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Ukraine To Improve Access and Safety at Jewish Tourist and Pilgrimage Sites

Ukrainian authorities announced plans to improve travel to Jewish pilgrimage sites.

“The route will include about 10 places of worship in the Cherkasy, Zhytomyr, Poltava and Khmelnitsky regions,” the cabinet of the governor of the Cherkasy region, Sergei Tulub, said in a statement last month to daily Vesti. Ukraine has hundreds of graves of great rabbinical thinkers such as Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, often called Baal Shem Tov, who is buried in Medzhybizh, and other Jewish monuments.

“Conditions will be created to improve the safety and quality of service, while meeting the needs of pilgrims’ travel services,” the governor’s office wrote.

In much of Ukraine, public transportation relies on Soviet-era buses and narrow roads lacking in stops and restrooms.

Shimon Buskila, a prominent figure in the Breslov Hasidic movement, told JTA he was contacted by regional authorities to help with designing the network.

“There is a lot of willingness, but the people responsible for constructing the network naturally have limited knowledge of Judaism, and even less understanding of Hasidic history,” he said.

According to Buskila, who lives in the central Ukrainian city of Uman, some 75,000 Jews arrive annually to visit the grave of the founder of the Breslov movement, Rabbi Nachman, who was buried in the city in 1810. Of those, 30,000 make the pilgrimage on Rosh Hashanah.

“The authorities realize that this could be a source of income,” Buskila said.

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