This Sunday, people who practice Judaism began celebrating Rosh Hashanah, which marks the Jewish New Year. And while the three-day holiday is celebrated by Jewish community around the world, the Ukrainian city of Uman has become a notable destination for the Hasidic community. The city has earned a sacred status as the location of the burial site of Nachman of Breslov, one of the founders of Hasidic Judaism.
This year despite the full-scale Russian invasion and numerous warnings, religious pilgrims came to Uman anyway. It is estimated that more than 23,000 Hasids have arrived in Uman - twice as many as were expected by the local authorities. Although higher than expected, the turnout remained lower than last year’s 30,000.
Thousands of believers wearing traditional clothes were seen walking the Pushkina street in Uman which leads to the grave of Reb Nachman. Pushkina street resembles a Hasidic or Israeli enclave inside the city these days. The whole block close to the grave is closed and guarded by the Ukrainian army and the police.
All over the streets there are signs in Hebrew and Yiddish, and local businesses have been thriving due to religious tourism, as prices for a one night stay have rocketed up to $1000 a night, with demand still high.
Horetzka Wolffman, 16, came to Uman from Brooklyn, New York. He told Katapult that he spent around 3700$ for the whole trip and that it was his duty to be there during Rosh Hashanah.
Hasidic jews consider it their duty to make the pilgrimage to the grave of Nachman at least once in their life. They also believe that if they celebrate Rosh Hashanah near his grave, the next year will bring happiness for them, and the wish made at his grave will come true.
Abbie Livshitz, 33 came to Uman from Israel. He was here 28 times already. His father brought him here for the first time when he was only five. Now Abbie has brought his own son.
According to the head of the charity foundation named after Rabbi Nachman, Natan Ben-Nun, Hasids come to Uman every year to pray for a good year and the well-being of their families.
"This year we will also pray for peace in Ukraine," Natan Ben-Nun emphasized.
All pilgrims are informed about the risk of missile attacks even at the entrance to Ukraine. The notification system in Uman informs about a possible attack in 3 languages (Ukrainian, English and Hebrew).
Shelters for pilgrims are arranged in synagogues and hotels.
For security purposes, a number of restrictions have been introduced in the city. In the period from September 19 to 30, the sale of alcoholic beverages, pyrotechnics, knives and toys imitating weapons is prohibited.