Ukraine on Wednesday imposed a temporary ban on most foreigners from entering the country until September 28 over a recent spike in coronavirus cases, effectively banning an annual pilgrimage in which Hasidic Jews visit the central Ukrainian town of Uman.
Tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews descend on Uman every Jewish New Year to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who revived the Hasidic movement and died in 1810. This year, Jewish New Year celebrations run from Sept. 18-20.
The decision came a day after Ukrainian officials said they would limit the number of Jewish pilgrims planning to visit the city following a request from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which he later denied making.
"At the request of the Prime Minister of Israel, a decision was made to significantly restrict the Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year)," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office said in a statement.
Earlier, Ukrainian authorities detained 113 Israeli citizens at the Kiev airport, with some deported back to Israel. The Israelis who had landed on a Ukrainian Airlines flight were questioned and detained at the airport for several hours.
Of the passengers, 12 were denied entry into the country since they were unable to properly explain the purpose of their visit.
Israel's coronavirus czar Prof. Ronni Gamzu, which has voiced his objection to the pilgrimage over fears, said on Wednesday, “the responsible thing to do is not to travel to Uman.”