Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Uman struggle to get COVID-19 test results

Written by on September 9, 2021

Huge crowds of ultra-Orthodox Jews who went to the city of Uman in Ukraine for the Rosh Hashanah holiday are now waiting to get the verified COVID-19 tests they need to return back home to Israel, but the testers are struggling to keep up, KAN reported.

Videos shared Wednesday on social media showed huge lines at the COVID-19 testing stations, with Breslov hassidim rushing to procure their negative tests. 

Around 30,000 hassidim traveled to Uman this year to pray near the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in the annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage, 10,000 of whom arrived early, according to Ynet. However, many have yet to get their results back.

תורי ענק בעמדות בדיקות הקורונה באומן. חסידי ברסלב רבים ממתינים לבצע בדיקה טרם חזרתם לישראל, אך מספר עמדות הבדיקה לא מספיק. רבים שנבדקו בערב החג טוענים שטרם קיבלו תשובות@AkivaWeisz pic.twitter.com/nzFnLRIaRS

— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) September 8, 2021

Without these test results, it may be difficult if not impossible for them to easily get back to Israel.

This is especially concerning due to people testing positive over the holiday. Ten hassidim have tested positive following the trip so far, with three having been flown back to Israel in serious condition, Ynet reported.

Police in Uman struggled to maintain order, with local residents complaining that the hassidim refused to follow COVID-19 regulations and refused to wear masks; local police have found several cases of forged COVID test results and vaccine certificates, Ynet reported.

According to the haredi news outlet Kikar Hashabbat, however, local police also kept many hassidim away from the lines to get tests.

About 12,000 hassidim are expected to land at Ben-Gurion Airport from Uman on Thursday, the Population and Immigration Authority said, according to KAN.

Travelers will also be required to quarantine on return to Israel for a minimum of seven days.

According to the outline that was approved in advance of the pilgrimage to Uman, all travelers will be required to be tested 72 hours before their flight, whether they are vaccinated or not. Similarly, returning to the country will require a coronavirus test 72 hours in advance of one’s flight.

“We learned lessons from the mistakes made last year,” Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana said when he first revealed details of the plan. “The outline that has been formulated will allow travel to Uman while maintaining rules that will secure health.”

Last year, as many as 30,000 ended up finding their way to Uman for the holiday, although the country approved only a small number of travelers. At the time, there was a high level of coronavirus infection in Ukraine, and the Health Ministry reported that many returnees brought the virus back with them.

There was one particular plane, for example, in which 13 returning Israelis were diagnosed with the virus.

Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman contributed to this report.

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