Photo Credit: Avi Dishi/Flash90
Breslov Chassidim at Ben Gurion International, on their way to Uman, September 5, 2018.

The Ukrainian government on Wednesday decided to ban the entry of all foreign nationals into its territory for the entire month of September. The ban will apply from August 29, this coming Saturday, until September 28, Yom Kippur.

The official reason for the ban is the fear of the rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the country in recent days. But it is clear that the real reason is Ukraine’s fear of tens of the invasion of thousands of Breslov Chassidim around to the graveside of Reb Nachman on Rosh Hashanah.

President Volodymyr Zelensky in Parliament, May 20, 2019 / US Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine met on Tuesday with representatives of the country’s Jewish religious organizations and discussed the need for compliance with anti-epidemic restrictions during the celebration of Rosh Hashanah in Uman, Interfax reported citing the presidential press service.

Zelensky said that Ukraine understands how important it is for tens of thousands of Chassidim to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. At the same time, in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has forced significant adjustments to plans and habits, because now the epidemic’s status in Ukraine and Israel is of great concern.

“This year, it is a difficult situation with COVID-19, with which the whole world is fighting now,” President Zelensky told his guests. “All mass gatherings of people cause an increase in infections. The mass celebration of Rosh Hashanah will lead to a colossal collapse. It will be a collapse in Ukraine, then it will be collapse in other countries,” he said.

The president said that he had discussed the situation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told him about 8,000 believers come to Ukraine from Israel for Rosh Hashanah celebration every year.

“Therefore, they turned to us to close Uman down. This holiday is very important. I am sure that every year we will only strengthen our relations. However, we have a difficult situation,” Zelensky said.

He asked representatives of Jewish religious organizations in Ukraine to appeal to the Jewish community with to avoid large gatherings of people on Rosh Hashanah in 2020. He noted that significant restrictions on mass gatherings were introduced in Ukrainians in April, when Christians celebrate Easter.

Zelensky also said that due to the dynamics of the spread of COVID-19 in Ukraine, the government plans to restrict the entry of foreign citizens from all countries.

The rabbis in the meeting said they understand the situation and will try to convey the president’s message to their communities. The Chairman of the Council of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, Rabbi Meir Stambler, said that the Torah teaches that the most valuable thing is life, and each person must take care of it.

“We will do everything possible to convey your statement,” Rabbi Stambler told President Zelensky. “We understand what is happening and how important it is.”

Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Chairman of the Association of Jewish Religious Organizations of Ukraine, Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, noted the importance of normative regulation of the situation. According to him, it is necessary to envisage restrictions not only for foreign pilgrims, but also for domestic ones.

“There are gatherings of people who live in Ukraine. It is important that everyone understands that there is a framework of legislation,” Rabbi Bleich said.


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