(JTA) – Ukrainian authorities are preparing for a record pilgrimage by tens of thousands of Jews gathering in the city of Uman for Rosh Hashanah.
Authorities are expecting up to 40,000 Jewish pilgrims ahead of the Jewish New Year, which this year falls on Sept. 20, the Ukrainian Government Press office told the ZN news website Tuesday.
In previous years, local authorities estimated that the annual pilgrimage brought 25,000 to 30,000 visitors to Uman – followers of Rabbi Nachman, an 18th-century luminary whose gravesite is the focal point of the celebration. Rescue forces are carrying out exercises at the main congregation points of the visitors to be able to respond effectively to any emergency, the Unian news agency reported Tuesday.
Authorities in Ukraine have improved access to Uman in recent years, with plans underway for reopening a disused military airport near the city for direct flights. Uman is located in central Ukraine, 150 miles south of Kiev and 200 miles south of Odessa.
Amid an increase in the popularity of the pilgrimage, Uman has seen several far-right rallies against the presence of Jews there. Street brawls between visitors and locals are not uncommon. Local media report of provocative and disorderly conduct by some pilgrims, who are predominantly foreign.
Last year, a synagogue in Uman was sprayed with red paint and desecrated with a pig’s head with a swastika carved into its forehead.
The synagogue is part of the Ohel complex built near the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman.