VINNYTSIA, Ukraine They sang. They danced. They fell tired in their luggage. For the second night in a row, hundreds of Hasidic Jewish pilgrims were left out along a road between checkpoints on the border between Ukraine and Belarus on Tuesday, blocked by coronavirus travel restrictions.
The border guards in Ukraine have reinforced the crossing where pilgrims are seeking to enter the country to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in the city of Uman, the site of the tomb of Rabbi Nachman, founder of the Breslov branch of Hasidic Judaism.
As cases of Covid-19 in the country escalated, Ukraine closed its borders last month, blocking the pilgrimage, which typically attracts tens of thousands of people, many coming from Israel. Israeli health officials have backed Ukraine’s decision.
Pilgrims began arriving at a border crossing with Belarus on Monday afternoon, according to the Ukrainian border guard service. Authorities in Belarus let the group pass, and they gathered on a street in the buffer zone between two border stations.
The men tried to persuade the border guards to allow them to celebrate the new year, the most important religious holiday for Hasidim. The little boys, looking upset and drowsy, stood watching.
Pilgrims travel to Novi Yarylovychi border crossing after Belarus announces it was open, Israel Public Broadcasting said in a tweet. But the border was closed. Ukrainian authorities said the pilgrims had previously been warned of closing the border.
Ukraine’s border guard service said 690 pilgrims had gathered along the border by Tuesday, and agency director Serhiy Deyneko said more was expected on charter flights arriving in Belarus. Belarusian media reported a number of different pilgrims at the border, saying about 1,500 had already arrived.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, said the border closure would be implemented. The State Border Service has enough forces and means for reliable protection of the state border, a presidential office declarationtha t. The guards were reinforcing the border with a secondary barrier, several hundred yards inside Ukraine.
Ukraine on Tuesday reported 2,905 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours. The ban on foreign visitors, imposed last month, runs until September 28th.
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