The saga of Bresolover chassidim traveling to Uman ahead of Rosh Hashanah reached a crisis point in the past couple of days, with chassidim arriving in the airport in Odessa being refused entry into the country.
Those at the scene told B’Chadrei Chareidim that chassidim are being required to sign forms forcing them to return to Israel. Meanwhile, many chassidim were stuck for hours at the airport, in Odessa as well as Kiev, without food or drink, with some even reportedly falling ill and requiring medical attention.
“The want us to sign forms that we agree that they’ll return us today,” one Bresolver told Kan 11. “They’re holding us like hostages.”
“We’re shocked and horrified that families who wanted to try to reach Uman before August 29, when they’re closing the Ukrainian skies, bought tickets at great expense, arrived at Kiev, and were then detained for the sin of being chassidim,” another chassid told B’Chadrei. “They’re telling them now that they’re returning them tomorrow [erev Shabbos] at 5 p.m. to Israel.”
In a video of the scene, a man is heard talking to a doctor who arrived the scene, directing her to a chassid who fainted and was lying on the floor of the airport.
Another video shows the secular passengers being allowed to enter the country while all the visibly Jewish religious passengers have been pulled from the line. Anyone who even mentioned the word Uman was sent to the side.
A woman whose husband and children flew to Ukraine cried to B’Chadrei: “If they don’t agree to return to Israel, they’ll receive a black visa [banning them from the country] for their entire lives. What did they do wrong? Thousands of chassidim bought tickets at ridiculously high prices just to reach Uman before Rosh Hashanah. And now they’re returning them to Israel through chillul Shabbos.”
Later on Thursday evening, the efforts of Rabbi Mayer Stambler, head of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Ukraine, who spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, averted the crisis. The president agreed that all Jews stranded at the airport can enter the country and all Jews that arrive in Ukraine until midnight [when the ban on foreign nationals will go into effect] will be allowed to enter, subject to a negative coronavirus test.
Earlier on Thursday, hundreds of chassidim flocked to Ben-Gurion Airport, desperate to catch a flight before the deadline. Ukraine International Airlines added additional flights to Kiev and Odessa to fly in the many waiting Breslovers into Ukraine before midnight.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)