JTA — Ukraine will let in vaccinated pilgrims from Israel for Rosh Hashanah amid negotiations on Israeli deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Ukraine, the European country’s interior minister said.
Arsen Avakov made the statement Friday following a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Aryeh Deri.
Last year, thousands of pilgrims in Israel protested being prevented from visiting the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman, founder of the Breslov Hassidic sect, in the Ukrainian city of Uman due to the pandemic. Some were stranded in Belarus and Moldova for days.
Many of the pilgrims are voters of Shas, the Sephardic Orthodox party led by Deri. It’s been a key coalition partner of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. Israel will have a general election on Tuesday.
Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky, a Jewish actor who won a landslide victory in 2019, has been slipping in polls as the pandemic hurts Ukraine’s already ailing economy. His Servant of the People party failed to win in any of Ukraine’s large cities during last year’s mayoral elections.
In the statement about Ukraine allowing in vaccinated pilgrims, Avakov’s office wrote that “the key condition for the implementation of this large-scale measure will be the normalization of the epidemiological situation in Ukraine and the preliminary vaccination of newcomers.”
He and Deri “discussed the possibility of assistance from the Israeli side in overcoming the next wave of diseases in Ukraine by supplying a batch of vaccines from Israel, where the vaccination campaign was successful,” the statement said.
Israel has recently been engaged in vaccine diplomacy, moving forward with a plan to supply surplus coronavirus shots to friendly nations.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.