Thousands of Hasidic Jews defy travel warnings by making New Year pilgrimage to war-torn Ukraine




Hasidic Jews pray in Uman, Ukraine
Hasidic Jews pray in Uman, Ukraine  
  • Hasidic Jews make an annual pilgrimage to Uman, a central Ukrainian city, during Rosh Hashanah.

  • This year, thousands are traveling to Uman despite warnings not to, The New York Times reported.

  • They will worship at the grave-side of the revered 19th century rabbi, Nachman of Breslov.

Thousands of Hasidic Jews are defying travel warnings by heading to war-torn Ukraine for an annual pilgrimage, according to The New York Times.

The pilgrims are traveling from Israel, the US, and other countries to Uman, a central Ukrainian city that features the burial site of the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, the paper reported.

Since 1811, ultra-orthodox Jews have traveled to Uman around the time of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year 5783), which starts at sundown on Sunday, to pray at the grave of the revered rabbi, Nachman of Breslov.

In usual years, tens of thousands go. This year, fewer are expected to make the trip, but some 4,000 Israeli pilgrims have already arrived, according to estimates by a spokesperson for Israeli's foreign ministry, per The Times. This number is likely to rise to 5,000 or more, the spokesperson said, according to the paper.

Earlier this month, the Embassy of Ukraine in Israel urged those intending to travel for the pilgrimage not to. "Please avoid pilgrimage," said the warning posted on Facebook on September 11. "Continuous Russian attacks cause real danger to your lives!"

In another warning, Ukraine's embassy in Israel asked prospective pilgrims to "pray that peace will return to Ukraine" instead of going to Uman for the Jewish new year.

The US also warned against traveling to Ukraine for any purpose, explicitly advising US citizens not to travel to Uman for the Jewish new year.

And Ukraine's culture minister Oleksandr Tkachenko told the Jewish Telegraph Agency that it's "clearly not the best time" to visit. "A better time will come after our victory," he said, per the news agency.

Nevertheless, those who are already in the country told Israeli news media that they could hardly feel the effects of war.

A Jewish tourist in Uman, identified only as Koller, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: "Anyway, do you see any Russian missiles? Everything is fine here. In the evening, we have our curfew, from 11 to 5, and that is it."

Central Ukraine, The Times noted, is not currently as dangerous as cities in the east. However, Israeli and Ukrainian officials have warned that there have been missile strikes in the area in recent weeks, The Times said.

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