Worshippers praying by the tomb of the founder of the Breslov Hasidic sect, Rebbe Nachman, say the rabbi’s resting place in the Ukrainian town of Uman was violated early Wednesday morning in a grotesque anti-Semitic attack.
Witnesses say a gang of Ukrainian vandals desecrated the tomb compound at approximately 2:00 a.m. local time, throwing a pig’s head and red paint into the building. Photograph close-ups of the pig’s head show a swastika was carved into the animal’s forehead. The attackers sprayed tear gas and shouted anti-Semitic epithets during the assault which left Jewish visitors to the tomb shaken.
“We were saved from murder only by the grace of heaven,” said of the witnesses.
“It was really frightening,” said a second witness, who works at the compound. “We’ve suffered from anti-Semitism here in the past, but this attack crossed a line and we’re all still in shock. We’ve started to clean the place, and the police have been called, but as far as I know, there haven’t been any arrests.”
Video which has emerged from the aftermath of the incident documents shows a synagogue within the compound splattered with red paint, and the animal head, which had was removed from the prayer area and placed outside after the attack.
No arrests have yet been reported in connection with the attack.
The vandals had shaved heads, witnesses claim, and appear to be connected with local neo-Nazi groups.
“A gang of anti-Semites, Nazis, came here,” Rabbi Yisrael Elhadad, who helps administer the site, told Yediot Ahronot. “One of them came up and scoped the place out. We thought he wanted to pray here, since sometimes foreigners [Ukrainian non-Jews] come in to pray. But then a minute later two others came in with a bottle of red paint and started spraying tear gas on the worshippers. Two Israelis who came to visit were sent for medical treatment at the hospital.”
After reports of the incident reached Israel, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid contacted the Ukrainian ambassador to Israel and urged Ukrainian authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and ratchet up security for Israeli visitors to Uman.
“I was shocked this morning to hear about the violent, damaging, anti-Semitic incident that took place in the compound of Rebbe Nachman’s tomb in Uman in the Ukraine.”
Lapid said the attack was “reminiscent of the darkest days in the history of the Jewish people in Europe. I expect your government to condemn this incident and to do everything possible to capture those responsible and bring them to justice quickly.”
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri also responded to the attack on Wednesday, calling it “act of barbarism”.
“I was utterly horrified to hear about the terrible desecration and the act barbarism committed last night at the holy tomb of Rebbe Nachman in Uman. I will contact the Ukrainian president today [to ensure] that action is taken quickly against the attackers and to increase security at the site.”