Israeli cops sent home after Uman bar fight

One officer lightly injured in club confrontation during Ukraine pilgrimage; far-rightists plant cross at Jewish ritual site

Worshippers at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine (CC BY-SA Nahoumsabban, Wikimedia Commons via JTA)
Worshippers at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine (CC BY-SA Nahoumsabban, Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

Three Israeli police officers were sent home early from the annual Rosh Hashanah gathering in Uman, Ukraine, after getting involved in a bar brawl.

The officers, part of a delegation of 12 sent to help keep order at the popular event, which attracts tens of thousands of Jews from around the world, took part in a scuffle at a local club sometime during the holiday, Maariv reported.

One of the officers was briefly hospitalized with light injuries as a result of the incident.

After the fight, police chief Yohanan Danino ordered they be brought back to Israel.

This year’s gathering also saw a Ukrainian far-right group set up a large cross at a site traditionally used for Tashlich, a traditional Jewish ritual of casting of one’s sins from the previous year into moving water.

Reportedly, Ukrainian police set up a 24-hour watch over the site to prevent violence or vandalism and many Jewish worshipers chose to perform their ritual elsewhere.

Protests in Uman against the presence of thousands of Jewish pilgrims in Uman started a few years ago, as nationalist political party Svodoba increased its popularity, and tensions have simmered since.

Svoboda entered parliament for the first time in 2012 when 10 percent of the national vote in the election made it Ukraine’s fourth largest party. Several of its leading members, including party leader Oleh Tyahnybok, have made anti-Semitic statements.

Some 25,000 pilgrims, many of them from the Breslov movement, converge in Uman each year ahead of the Jewish new year to pray near the burial place of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement. Most of the pilgrims do not stay longer than one week, but the popularity of the gathering has led to a permanent Jewish presence in the city, which once was a major Jewish center in eastern Europe.

Ukrainian police dispatched some 500 officers to guard the event, and authorities limited access of non-Jews to the area of Uman where the pilgrims congregate, Ukrainian media reported.

Svoboda said last week that they had scheduled a rally for September 12 to protest against the growing Hasidic and Jewish presence in Uman.

JTA contributed to this report.

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