Ukrainian Money Dispute Sparks Reports of Kidnapped Israelis In Uman

A Local money dispute in Ukraine prompted inaccurate reports in Hebrew-language media that a group of Israeli tourists had been kidnapped and held at ransom, a Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.

The incident initially reported as “kidnapping” in the Jewish pilgrimage city of Uman was actually just a money dispute between their bus driver and a group of local men, and was unrelated to the group of visiting Israeli women who happened to be on the bus at the time, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said in a statement.

“The language barrier and stress on the women created tension and led to an inaccurate report,” he said.

Initial reports said a busload of Israeli woman had been held by members of a local mafia, who demanded they pony up money owed them by their tour operator.

But Nahshon said the issue was dealt with by Ukrainian police, and the money dispute was solved.

“The bus has been released and is on its way to the airport,” he said. “Nobody was kidnapped.”

Since the fall of communism, tens of thousands of Israelis visit Uman every year, to pray at the grave of Rabbi Nachman, the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement in the lead up to and over the Jewish New Year. This year, the holiday begins on October 2.

The pilgrimage has generated friction between the predominantly Israeli arrivals and locals, many of whom resent the cordoning off by police of neighborhoods for the pilgrims.

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