ROSTOV, Russia [CHI] – As Bochurim in Yeshivas Tomchei Temimim Lubavitch in Rostov, were preparing to set out to the resting place of the Rebbe Rashab, in honor of his birthday this past Thursday, Chof Cheshvan, it came to an abrupt halt when a force of police officers entered the building and arrested all the Bochurim that were in the Yeshiva building at the time.
Bochurim and staff members were told to bring their passports and were taken to the police station where they were booked, a process, which took 4 and a half hours. Their crime: some discrepancies with their student visas.
A Bochur describe the ‘raid’ as well organized and efficiently executed, where the officers had the names of all the Bochurim they were interested in.
Following their booking all the Bochurim over the age of 18 were ordered to return the following morning for a hearing on their case, while the Bochurim under the age of 18 were allowed to appoint a representative to take their place. This came with the promise from authorities that no matter what happened, the Bochurim will be back in Yeshiva for Shabbos.
At the hearing all the Bochurim were found guilty of some visa infraction and were ordered to be deported. The authorities then negated on their earlier promise that the Bochurim will be back in yeshiva for Shabbos, and instead they were all crammed into a small cell, which was described to be as ‘Russian’ conditions.
Upon hearing the news in the yeshiva, the Bochurim immediately arranged for proper kosher food and drink be delivered to the Bochurim before Shabbos, but reports say that the food was held back till around 2:30 in the morning.
The American Consul General went from Moscow to Rostov to fight on behalf of the Bochurim and work on freeing them, as were the Bochurim lawyers.
On Motzoai Shabbos the Bochurim were finally released and were ordered to be deported immediately and were taken from police station to the yeshiva to pack their belongings escorted by a number of armed army jeeps and from there straight to the Russian-Ukrainian border.
The American Consul General accompanied the group all the way to the border order, to ensure smooth passing and that the Bochurim should not have to endure any more of the weekend’s torments. In Ukraine they were greeted by their Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Leima Wilhelm and were put up in a hotel with clean rooms to sleep and shower along with kosher food.
Rabbi Wilhelm was unable to regain entry into Russia following the month of Tishrei, which he spent in Israel, and was working on his visa for the past month as was reported to have been making headway, and was planning on being back in Rostov for Shabbos or immediately following.
At the time of the writing of this article the Bochurim are scheduled to take a flight to Israel, until which they do not feel that the story is over.
CrownHeights.info received many emails from parents who were franticly looking for information regarding their children and their well-being, due to the time difference and the nature of the incident, it was extremely hard to keep in contact with anyone.
By now all of the Bochurim had made contact with their parents and ensured them of their wellbeing and safety.
In a phone conversation CrownHeights.info had with a few of the Bochurim; they were all extremely hesitant to give any details as to what had taken place and the Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Leima Wilhelm was unavailable for comment.
Stay tuned to CrownHeights.info to receive the most extensive updates and information regarding this story as it develops.