14. NEW CENTER FOR HASID PILGRIMS CREATED IN LVIV REGION

1,000th anniversary of founding of this Ukrainian bulwark of spirituality

Ukrinform, Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, December 19, 2005

KYIV – Yet another center for Hasid pilgrims has been added to Ukraine’s
spiritual map. On December 19 early guests from Israel were accommodated

by a hotel-tourist complex in the township of Belz in Lviv region.

The Israeli pilgrims came to the township to attend celebrations marking the
1000th anniversary of founding of this Ukrainian westernmost bulwark of
spirituality, which was destined to become a cradle of three religions,
Christian Orthodox, Catholic and Judaic.

Though the Judaic religion’s peak there was in the 19th century, it was at
that time that Orthodox Judaic Jews started regarding as sacred the mansion
of Rabbi Aron Rokakh, the miracle worker.

For centuries the numerically small Judaic community used to be part and
parcel of the local ethnically very patchworky population. Suffice it to
say that the community’s trade with neighboring towns and foreign countries
accounted for over half of the town’s coffers.

WWII, arbitrary borderline changes, the totalitarian regime’s policies did
everything to destroy any remnants of Jewish culture there. The once
3,000-strong Judaic community, who lived there in 1939, has reduced to few
persons.

The new Ukrainian authority has created necessary conditions for reviving
the ethnic-religious minority. The Government’s resolution on marking the
town’s 1000th anniversary provides for implementing a restoration program.
It also opens doors to foreign initiatives.

This program has drawn investments. In particular, Israel has allocated
250,000 US dollars for construction of a new synagogue, a bath, a hotel, for
putting to order the Judaic cemetery where four Judaic saints are buried.

Documental materials, which Israel has preserved, will allow to very
accurately reconstruct the synagogue which was once built in Belz.
Incidentally, this structure is mentioned in a legend which says that this
will be the place from which Yahve’s second advent will start.

This makes the town of Belz pilgrim frequented. Annually about 10,000

Judaic pilgrims come there. The Government’s decision to open a new
border-crossing checkpoint will make pilgrims’ travels easier. -30-

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