solution would be to have the rabbi’s remains brought to Israel and in that way, save the hassidim the expense of flying to Uman.