A group of local archaeologists has begun excavating the grounds of the centuries-old Jewish cemetery in Uman, Ukraine, infuriating the local leadership of the Breslov hasidic sect.
The hasidic leaders accuse the archaeologists of desecrating the graves of thousands of Jews who were murdered for their faith in the 18th century. "According to markings on ancient maps in the area, and in accordance with the data of the soil and the bones that are discovered whenever work is carried out, and dirt is moved, the entire area near the memorial of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov is in the cemetery area where 30,000 martyrs of Uman who were killed for the sanctification of God's name lie," they said.
They claimed that Rabbi Nachman, the sage who founded the Breslov hasidic sect and whose grave is a pilgrimage site for tens of thousands of Jews every year, physically stopped the digging work with his own body.
However, the archaeologists did not give up, and after a short time, they returned to dig at another side of the ancient cemetery. The hasidic leaders, with the help of a number of residents from the community in Uman, managed to stop these excavation attempts as well.
Residents of the Jewish community of Uman gathered for a special prayer session in response to the ongoing dispute, which included the recitation of Psalms.
Locals said that the archaeologists were brought to the site by "provocative factors who in the past year have engaged in many serious attempts to damage the graves of the martyrs on the spot, with a malicious desire to prove that there are no graves in the cemetery where Rabbi Nachman and the martyrs lie."
Between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews were murdered in a massive pogrom committed by Ukrainian nationalists in Uman in 1768. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who passed away in 1810, moved to Uman so that he could be buried together with the victims of the massacre in Uman so that they would not be forgotten.