Russia warns Jews against traveling to Ukraine for holidays, denies plans to fire missiles at Jewish worshipers

Russia categorically denied a Ukrainian claim that it was planning to fire missiles at visiting Jews in Uman.

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Israel’s Ambassador to Moscow Alexander Ben Zvi that his country cannot guarantee the safety of Jewish pilgrims visiting Uman in Ukraine for the upcoming high holiday of Rosh Hashanah, Israeli TV news reported.

Bogdanov told the Israeli envoy that it was incumbent on Israel to prevent its citizens from traveling to Uman, which is the burial site of the Hasidic Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Channel 12 reported.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Yair Lapid called on Israeli to avoid Uman, warning of a “life-threatening danger,” and the Ukrainian embassy in Israel last week released a similar warning.

Uman has been the target of Russian missiles before.

Also on Thursday, Russia categorically denied a Ukrainian claim that it was planning to fire missiles at visiting Jews in Uman.

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told Israeli TV last week that Russia may fire missiles there to trigger “global shock.”

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova, said Podolyak’s warning was “an absurd thought and of course fake” but went on to say that the “remarks need to be taken seriously because they are coming from the regime in Kyiv.”

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“There is no doubt that [the Ukrainians] are brutal enough to exploit the opportunity to create another anti-Russian provocation,” she told the Kan public broadcaster.

Tens of thousands of Israelis traditionally travel to Uman for the High Holidays to pray at the tomb of Rabbi Nachman.

According to Gilad Malach, director of the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel program at the Israel Democracy Institute thinktank, up to 10,000 pilgrims would attempt to go this year, despite the travel warnings.

“The majority, when there are restrictions, understand the reasons not to go, whether that is COVID-19 or the war,” Malach told AFP. “But for the hardcore Hasidim, it’s one of the basic commitments that they have,” he added, adding that they believe “you should do anything to get there.”

“The more it is forbidden or hard, the more you are appreciated as a follower if you succeed in overcoming the obstacles and visiting the grave,” he said.