Uman Valeria Cromby

Despite the current deadlock with the Ukrainian government regarding the plan to allow a Rosh Hashanna pilgrimage to Uman, coming days will see negotiations with local authorities with regards to greater worshiper access to Rabbi Nachman's tomb.

As you may recall, the Ukrainian Interior Minister announced yesterday (Monday) that the Ukrainian government would approve the entry of up to 3,000 pilgrims into the Uman over the upcoming High Holiday celebrations.

"According to various estimates, some-30-40 thousand people flock to Uman to celebrate the Jewish New Year in most years, but this year, due to the global epidemic, only about 3,000 people will be allowed in," said the Ukrainian Interior Minister, adding: "All worshipers will enter the country under restrictions imposed by the government and will undergo coronavirus testing."

According to him, during the holiday itself various restrictions will be enforced throughout Uman. "We are aware of the health risk posed during the celebrations. Order and security will be ensured in the city. We will do our best to allow the celebrations to move ahead as smoothly and safely as possible," he added.

Breslov officials, however, are actively trying to significantly increase the number of worshipers allowed into the city. "In the next two days, meetings will be held with senior government officials. We are working around the clock, lobbying [organizations] from around the world to allow us to increase the area of the pilgrimage, thus [significantly] raising the capacity of participants involved...There has been no breakthrough thus far," they stressed.

Breslov leadership says the conversation around the annual Uman pilgrimage has become a hot political topic in Ukraine, forcing the government to take preventive measures. "The issue of "Rosh Hashanah in Uman" has also become a topic of discussion within the domestic realm in Ukraine with local media providing plenty of coverage, thus exuberating the difficulties. But Breslov hasidim are known for refusing to despair. So efforts continue to be made to convince local authorities that despite the coronavirus crisis, "We need to take care of ourselves and others, and celebrate at the holy site this year."

Two days ago, it was reported that National Secretariat of Breslov Hasidim chairman Nachman Ben Shaya claimed that an outline was being discussed, allowing between five and seven thousand worshippers to partake in Rosh Hashannah celebrations in Uman.

"There are between 5-7 thousand hasidim who can reach Uman under restrictions, with the toughest condition being the requirement for supervised isolation for everyone and we will have to organize it at our expense," he said in an interview with Kol Barama radio.

However, Ben Shaya clarified that the outline is meaningless as long as the damage that has already been done to the image of the pilgrims has not been repaired.

"The Israeli government is responsible for damage caused in negotiations with the Ukrainians. Until the prime minister repairs the situation, the outline remains meaningless," he said.