The Israeli cabinet approved a budget of NIS 4 million on Sunday to help Jewish pilgrims reach the tomb of the saintly Rebbe Nachman of Breslov in the Ukrainian city of Uman ahead of Rosh Hashana.
But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nevertheless urged them not to go.
“Israeli citizens who are traveling to Ukraine must take personal responsibility for their travels,” Netanyahu said during the cabinet meeting.
“It is very dangerous. People need to know that they are putting themselves at risk. Too much Jewish blood has already been spilled in Europe. How can you take such a risk?
“The Holy One has not always protected us – not on European land, and not on Ukrainian land,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said that during his phone conversation last week with President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian head of state warned there is no way to protect a large influx of tourists in Uman.
Zelensky issued a similar warning ahead of last year’s holidays as well – but Jews committed to the annual pilgrimage went anyway.
The stark warning, a reminder of the dark days of World War II, was intended to awaken the sensibilities of the Jews who insist on traveling to Uman despite ongoing Russian missile fire aimed at cities throughout Ukraine.
When those missiles are fired, the prime minister noted, Israelis know enough to head for the bomb shelters – “but there, (in Uman) there are not enough shelters,” he emphasized.
“Enough Jewish blood has been spilled in Europe,” he added.