Rabbi Nachman's grave in Uman
Rabbi Nachman's grave in UmanBerle Crombie

The Israeli cabinet, during its weekly meeting on Sunday, authorized the decision to appoint Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Heritage Meir Porush to build an operational plan to assist and ease the conditions at the land borders for Israelis traveling to spend Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) in Uman, Ukraine. The plan will be built together with the Foreign Ministery, which will coordinate as needed with the Ukrainian government and the relevant neighboring countries through which the pilgrims will pass.

During the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu explained that during his conversation last week with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the latter explained that the city of Uman, where hassidic pilgrims flock to celebrate the New Year by the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev, does not have enough bomb shelters for its residents, certainly not for tourists.

"Israeli citizens who are traveling to Ukraine need to bear personal responsibility at this time. G-d did not always protect us, not on European land and not on Ukrainian land. You have to understand in Israel, when missiles fall, civilians enter bomb shelters, and there is protection; there, there are no bomb shelters and no protection."

The Prime Minister instructed the Foreign Minister to clarify the Foreign Ministry's travel warning regarding Ukraine and specifically the danger of traveling there.

The government's plan will include the creation of crowd flow complexes on the Ukrainian borders, the presence of Hebrew-speaking representatives and representatives who speak the local language to manage the complexes, assistance in advancing processes in coordination with the local government and security personnel, distribution of information to travelers, the creation of a situation and command room in Israel, assistance in directing the public to the borders and the crowd flow complexes, and more.

To execute the plan, the Ministry of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage will supply a budget of 4 million NIS from its budget.

During the meeting, by request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was emphasized that there is a travel warning to Ukraine due to the conflict in the country, and the government calls on the government calls on the public to refrain from traveling to at-risk areas.

The decision's explanation states that "last year, due to the situation, there was unusual overcrowding at the border crossings which caused the collapse of the land border crossings on the the Ukrainian border. At some of the crossings, thousands of Israeli citizens spent hours in the cold and suboptimal conditions while waiting to cross the borders, risking their lives with a lack of minimal means and in severe humanitarian conditions.

To prevent a similar and even worse situation, which can drag various arms of the Israeli government into an emergency humanitarian operation and expensive and complex rescue operations, and in light of the ministry's success in managing the Lag Baomer celebrations in Meron this year, by request of the National Security Council, which reached out to the Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Heritage concerning the matter, the ministry, led by Minister Yisrael Porush enlisted to join the government effort regarding the traffic of Israelis at the border crossings, through various actions including information distributing and coordination with travelers and communities, and additional issues."

Settlements Minister Orit Strock (Religious Zionism) voted against the decision and stated, "At a time when Ukraine is in the middle of a war and missile strikes, without bomb shelters or any reasonable defense preparation, it can not sound as if the government supports this dangerous pilgrimage.

Stock added: "Dear Jews, don't travel there. Don't risk your lives! There are enough sites of prayer elsewhere."