Jewish pilgrims travel to Ukraine despite war threat


Eastern Europe


Hasidic Jewish boy gets a traditional haircut. Photo Facebook, Вікторія Святославівна Кохановська

Thousands of Jewish pilgrims have travelled to the Ukrainian city of Uman to celebrate the Jewish New Year. They defy the international travel advice not to travel to the war-torn country.

The pilgrims belong to a conservative Jewish group called Hasidism. It originally came from Eastern Europe and was prominent in Ukraine, and was prominent in Ukraine. The Hasidic Jews are led by a so-called Rebbe, who offers spiritual and practical advice to his followers and is often seen as a conduit to God.

In Uman, the pilgrims visit the grave of Rebbe Nachman, who founded the school of Breslover Hasidism. Every year, thousands of them travel to the city in the centre of Ukraine around the Jewish New Year, Dagen writes. This year, that event took place on September 25. Pilgrims often refer to a religious text of Rabbi Nachman, in which he promises to save worshippers from hell if they visit his tomb on the Jewish New Year.

However, the Ukrainian embassy in Israel had warned the pilgrims not to travel to Ukraine because of the Russian invasion. The ambassador explained that Russians often target attacks at places where many people gather. Even though Uman has been relatively safe from Russian attacks, missiles have hit it twice, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty writes.

It took long negotiations before the pilgrims were allowed into Ukraine. Strict security measures were introduced to ensure as much safety as possible. The Ukrainian police kept a strict eye on the pilgrims. They checked IDs and only let people in if they could prove they were residents or Hasidic Jews.

“This is a most important day of the year to be able to connect with God”, pilgrim Aaron Allen said to AFP, as reported by France 24. Allen is not afraid of the air raid sirens. “Coming from Israel, we are used to sirens; we know what to do. We feel pretty safe.”

“Not fair that Ukrainian Orthodox Christians cannot practice their religion freely”

It is not fair that Jewish pilgrims can freely gather for their prayers, while an Orthodox Christian, Metropolitan Longin is brought to trial for organising a religious procession. That is argued by Ukrainian lawyer Victoria Kokhanovska, as SPZH reports.

Kokhanovska refers to the fact that Metropolitan Longin is prosecuted because he organised a prayer procession. “He was not even the organiser of the event: he was walking with a prayer to God. Why did they target him?”

Even though the lawyer is happy for the Jews who can practice their religion freely, she points out that Orthodox Christians should have the same freedom, which right now they do not have. “An Orthodox Christian, a citizen of Ukraine, can never be sure that his church is not seized, burned or desecrated in his country.” She adds that she feels “pain and despair for our Ukraine and double standards.”



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