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Locals in Uman, Ukraine scuffle with Jewish pilgrims

(JTA) — Residents of Uman, Ukraine, scuffled with Orthodox Jews who were seeking to enter a building in the city that is the site of an annual  Jewish pilgrimage.

In a video posted to Facebook on Friday by Sergiy Alekseev, a city council member representing the far-right Svoboda party, several Orthodox men can be seen in a confrontation with local residents and police.

The confrontation, in which residents yell in Ukrainian at the Jews to get out and tell them they are acting dangerously, also included much pushing and shoving.

Pilgrimages to Uman, which is home to the grave of Nachman of Breslov, an 18th-century luminary and founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement, were supposed to have been curtailed this year due to coronavirus restrictions. Ukrainian authorities said they were closing the borders to foreigners until Sept. 28 in what was widely perceived as a move to prevent the pilgrims from defying orders not to come. Israel’s government supports the Ukrainian move, officials have said.

But in an apparent effort to beat the closure, dozens of pilgrims have reportedly arrived in Uman early. In the video, some of the foreigners are seen carrying large bags suggesting they had just arrived from abroad.

The confrontation occurred at the site of a half-completed residential building whose construction has been stalled due to a dispute between the owners and the construction workers. Police at the scene told the Jews they could stay in Uman, but not in the building itself. In the video, a man can be seen pleading with police, in English, to let the pilgrims enter the building, saying repeatedly, “It’s my house.”