Tragedy in Uman as student dies

By Nissan Tzur, October 6, 2011
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Thousands of Uman pilgrims follow the ambulance bearing the body of the drowned yeshivah student

Thousands of Uman pilgrims follow the ambulance bearing the body of the drowned yeshivah student

This year's annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the Ukrainian town of Uman, where Rabbi Nahman of Breslov is buried, has produced both tragedy and conflict with the Ukrainian authorities.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah a 19-year-old yeshivah student, Eli Eliyah from Netanya, drowned after he was swept away in a pool of water in an abandoned mineshaft just outside Uman. Reports said that he and some friends were using the area as a mikvah in a tashlich ceremony, traditionally held to carry away one's sins. His brother and another friend tried unsuccessfully to save him and managed to find a former Israeli Navy Seal diver who was also in Uman on holiday. The diver found the young man, but attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful. Rescuers from Zaka applied for nine separate permits from the Ukrainian authorities before his body was flown back to Israel on Sunday evening.

Separately, two Israeli pilgrims were deported from Ukraine after falling foul of the authorities. Volodymyr Umanets, a senior inspector at the Interior Ministry, confirmed that six other Jewish worshippers had been arrested in Uman a week before Rosh Hashanah.

One of the deported Israelis was detained after police at a checkpoint stopped his car and found that the alcohol level in his blood was five times higher than that permitted by law.

The second Israeli was stopped at another checkpoint after police noticed that he was driving a car with a foreign licence plate. He turned out not to have any documents or a driving licence.

Mr Umanets said that the local authorities were looking into the possibility of deporting four more pilgrims who had violated Ukrainian laws.

    Last updated: 2:09pm, October 6 2011