Likud MK makes Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to Uman despite Netanyahu’s warning

Eliyahu Revivo sends supporters ‘a personal and special blessing’ from the Ukrainian city; tens of thousands expected to spend the Jewish new year there amid Russian invasion

Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo attends a Knesset committee meeting on June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo attends a Knesset committee meeting on June 12, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A member of the ruling Likud party traveled to Uman for Rosh Hashanah, brushing aside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning against visiting the city during the Jewish new year amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the ongoing war, tens of thousands of mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews are expected to be in Uman for Rosh Hashanah, which begins Friday evening and runs until Sunday at sundown, to pray at the grave of revered Hasidic leader Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.

Ukrainian authorities have set up concrete mobile shelters and heightened security measures in the city, which has previously been targeted by lethal Russian airstrikes, while repeatedly advising travelers not to make the trip this year.

“From here in Uman at the grave of the holy Rabbi Nachman, I wish to give you a personal and special blessing of all the best wishes that one can only pray for,” Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo wrote in a Rosh Hashanah message sent to supporters, according to a Channel 12 news screenshot.

Revivo visited Uman despite Netanyahu’s warning last week that the pilgrimage was dangerous, even though the government approved financial aid for such pilgrims. The premier said that when Israel comes under missile attacks, people head for shelter and have protection, “but [in Ukraine] — there are no shelters and there is no protection.”

“God has not always protected us, not on European soil and not on Ukrainian soil,” Netanyahu also said.

That comment elicited outrage in Haredi circles, later leading to several statements of condemnation and rebuttal, including a lawmaker from the coalition’s United Torah Judaism party who accused Netanyahu of “ignorance” and claimed it was the “Zionists,” rather than God, who were to blame for the suffering of Jews in the Holocaust.

Jewish pilgrims arrive in Uman, Ukraine ahead of the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, September 14, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with dozens of Chabad rabbis in the country ahead of Rosh Hashanah and reportedly said he expected stronger backing from Israel, noting it would have made it easier for the country to host the thousands of pilgrims heading to Uman.

“He said he told Netanyahu that there is a shortage of bomb shelters, but if Israel would help Ukraine, there would be no need for the shelters,” one of the rabbis at the meeting told The Times of Israel.

“I will try to take care of Israelis on their way to Uman,” Israel’s Channel 12 reported Zelensky as saying, citing two people who were present. “But if Israel were to agree to send Iron Dome, there would be a way to protect those Israelis. The responsibility to protect them is also the Israeli government’s but it doesn’t do so.”

The Ynet news site also reported the remarks, without citing sources.

Zelensky, who is Jewish himself, handed out decorations to 15 Jewish soldiers at the event, organized by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine and its head, Rabbi Meir Stambler.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with dozens of Chabad rabbis in the country ahead of the Rosh Hashana holiday on September 14, 2023. (FJCU)

Israel has been working with Ukraine on deploying a civilian aerial warning system to alert the population to an incoming attack, but without the interceptor component that destroys incoming rockets.

The system is expected to initially cover much of Kyiv, before hopefully being copied in other cities.

Iran is supplying ally Russia with attack drones that Ukraine wants to shoot down with the Iron Dome.

Ukraine has long sought missile interceptor capabilities, but Israel has so far refused, seeking to avoid overly antagonizing Russia. This hesitance is seen as linked to Israel’s strategic need to maintain freedom of operations in Syria, where Russian forces largely control the airspace.

Israel is one of the few countries that maintains relatively good relations with both Ukraine, a fellow Western democracy, and Russia.

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