According to local authorities, more than 20,000 Jews have arrived in the city of Uman in central Ukraine to observe Rosh Hashanah amidst increased security as a result of the conflict with Russia.
Every year, before the Jewish New Year, tens of thousands of Jews, mostly Chassidic, travel from Israel and other nations to Uman to visit the grave of Nachman of Breslov, the founder of the Breslov Chassidic sect.
The majority-male pilgrimages to Uman, which lies roughly 125 miles south of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, have persisted despite Ukrainian authorities’ requests to stay away due to the conflict and travel advisories issued by the Israeli government.
Ihor Taburets, chief of the Cherkasy Regional Military Administration, said on Telegram that as of the morning of September 14, “about 22,000 Chassidic pilgrims have already arrived in Uman, mostly from Israel, the United States, and a number of European countries.”
“At this time, Uman’s status is stable and under control. Our defense and security personnel are operating in increased mode, Taburets continued. Israeli security personnel have been sent to the pilgrimage site in addition to Ukrainian police officers, the statement stated.
“Security for the festivities will be provided by about 1,000 law enforcement personnel. We also set up 24 more [bomb] shelters. Taburets exhorted the faithful to “be as watchful as possible and respond correctly to air raid sirens; in particular, [we] erected concrete mobile shelters.
Jerusalem and Kiev agreed to help organize the Jewish pilgrimage to Uman earlier this week.
As part of the agreement, border patrol officers would strive to expedite entry points, and the checkpoints would be open twenty-four hours a day in the days leading up to and following Rosh Hashanah.
The agreement was reached after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s administration threatened to impose travel restrictions on Israeli pilgrims in retribution for deporting Ukrainian visitors from Israel. Israeli pilgrims should avoid visiting Uman, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also advised them to be fully responsible for their own safety.
In uncommon remarks against such visits, Netanyahu claimed that “God has not always protected us, both on Ukrainian and other European soil.”
The alert was issued when Zelenskyy forewarned the prime minister over the phone that Uman does not have adequate bomb shelters for both its citizens and visitors.
For the period of the holidays, local United Hatzalah rescue service volunteers—who work all year in Uman and other regions of Ukraine—will be supplemented by people traveling from Israel, the United States, and other nations.