A significant drop has been recorded this year among in the number of Breslov Hasidim flying to the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman, Ukraine ahead of the Jewish High Holidays.
One of the reasons cited for this situation is the escape of Rabbi Eliezer Berland, leader of the "Shuvu Banim" Breslov community, to Morocco. Another reason is the decision to stop subsidizing ultra-Orthodox passengers' flights to Kiev on behalf of the "Shuvu Banim" community.
Following the decision to stop subsidizing the trips, many of the community's Hasidim have declared a boycott on flights to Uman until the costs are reduced.
Travel agencies have been to deal with the new situation by using creative ways to lure the haredi audience to Rabbi Nachman's grave, like posting ads declaring it is a duty to spend Rosh Hashana in the city the rabbi is buried in.
In the information center for the Hasidim, the organizers of the Uman trips have even held a draw for flight tickets for those who pray for yeshiva students that are banned from leaving the country by the army and are interested in reaching the rabbi's grave.
In a petition sent to the homes of the Hasidim, the boycott initiators wrote: "Only about two month ago, a large Hasidic movement traveled with charter planes to Poland, which is further away than Kiev, for $200 round trip. The price was not subsidized; this is what they got from the airline. We can see the power of a large and organized group."
Sources in the Hasidic movement explain that the drop in the number of reservations did not only stem from the costs but also from the possibility that Rabbi Berland, who is suspected of committing sex offenses on women, would not travel to Uman for fear of being extradited to Israel. Therefore, many of the Hasidim are staying in Israel or flying to Morocco to be with him.
At the same time, the Hasidic movement's rabbis banned trips to Uman on a ship for fear of the participation of women in the journey. In addition, round trip tickets were raffled among those who read Psalms for yeshiva students banned from leaving the country without the army's permission.
"It's no secret that many of the passengers are yeshiva students who are not allowed to fly because of the IDF or criminals who are getting closer through Breslov, and the competition was created for them," one of the sources said.
This month marks a year since the period when the "Shuvu Banim" community began splitting and falling apart. Exactly this time this year, economic problems began to surface in the philanthropic companies which helped fund the flights for thousands of Hasidim.