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Zelensky meets rabbis, Jewish soldiers ahead of Rosh Hashanah

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk September 15, 2023 12:41 AM 2 min read
President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with rabbis from across Ukraine and Jewish soldiers within the Ukrainian army in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Sept. 14, 2023. (Presidential Office)
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President Volodymyr Zelensky met with rabbis from across Ukraine and Jewish soldiers within the Ukrainian army on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year.

Zelensky thanked leaders of Ukraine's Jewish communities for their support during the full-scale Russian invasion.

"Only the victory of Ukraine can bring peace. Thank you for moving this peace closer together with all the people of Ukraine, with the military and civilians, with your work, prayers, and activities," Zelensky said at the meeting, cited by his office.

Chief rabbis of major Ukrainian cities spoke about their communities' contribution to humanitarian efforts and the country's reconstruction. Zelensky awarded the Jewish soldiers with the Order for Courage.

Meanwhile, thousands of Hasidic Jews continue to arrive in Uman, central Ukraine, for the annual pilgrimage at the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a major Hasidic leader.

Only over Sept. 13, 8,726 pilgrims crossed the Ukrainian border, with a total of about 30,000 people expected to visit Uman for Rosh Hashanah, the Interior Ministry reported. This year, the holiday is celebrated on Sept. 15-17. Despite Russia's ongoing full-scale invasion, around 20,000 Hasidic pilgrims went to Uman in 2022.

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Until recently, it was unclear if pilgrims from Israel would be allowed to come to Ukraine this year.

Ukraine's Ambassador to Israel, Yevhen Korniichuk, said on Aug. 21 that Kyiv was considering suspending the visa-free travel regime in response to Israel increasingly deporting Ukrainians. Reports emerged over the summer that around 10% of Ukrainians were denied entry to Israel.

According to the Times of Israel, Interior and Health Minister Moshe Arbel dismissed claims of mistreatment of Ukrainian citizens, saying that the deportations relate to Ukrainians coming to Israel as tourists, not as refugees, when the Israeli government suspects they would remain in the country illegally.

In June, the Ukrainian embassy in Israel accused the country of "close cooperation" with Russia.

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