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The Foreign Ministry is investigating complaints of discrimination and anti-Semitism in the Ukrainian Embassy's treatment of a Hasidic travel agency, Ma'ayanot Hahaim Tours.

The complaints were filed by MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism) and attorney Gadi Elbaz, who represents the local Bratslav Hasidic community. Bratslav Hasidim are the agency's major clients, since the grave of the movement's founder, Rabbi Nahman of Uman, is a major Bratslav pilgrimage site.

In their complaints, Porush and Elbaz detailed three incidents. In one, on January 22, two Ma'ayanot Hahaim employees who came to arrange visas for their customers were denied entry for about 90 minutes, and finally admitted only after the company's lawyer intervened, even though travel agency workers are normally allowed free access to file visa applications.

'No real reason'

On January 30, agency employees were kept outside for 45 minutes, "for no real reason," and on February 1, the embassy's security officer refused to let them in at all, even though employees of other travel agencies, who were not Hasidim, were admitted.

Moreover, Porush's complaint charged, the security officer "made anti-Semitic remarks about their dress and religious affiliation," while the deputy ambassador informed them that visa applications from Ma'ayanot Hahaim would be subjected to a longer than usual approval process.

Elbaz added that the agency was later told its representatives would no longer be allowed into the consulate at all.

"The ultra-Orthodox public has the right to receive service and treatment as an equal among equals, with no hint of discrimination," Porush wrote.

The complaints complicate an already bitter dispute over the Bratslav community's request that Ukraine permit more flights from Israel. Thus far, Ukraine has refused this request.