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Deadly danger: Israel warns against travel to Ukraine’s Uman as pilgrimage nears

Foreign Ministry describes security situation in city as ‘volatile,’ says traveling there would pose an ‘immediate risk to lives’

People walk outside the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, in the city of Uman, in central Ukraine, January 26, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
People walk outside the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, in the city of Uman, in central Ukraine, January 26, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

The Foreign Ministry has intensified its calls for Israelis to avoid traveling to the Ukrainian city of Uman this Rosh Hashanah, warning worshipers that visiting would pose a “real and immediate risk to lives” in light of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.

A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office also urged citizens “not to go to the city of Uman during the upcoming Jewish holidays in light of the life-threatening danger posed by entering the combat area.”

The city of Uman, which is the burial site of the 18th-century founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, Rabbi Nachman, normally attracts some 30,000 visitors, most of them from Israel, over the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

The Foreign Ministry warned pilgrims to “completely avoid travel to Ukrainian territory, including the city of Uman and its surroundings.”

“A few days ago rockets were fired in the area of Uman, killing one person, injuring others and causing damage,” it noted.

The statement added that “the volatile security situation includes the danger of aerial bombardment or missile attacks against civilian towns and territories, including in the west and center of the country.”

The ministry also said that the Israeli embassy in Kyiv has “no consistent presence” in Ukraine, and that in case of emergency there may be very little assistance for citizens.

Jews pray at the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, in the city of Uman, in central Ukraine, January 26, 2022. (Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

On Monday, prominent Kyiv-based Rabbi Moshe Azman advised Jewish worshipers against traveling to the Ukrainian city for the annual pilgrimage because of the dangers posed by the Russian invasion.

“I am afraid that there could be provocations. Who will take responsibility for the lives of people?” Azman said.

In July, the Ukrainian Embassy in Israel issued a warning against travel for the pilgrimage. Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk told religious media outlets that the country “cannot guarantee the security of pilgrims” due to the Russian offensive, and asked worshipers instead to “pray for the victory of Ukraine.”

Uman’s mayor Iryna Pletnyova also sought to deter pilgrims from arriving, emphasizing that the city did not have the capacity to provide protection to the tens of thousands of potential visitors.

In addition to security concerns, travel to Ukraine is logistically difficult as airlines are not operating commercial flights into the country. The only way to enter the country is through a land border, by train or bus. The Moldovan border presents the fastest route to Uman.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report. 

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