Welcome to the annual hate fest from Kyiv.
Ukraine is once again threatening to block Jews – and particularly, Israelis – from access to the city of Uman during this year’s High Holy Days.
Uman is home to the tomb of the revered Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (who died in 1810), where tens of thousands of Hasidim and other followers gather each year to celebrate Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized this Saturday during his weekly address that the “rights of Ukrainian citizens must be guaranteed” – a statement believed to have been a reference to Israel’s restrictions on the entry of his citizens.
The next day, Ukrainian Ambassador to Israel Yevgen Korniychuk made it clear that Zelensky was indeed aiming his message at Israel.
“The Ukrainian government will not tolerate the humiliation of its citizens upon entering Israel, Korniychuk declared.
“We will suspend our bilateral visa waiver deals, according to article seven of the intergovernmental agreement,” he threatened.
“This possibility is on our government’s table. It is unthinkable that we would have to go out of our way to host tens of thousands of Israelis in Uman, with a high security risk and a huge logistical effort, while the Israeli government abuses our citizens who come to Israel within the framework of a treaty between the two countries.
“If Israel wants its citizens to be able to come to Ukraine as tourists, including to Uman, I believe Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu should intervene personally to find a solution to the current matter,” he added.
But the timing of his remarks – and those of Zelensky – are suspect, and Korniychuk’s claims that Israel is mistreating its citizens are, frankly, bunk.
Israel has sent hundreds of thousands of tons of medical and humanitarian supplies to Ukraine and thousands of refugees fled to the safety of the Jewish State since the start of the war.
Health benefits for Ukrainian refugees, originally intended to last three months, have been extended until the end of this year, and the three-month visas awarded to non-Jewish refugees were extended after Israel’s High Court of Justice struck down the cap limiting their entry.
Ukrainians with at least one Jewish grandparent are eligible to automatically become citizens under Israel’s Law of Return, although many have chosen not to avail themselves of this option, hoping instead to return “home” once the war has ended.
In July 2022, Korniychuk made a similar announcement, once again threatening that Ukraine would bar visits to Uman for the Jewish High Holy Days, blaming the war with Russia for the decision.
“Due to the concern for the lives and well-being of visitors to Ukraine and in light of the blatant Russian war in our country, despite all our efforts, we cannot guarantee the safety of pilgrims and we do not currently allow tourists and visitors to enter Ukraine,” he said at the time.
“Please pray that before Rosh Hashana the war in Ukraine, which broke out due to blatant and brutal Russian aggression, ends and pray for Ukraine’s victory,” he urged. “We hope the prayers will be fulfilled and that Ukraine will return to being a country that generously receives visitors from Israel, and especially Jews who come to Ukraine to visit the graves of the righteous.”
As with last year, Ukraine has had no qualms about the entry of Israeli and other foreign volunteers who are bringing humanitarian aid into the country.
And as he did last year as well, Korniychuk also has had no qualms about making repeated verbal attacks on the Israeli government over so-called “unjust” Israeli decisions about controlling the influx of Ukrainian refugees into a state that is barely the size of New Jersey, with an economy just starting to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to Korniychuk’s latest barrage of hate, Israeli Interior and Health Minister Moshe Arbel calmly rejected Ukraine’s accusations that Israel is mistreating its tourists and refugees.
“Israel’s immigration policy welcomes tourists from many countries in the world, including from Ukraine,” Arbel said in a statement.
“In instances where there is a suspicion they are using their tourist visa unlawfully to work or settle down, the Population, Immigration and Border Authority operates according to its legal authority.”