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Thursday, September 04, 2008

New Flights to Benefit Chassidic Pilgrims to Ukraine

VINNITZA, Ukraine — A recent development in the city of Vinnitza may produce some real benefits for visitors making a pilgrimage to another renowned Ukrainian city – Uman. As explained by Chief Rabbi of Vinnitza Shaul Horowitz, a Chabad Lubavitch emissary serving in the region, the ‘Gavrishovka’ airport in Vinnitza is being re-opened by the local government. Once renovations to the runway are completed, it will have the capacity to receive aircraft.

This is good news, particularly for Bratslav Chassids, who traditionally embark on pilgrimages to Uman, especially at Rosh Hashanah. While this question was raised with local authorities previously on numerous occasions, it is only this year that this project is actually attainable, with the flight route Tel Aviv-Vinnitza being scheduled. While such flights cannot accommodate all Bratslav Chassids who make their way back to Ukraine, this is certainly a benefit for many.

Such a development is noteworthy, since it significantly lightens the load on those making the pilgrimage to Uman. Vinnitza is located between several places that are sacred for Chassidic Jews. It is 90 km from Medzhibozh, 80 km from Berdichev, and 160 from Uman. In addition to this, Vinnitza is situated rather close to Bratslav, separated by a small distance of 30 km.

Uman is home to the gravesite of Rebbe Nakhman of Bratslav, the leader of the Bratslav Chassids. Here, males come to pay tribute at the Rebbe’s grave and jointly celebrate Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year. According to unofficial estimates, Uman was visited by some 20,000 pilgrims over the past 12 months. Chief Rabbi Horovitz had noted that this latest development is not only advantageous for pilgrims themselves, but will also raise the prestige of Ukraine as a state.

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