Threat of Russian Provocations in Uman

During the celebration of Rosh Hashanah in Uman, Ukraine, thousands of Hasidic pilgrims arrive from across the border. This holiday is also known as the Jewish New Year, and its date changes annually as the Jewish calendar is based on lunar phases. This year, the celebration will last from September 15 to 17.

Ukraine is a country of ethnic and religious harmony, where a unique model of religious relations has been built, guaranteeing respect for each religious community. Every year, it hospitably welcomes thousands of pilgrims seeking to visit Jewish holy sites, including the tombs of righteous individuals. The reason for this is that Uman is the burial place of the righteous Nahman, who was the great-grandson of the founder of Hasidism. In the last year of his life, just before the New Year, he bequeathed that believers should come to his burial place and celebrate this day together with him. The righteous man is buried in a cemetery of victims of Jewish pogroms.

Unfortunately, visiting Ukraine during the nineteenth month of the ongoing war is associated with significant risks, as the Russian army constantly shells Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, including religious buildings. Ukrainian authorities, taking into account Israel’s concerns about ensuring the safety of pilgrims in Ukraine, have taken efforts to enhance security measures during the Rosh Hashanah celebration. This includes restrictions on movement within the city, the sale of alcohol, and fireworks. In turn, the Israeli government has planned to develop an assistance program for Israelis heading to Uman, allocating 4 million shekels (approximately $1 million) for it. The program involves the creation of queue management centers at the border, assistance in expediting security checks in coordination with Ukrainian authorities and security services, informational outreach to pilgrims, and the establishment of an emergency response team.

The Kremlin cynically uses religious holidays as a pretext for threats and accusations. This Rosh Hashanah is no exception. Russian information sources spread disinformation about an alleged terrorist attack being prepared by Ukraine in Uman on September 15, during the celebration of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. Kremlin propaganda claims that after the attack, the Ukrainian side supposedly plans to accuse Russia of «crimes against humanity.» The risk of violent provocations cannot be ruled out. In 2022, Russians shelled Uman before and after the Hassidim celebrated Rosh Hashanah.

Since the fall of last year, Israel has been developing a unique early warning system for missile strikes in Ukraine. It may become operational as early as September in Kiev and possibly in several other major cities in the country. This system is specifically about providing warnings, not destroying Russian missiles. However, even in this case, it is expected that the burden on the Ukrainian air defense system will significantly decrease, reducing the expenditure of costly ammunition, as there will be no need to intercept missiles flying past populated areas and critical infrastructure.