Israeli man arrested in Uman, Ukraine for desecrating cross

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Police in the city of Uman in Ukraine arrested an Israeli man they suspect of defacing a large crucifix as payback for the desecration of a synagogue last month.

The suspect, Netanel Shimon, is said to have dismantled on Dec. 31 the Jesus icon from a crucifix that locals in 2013 set up near the bank of a lake where many Jews go to perform tashlikh – a ritual associated with Rosh Hashanah, the holiday when thousands of Jews descend on Uman, the newspaper Gazeta reported Tuesday.

Security footage showed four males wearing traditional haredi garb trying unsuccessfully to bring down the entire crucifix. They leave and another man, wearing a mask, is seen tearing the icon from the cross.

Shimon, who is in his 20s, has denied any wrongdoing and complained in letters published by the news website Behadrei Haredim that authorities are denying him access to legal representation and medicines for his diabetes.

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Uman is a major pilgrimage site for followers of Rabbi Nachman, an 18th century luminary, whose gravesite is the focal point of an annual Rosh Hashanah celebration. Some 25,000 Jews arrive there on that holiday annually.

The same cross was defaced with graffiti in 2013.

In recent years, Uman has seen several far-right rallies against the presence of Jews there. Street brawls between visitors and locals are not uncommon.

Last month, a synagogue in Uman was sprayed with red paint and desecrated with a pig’s head with a swastika carved into its forehead.

The synagogue is part of the Ohel complex, built near the gravesite of Rabbi Nachman.

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