What exactly is the current Jewish population of Ukrainians

Thousands of Orthodox Jews are stuck on the Belarusian-Ukrainian border

Minsk / Kiev - The picture at the border crossing between Belarus (Belarus) and Ukraine is currently unusual. Belarusian border guards behind bars face over a thousand Jewish Orthodox pilgrims. They want to make a pilgrimage to the Ukrainian city of Uman for the Jewish New Year, which takes place from Friday to Sunday. However, Ukraine, in which there have been more than 162,000 corona cases so far, closed its border to foreigners at the end of August.

But despite the travel warning, according to the Belarusian border guards, over a thousand people arrived at the border this week, including 242 children. Your destination is the grave of Rabbi Nachman in the central Ukrainian city of Uman. The rabbi founded the Breslow Hasidim movement at the beginning of the 19th century, an ultra-orthodox group that still exists today. The pilgrimage to his grave has been a tradition for its followers - with a few interruptions - that has existed for over two hundred years. In recent years, up to 40,000 people have come to his grave for the New Year celebrations. The pilgrims traditionally come from Eastern Europe, especially from Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Lithuania, but increasingly also from Israel and the USA.

Supply ensured

Belarus had allowed the pilgrims to pass its border, but there is now no further progress at the transition to Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities provided those waiting with food and put them in tents. "Since yesterday there has been no provocation, no tense situation," said a spokesman for the Ukrainian border guard on Friday. The situation is under control.

The Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko calls for pilgrims to travel to Uman via a "humanitarian corridor". Ukraine's deputy foreign minister, Yevgeny Jenin, insists on not being able to let people into the country: "At the moment, the situation does not allow us to let an additional number of Hasidic Jews enter Ukraine." Despite the restrictions, there are already thousands of Jewish pilgrims in Uman, according to the police.

On Friday morning, a few hundred people waiting left the border area and returned to their home countries. This left around 700 pilgrims in the neutral zone. It was questionable whether all of them would leave. Even in the times of the Soviet Union, when Uman was closed and the pilgrimage was officially prohibited, believers made a secret pilgrimage to the grave. "Even if the road to Uman were paved with knives, I would crawl there to spend the New Year with my rabbi," is a well-known quote. So it is to be expected that some pilgrims will stay at the border for at least the duration of the festival. (rio, APA, September 18, 2020)