Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Friday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a bid to have Kyiv recognize Israel’s ‘Green Pass’ for the vaccinated to allow travel to Ukraine, including for Hassidic pilgrims to Uman.
Netanyahu said they spoke about “cooperation on the vaccine and recognizing Israel’s Green Pass so that the vaccinated can soon visit Ukraine, including Uman.”
Ties were strained last year when thousands of Jewish pilgrims tried to get to Uman for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, despite a coronavirus travel ban imposed by Ukraine, ending with a tense standoff between the pilgrims and Ukrainian guards on the borders with Belarus and Moldova.
Uman usually sees tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews visit the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav for the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
The incident caused great anger among the Bratslav community who accused Israeli authorities, and the ultra-Orthodox parties, of not doing enough to help them after then-coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu appealed to Zelensky directly, without notifying Netanyahu, to ask him to prevent the pilgrimage, fearing returning pilgrims could drive up infection rates in the Jewish state.
Netanyahu’s conversation on Friday came after the Bratslav community threatened to boycott the upcoming March 23 elections over the issue, with activists putting up posters saying “My Rosh Hashanah is above all else. We will not meet at the polls.”
The posters had crossed out symbols of the two ultra-Orthodox parties, United Torah Judaism and Shas, and warned: “The Bratslav community says in a clear voice: We will not forget, we will not forgive.”
בעקבות קמפיין אי ההצבעה בברסלב, חברי הכנסת של אגודת ישראל כבר חותמים על התחייבויות לטובת הנוסעים לאומן בראש השנה הבא pic.twitter.com/7aZxrgTQqQ
— יאיר שרקי (@yaircherki) March 12, 2021
Earlier Friday, UTJ lawmakers signed a pledge promising to work to allow pilgrimages to go ahead this year, Channel 12 reported.
UTJ and Shas are key allies of Netanyahu in a race that is seen as too close to call.
The travel ban to Uman caused much anger with scenes of worshipers held for up to 17 hours at Ukrainian airports, while those that made it into the country before clashed with locals.
Videos posted to social media showed angry crowds confronting the pilgrims, pushing and shoving them as they tried to prevent them from entering apartments they had rented. Residents yelled in Ukrainian at the Hasidim to get out and told them they were acting dangerously.
According to the World Health Organization, there have been 1,425,522 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ukraine, with 27,685 deaths. With daily rates still high, there has been wide resistance in the country to vaccines.