This year in Uman: Hasids don 'veils' en route to Rabbi Nachman's tomb
Pre-Rosh Hashanah wave of pilgrims to the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman peaked as around 9,000 boarded 50 flights from Ben-Gurion Airport.
By Zohar Blumenkrantz and Yair Ettinger • Ha'aretz
The pre-Rosh Hashanah wave of pilgrims to the town of Uman in Ukraine peaked on Monday as around 9,000 boarded 50 flights from Ben-Gurion International Airport.
Another 5,500 pilgrims from the Bratslav Hasidic sect will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday on 28 flights to visit the grave of Rabbi Nachman. Overall, some 18,000 Hasidim will travel to the rabbi's grave over three days.
On the eve of his death 200 years ago, Rabbi Nachman couldn't have imagined that his request that his followers not abandon his grave would bring 18,000 of them one year to Uman.
"We smile all the way to Uman," was written in a leaflet distributed in the town of Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv. It was meant to encourage believers to cover their eyes with scarves against "forbidden sights."
"Support for flights without movies" is the name of a small group that several years ago encouraged Haredi travelers not to take regular flights unless they had cardboard that could cover the movie screens on the airplane seats in front of them.
This year the idea caught on that immodest sights may also be a threat outside the airplane - in the airport terminal, for example. So pilgrims are being encouraged to bring scarves along.
"In any cloth shop, ask for a thin lycra cloth 70 cm wide (blue, brown or black ) costing about 20 NIS," reads one instruction. "It needs to be about 1.5 meters long ... which is necessary so it will sit well and not flow in the wind."
The leaflet notes that even if people laugh at someone wearing the scarf on his face, those covering their eyes "will be rewarded a thousand fold."
In a telephone interview from Uman, one pilgrim named Avinoam added: "It may sound ridiculous to you, but it has been more successful than expected. I recommend that you try it."
A busy travel week
Many Israelis are taking advantage of the long weekend and are traveling for vacations abroad today. According to data from the Airports Authority, some 48,000 passengers are expected to travel on 302 flights.
On Wednesday, another 41,000 passengers are expected to travel on 258 flights.
El Al's deputy director of trade and air connections, Eli Cohen, said on Monday that "the high demand of the summer is expected to last during the holidays. We expect that demand this year will increase by 12 percent compared with last year.
"We are enjoying high demand to flights for North America, South Africa, and for the direct flights to Sao Paolo. There is also high demand for packages to Asia, Bangkok, Beijing, Mumbai and Hong Kong," he said.
Update 6:30 am CDT – Here's the Yediot Achranot report:
The Evil Eye
Akiva Novick • Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B8)
Translation: Didi Remez • Coteret.com
The trip to the grave of Rabbi Nahman of Breslau in the Ukrainian city of Uman has long since become a phenomenon that embraces almost every possible sector. A fair number of celebrities, such as Eli Yatzpan, Alon Abutbul, Eyal Golan, Dudu Aharon and Etti Ankari have visited it, some of them more than once.
This year, some unusual sights were afforded by the trip. Dozens of men were seen yesterday at Ben-Gurion Airport wearing veils on their heads. The hassids covered their heads, leaving only a narrow slit for the eyes, and put their hats on over the veil. Other hassids used the eye covers handed out on El Al flights to men to avoid immodest sights—women in inappropriate attire, or women in general.
These hassids went through the security check and the entire boarding process with their faces covered and their eyes cast on the floor. Some were helped by less strict friends, who guided them between the ads and the women guards, while others made their way to the plane in a half-blind run.
Only when they were on the plane to Kiev did the covers come off. On the flight itself they organized in prayer quorums, of course, and only put their eye covers back on when the food carts arrived with their female attendants.
The phenomenon resumed at the Kiev airport, to the surprise of the Ukrainian women guards. In the last few months signs were hung in Haredi neighborhoods warning of immodest advertisements in the Kiev airport.
At the grave site, everything is much simpler. It is an almost total male autonomy, but sometimes there are “land mines” in the form of immodest pictures in the apartments that the hassids rent from the locals.
One Israeli in Uman explained that the veil phenomenon was part of a rabbinical campaign of the last few days. He said that posters had been put up detailing the desired length of the veil and praise for those who are able to avoid the sight of women in the course of the entire trip. The posters also promise a large reward to anyone who is mocked for this.