Hundreds Of Hasidic Pilgrims Leave Belarus-Ukraine Border After Being Stopped By COVID-19 Restrictions
By RFE/RL's Belarus Service, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service September 18, 2020
NOVAYA HUTA, Belarus -- Hundreds of followers of the Breslov Hasidic movement, who were trying to reach the central Ukrainian city of Uman to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, have begun leaving neutral territory along the Belarusian-Ukrainian border after they were refused entry to Ukraine over measures banning foreigners from entering the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The State Border Guard Service of Ukraine said on September 18 that, of about 1,000 pilgrims who were waiting to cross into the country, only some 600 remain, the rest having left the area after Kyiv upheld the ban on entering the country amid a spike in coronavirus cases.
Hundreds of Hasidic Jews, who set off on a pilgrimage to Ukraine via Belarus despite coronavirus restrictions, were stuck in Homel and at the Novaya Huta border crossing on September 15 after Belarusian border guards let them through, but Ukrainian officials turned them back.
Tens of thousands of followers of the Breslov Hasidic movement come to Uman every year to mark the Jewish New Year by praying at the grave of the movement's founder, Reb Nachman, who died there in 1810.
They began to gather on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border around September 14, trying to get to Ukraine and go to Uman, in the Cherkasy region, to celebrate the holiday that runs from September 18 to September 20.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said last week that, due to the coronavirus restrictions, only about 3,000 pilgrims will come to Uman this year.
The number of pilgrims traveling to Uman for Rosh Hashanah has increased dramatically since Ukraine gained independence after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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