Devout Jews in Ukraine stay to pray and await ‘apocalypse’


In a synagogue in the western Ukrainian city of Uman, two people are worshipping in the cold and darkness.

They carefully lay down their “tefillin” prayer boxes before heading into another room for the morning service, where their voices compete with the sound of air sirens outside.

“We spend the whole day in the synagogue, praying, studying the Torah,” says Odele, 46, who asked to withhold her surname.

She left Israel a year ago to live here, some 200 kilometres south of Kyiv, to be close to the grave of the revered rabbi, Nachman of Breslov, who founded a Hasidic movement that settled in this town in early 1800s.

She leans over her prayer book, lit with a pocket torch. Her son, one of her nine children, is glued to her side.

The war, she says, is “a sign from the messiah”.

“It was written. It will start with war, then will come the apocalypse,” says Odele.


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