Hasidic Pilgrimage Far From Trouble-Free for Breslovs in Ukraine

Scuffles, Fires and Accidents Mark Record Uman Journey


By JTA

Published September 08, 2013.
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Thousands of Jewish pilgrims have begun leaving Uman, Ukraine, where their week-long stay resulted in a fire, power shortages, a sewage flood and several arrests.

One of the incidents involved three Israeli police officers who were sent to Uman to help police the estimated 26,000 Jewish pilgrims who congregate every year, ahead of the Jewish New Year, near the grave site of Rabbi Nachman, founder of the Breslov hasidic movement.

According to Israel’s Channel 10, the officers were sent back to answer for the incident on orders from Israel Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino. The fight reportedly happened last week while the three officers were off duty. One of the officers sustained minor injuries in a scuffle with locals, the report said.

In a separate incident, pilgrims from Israel started a fire inside their rented apartment after they had an indoor barbecue, according to Alexander Gorobech, a firefighter who was stationed in Uman as part of a special deployment. Gorobech told the Ukrainian ICTV television station that the men who lit the fire were handed over to the Israeli police detachment stationed at Uman for the High Holidays.

A different apartment block on Pushkin Street lost power for nearly one day, due to an overload in consumption by Jewish pilgrims, according to Segodnya.ua.

Another incident registered last week began with the arrest of a Jewish visitor after Ukrainian police spotted him smoking marijuana at the entrance to a shop, according to a statement by the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Several of his friends confronted the police officers but the encounter did not turn violent, according to the news website Unian.net.

Pilgrims staying at an apartment building at Uman’s Pushkin Street caused the sewage system to overflow and flood the municipality’s social services center, according to Ukrainian media, including the news site Svodka.net. The visitors flushed diapers and hygienic pads down the toilet, the reports said, resulting in a flood which caused severe damage to the municipal offices located in the basement of the building.

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, Sept. 4, Ukrainian police divers rescued a Jewish pilgrim who fell into a flooded quarry, according to the Russian news agency RIA Novosty. The man tripped into the quarry while walking on its edge with a friend, who called emergency services. The drowning man was unconscious when the divers pulled him out of the water but regained it following an emergency resuscitation procedure.

According to Segodniya.ua, Jewish pilgrimage this year broke the record set in 2011, when Uman saw 26,000 arrivals, but the Russian Jewish Congress said in a statement attendance was lower than in previous years.


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