Body of missing Israeli man found in river near Ukraine pilgrimage site

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The body of an Israeli man who was missing in Uman since Rosh Hashanah was found floating in a river near the grave of the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.

Amir Ohana, 28, was found Saturday by volunteers from the ZAKA rescue and recovery organization. He was wearing his Shabbat clothes but without shoe or socks, and it is believed he fell into the river while sitting on the river bank, ZAKA said in a statement.

He was last seen on Sept. 15, when he said he was going into the forests near Uman to meditate alone.

Ohana, the father of three, had a serious medical condition, reported to be epilepsy. Because of his illness, he was not able to purchase insurance for the trip.

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ZAKA, whose search team included dogs, a drone and some 100 volunteers from among the Breslov Hasidic pilgrims, said it is working with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Embassy in Ukraine to bring the body back to Israel.

“Amir, my love, my heart goes out to you in prayer. Return to me,” his wife, Meital Tohar, wrote last week in a Facebook post after it was clear that he was missing. “Anyone who sees this message, pray for my righteous husband. Have mercy on me, without him I have no life!!! Pray friends, whoever can.”

Since the fall of communism, Uman has seen the arrival of thousands of pilgrims on the Jewish New Year who come to visit the gravesite of the Breslover movement’s founder, Rabbi Nachman.

The pilgrimage has created friction between the predominantly Israeli arrivals and locals, many of whom resent the cordoning off by police of neighborhoods for the pilgrims. Prior to Rosh Hashanah, Ukrainian nationalists destroyed a tent city erected by Hasidic Jews for the pilgrims.

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