Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the head of the Shuvu Banim Breslov hasidic sect, likely now has “a kind of diplomatic status, making him criminally immune" and is holed up in the sect’s secret compound “somewhere between Midrand and Pretoria." Berland is wanted in Israel for a string of alleged sex assaults against female followers, at least one of whom was only 15 when the alleged assault took place.
Above: Rabbi Eliezer Berland
Alleged Sex Abuser Hasidic Rabbi Allegedly Given South African Citizenship, Diplomatic Immunity
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the head of the Shuvu Banim Breslov hasidic sect, likely now has “a kind of diplomatic status, making him criminally immune" and is holed up in the sect’s secret compound “somewhere between Midrand and Pretoria,” the South African Jewish Report reported Thursday.
Berland, who is on a near-three-year flight from justice, is wanted in Israel for the alleged sexual abuse and rape of several female followers, many of who were married at the time the alleged abuse took place. One of the complainants allegedly sexually assaulted by Berland was only 15 at the time the alleged assault took place.
Even so, and despite the fact that South African police twice tried to arrest Berland when he was hiding in South Africa in 2014, Berland allegedly obtained his SA citizenship last week. His alleged diplomatic status means Berland could not be arrested by South African police or held for deportation, Berland’s Dutch lawyer Louis de Leon reportedly said.
“After more than three years of persecution of the rabbi, tonight it can be said that the king is alive and well,” one of Berland’s supporters told Arutz Sheva on arrival in Israel last Monday night after celebrating Berland’s birthday with him in South Africa on Sunday. “It’s just the way they persecuted King David and he continued to be joyous, sing and play to bring together the nation of Israel, so does the Tzadik of the generation, with simplicity and innocence, continue to lead more than 30,000 of his students who are spread around the world. From one day to the next our community is growing despite the exile it is enduring. We believe that very soon the Rabbi will return to lead the people of Israel and the entire world with the coming of our righteous messiah and with true peace,” the follower reportedly concluded.
Berland’s son Nachman, who is also a rabbi in the sect, claimed to have been in South Africa with his father to celebrate his birthday. He said he brought some of Berland’s grandchildren with him and confirmed that Berland now has South African citizenship.
Berland’s sect is made up almost entirely of ba’al teshuvas (Jews who became Orthodox as adults), many of whom have extensive criminal records.
Berland’s followers likely got Berland South African citizenship – and whatever diplomatic status he has, if any – by paying large bribes to government officials.
Berland been on the run for almost three years, spending brief amounts of time in the US, Italy, Switzerland, and then Morocco, from which he was expelled in November 2013 after local media realized Berland was wanted for questioning as a sex offender.
He went to Cairo for a few hours and then to Zimbabwe, where he was arrested, placed in handcuffs and expelled.
From there he flew to Johannesburg. Police tried twice to arrest him but he escaped and flew to Holland in September 2014 just before Rosh Hashana with the intent of immediately continuing on a connecting flight to the Ukraine, where he hoped to spend the High Holidays at the grave of Breslov’s founder, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov.
But Dutch police arrested him in the airport on an international warrant and began proceedings to deport Berland to Israel. Berland as Berland filed a series of appeals he was allowed to stay out of jail by the Dutch courts. Wth the help of de Leon Berland falsely claimed to be a Holocaust survivor, faked several illnesses, and used other ploys to stave off deportation to Israel.
Then, when every appeal and delaying tactic had failed, Berland disappeared and dropped out of sight, surfacing months later at a mystery location in South Africa.