If Israel does not stop turning away Ukrainians, Kyiv could stop Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel, Yevgen Korniychuk, has called on Israel to stop turning away Ukrainian refugees. Korniychuk warned that if Israeli authorities do not change their policy, Ukraine will not allow Israeli pilgrims to travel to the city of Uman for Rosh Hashanah.
Tens of thousands of Hasidim travel to Umam to visit the grave of their rebbe, Nachman of Breslov, every year. The pilgrimage went ahead last year despite the war, producing dramatic images in this photo essay.
Korniychuk said in a statement, “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 with a huge logistical effort, when on the other hand the Israeli government mistreats our citizens who come to Israel as part of the treaty between our two countries. If Israel wants its citizens to be able to come to Ukraine as tourists, I believe that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should intervene, personally, in finding a solution to the current state of affairs.”
The Times of Israel reported that according to the embassy’s data, in 2022, Israel deported 2705 Ukrainian citizens. In the first half of 2023, Israel deported as many as 2037 Ukrainian citizens. The travellers reportedly had to sleep on the floor of the airport overnight before being put on a plane back home.
The Israeli Population Authority said that those figures are inaccurate and that most of the Ukrainians who arrived in Israel this year did receive an entry permit. The authority said that only some 5% of Ukrainian arrivals were refused entry and all the refusals were justified because the travellers had come to work illegally.
Jerusalem reportedly dismissed as baseless the threat that Ukraine would close its borders to Israeli pilgrims.
“There is no basis for the threats of the ambassador of Ukraine in Israel about [Ukraine] closing its borders ahead of the Rosh Hashanah events in Uman,” an unnamed diplomatic source was quoted as saying by the Ynet news site. “Those in Ukraine’s government who are more senior than [the ambassador] made this very clear to Israeli officials.
“Israel has proven its commitment to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people, and continues to provide humanitarian aid to support Ukraine,” the source added. Kyiv has repeatedly called out Israel for refusing to provide Ukraine with weapons, while Jerusalem says taking such a step would risk upending its ties with Russia with whom Israel cooperates ito prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.
Ukrainian ambassador threatens to block Israeli pilgrims from Uman (Al-Monitor)
PHOTO ESSAY: Pilgrimage in a time of war (Plus61J Media)
More than 23,000 Hasidim made the annual pilgrimage to Uman, Ukraine, last year despite the war. Photographer GIANLUCA CERCERE recorded their colourful journey.
Photo: A crowd of Hasidim in the street in Umam during last year’s pilgrimage (Gianluca Cercere)