An air travel crisis is brewing between Israel and Ukraine after aviation officials in the former Soviet state refused Israel's request to increase the number of flights between the two countries.
Nor would they agree to adding charter flights specifically to meet the demand of Bratslav Hasidic sect. Transportation Ministry director-general Gideon Siterman held a special meeting on the sensitive issue yesterday.
The aviation agreement between Israel and Ukraine allows for an additional 14,000 flight seats for the period around Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when Bratslav Hasids customarily travel to the grave of Rabbi Nachman in Uman.
Five thousand of these seats are divided equally between the national airlines of the two nations, and the rest are provided by charter flights from Israel to the Ukraine. The problem is that there aren't enough seats to meet the mushrooming demand at other times.
With the growing demand of Bratslav Hasids wishing to visit the grave over the course of the rest of the year, the demand for more charter flights has grown. Israeli authorities have been seeking to increase the number of flights, and to allow the introduction of new charter companies in 2008.
However, Ukrainian aviation authorities have refused the request, or to discuss the matter.
A spokesman for the Transportation Ministry, however, has played down the issue.
"This is not an aviation crisis, but a request made by the Bratslav Hasids to increase the number of seats to Ukraine," the spokesman said.
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