Hasidim in New Year Exodus to Ukraine

Some 14,000 Bratslav Hasidim are set to fly from Israel to Ukraine to make their annual Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage to the grave of their sect's founder, Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav. The first flights are scheduled for Friday.

The "air train," as the flights are being called, will include nearly 100 flights to Kiev, getting the Hasidim to the gravesite in Uman ahead of the holiday, which begins at sundown September 29.

The Israel Airports Authority is planning to reserve one section of its passenger terminal for use by Bratslav passengers, and Israeli security officials will be dispatched to Kiev to monitor return flights.

Half the passengers will be traveling on Israeli airlines El Al, Sun D'Or, Arkia and Israir, with the other half on Ukrainian airline Aerosvit, as part of a deal the companies have reached.

In the agreement, El Al and its subsidiary Sun D'Or are allowed to take a maximum of 4,000 passengers, and Israir and Arkia are taking 1,500 passengers each.

El Al will take passengers who want to visit the grave before Rosh Hashanah.

The flights will take off between Friday and Sunday and return between September 25 and September 27, while Israir will operate eight flights leaving Israel starting September 24.

Israir will be using the Airbus A-330, which it had been using for its flights to New York before its Tel Aviv-New York line was canceled over the weekend.