Hundreds of Jewish pilgrims, who had been stranded on Belarus’ border with Ukraine for several days due to restrictions imposed by the new coronavirus, made their way back, abandoning their plans for a pilgrimage on the Ukrainian soil.
“If yesterday they were approximately 1,000, today at 10:00 (Greek time) they were not more than 700” at the Novi Yarylovychi border post, Ukrainian border guard spokesman Andriy Demchenko told AFP.
Every year during the Jewish New Year – celebrated this year from September 18 to 20 – tens of thousands of pilgrims go to Uman, located in central Ukraine, to pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), the founder of Hasidism.
The departures of the first pilgrims from the border zone take place as today the celebrations of the new year are expected to begin.
The pilgrims estimated that they could bypass, through Belarus, the restrictions imposed by Kyiv due to the resurgence of cases of the new coronavirus on Ukrainian soil, due to the fact that Ukraine has closed its borders to foreigners since late August.
About 2,000 of them, who came mostly from Israel, the United States of America, Great Britain and France, are now in Belarus, with about half of them being excluded from entering the country and remaining in the neutral zone near the Ukrainian border post in Novi Yarylovychi since the beginning of the week.
The crisis was exacerbated the day before yesterday, on Wednesday, by a diplomatic dispute between Ukraine and Belarus, with Kyiv accusing Minsk of seeking to exploit the situation amid tensions between the two capitals following the controversial August 9th presidential election.
The Israeli government, which, like Kyiv, had estimated since August that because of the pandemic the Hasidic Jews had to abandon their plans for the pilgrimage, yesterday invited them to return to Israel.