Israeli Jews will be barred from making an annual pilgrimage to the central Ukrainian town of Uman for the Rosh Hashanah holiday due to the coronavirus pandemic, the town’s mayor announced Tuesday, citing a Foreign Ministry decision.
“The common opinion is that the arrival of tens of thousands of Hasidic pilgrims to Uman to conduct the celebration in the traditional format is impossible,” Uman mayor Oleksander Tsebriy said in a video he posted to his Facebook page earlier this week.
Ukrainian media reports said that a government decision stopping the pilgrimage — issued after a meeting of ministers on July 9 — stated the decision “has nothing to do with politics and anti-Semitism.” It also said that Israeli officials understand and agree with Ukraine’s decision in light of the situation.
The government decision was based on the increase in cases of the coronavirus in Israel, the ban on mass gatherings in Ukraine, the inability of Ukrainian hospitals to care for the foreigners, and the fact that the local police are not sufficiently prepared to enforce the guidelines of isolation, masks and social distancing.
As early as April, Israel’s Ambassador to Ukraine Joël Lion called on Israelis to avoid making the trip to his host country due to the pandemic.
Tens of thousands of Jews gather in the central Ukrainian city each year on the fall-time Jewish New Year, near what many believe is the burial site of Rabbi Nachman, an 18th-century luminary.
The pilgrimage has created friction between the predominantly Israeli pilgrims and locals, many of whom resent the cordoning off of neighborhoods by police. Street brawls are not uncommon.
JTA contributed to this report.