Fugitive Rabbi Suspected of Sex Offenses Arrested Upon Arrival To Israel

Fugitive Breslov rabbi Eliezer Berland, 79, was successfully extradited from South Africa to Israel on Tuesday morning, with the Israel police arresting him upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport on suspicion of various sex offenses.

Berland has been wanted by the authorities since he fled the country in February 2013, and was arrested in South Africa in April this year, leading finally to his was extradition back to Israel after a lengthy legal process.

Upon his arrest, police took the rabbi for questioning. Depending on the developments of the interrogation, police will ask for court approval of an extension of Berland’s custody.

Berland, the leader of the Shuvu Banim community of the Breslov Hassidic sect, fled Israel after claims of sexual abuse were made against him by several women, including a 15-year-old girl.

He has since resided in Florida, Switzerland, Morocco, Holland, and Zimbabwe along with a band of devoted followers in his efforts to escape extradition to Israel.

The rabbi was arrested in Amsterdam last year, but escaped before he could be extradited, and made his way back to South Africa, having previously sought shelter there after being expelled from Zimbabwe in 2014.

“The completion of the extradition process this morning is an additional expression to the determined and professional work of the Israel Police, the state attorney’s office, and the law enforcement agencies in Israel and the close cooperation with global law enforcement agencies, which are not limited by time or place,” the Israel Police said in a press statement following Berland’s arrest.

2 replies
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Rabbi Eliezer Berland, the fugitive spiritual leader of the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva in Jerusalem, associated with the Breslov hassidic community, landed in Israel this morning (Tuesday), where he was promptly arrested by police at Ben Gurion Airport.

    This ends a three-year saga which started when Rabbi Berland fled the country after being accused of sexual assault.

    Hundreds of supporters still loyal to the Rabbi waited to greet him at Ben-Gurion airport.

    The Rabbi is now reportedly ready to cooperate with legal authorities.

    His Attorney Rachel Toran claimed last night that Rabbi Berland had left the country 3 years ago for reasons unrelated to the accusations levied against him, and is now returning of his own free will.

    “We’re talking about an old, sickly, 80-year-old man, Dean of a yeshiva, a great Torah scholar, a man of compassion and kind deeds. He trusts the authorities to deal with this issue in a quick and efficient manner,” Attorney Toran said.

    According to the lawyer, the Rabbi is suspected of crimes of low severity, this in opposition to widespread reports claiming that the nature of the suspicions is severe. “We have no doubt that the investigation will clear the Rabbi of all allegations,” Toran concluded.

  2. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Rabbi Eliezer Berland lost consciousness on Tuesday, following a hearing in Ayalon Prison. His followers reported that the rabbi was evacuated to Assaf Harofeh Hospital in Tel Aviv.

    Rabbi Berland is a well-known Breslov rabbi who headed the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Old City. He has long been suspected of serious sexual offenses, and after a long period of fleeing the law, he was extradited to Israel.

    Earlier, his sentence was extended until this Thursday. Over the next couple days the rabbi is expected to confront his accusers. Police asked to extend his sentence by seven days, but the court accepted the public defender’s argument that two days is enough to prepare for the confrontation.

    In addition, his followers are expected to set up a protest tent in front of Nitsan Prison in order to create public pressure and bring about his release. They were partially inspired by Sha’agat Aryeh Yeshiva, which was set up after the imprisonment of then-Shas head Aryeh Deri. Its participants credit their efforts to stir up public pressure with achieving Deri’s release.

    Berland left Israel in February 2013, at the same time that the investigation into his alleged crimes began.

    Since then, Israeli police and prosecutors have made extended efforts to locate him and bring him back to Israel for questioning.

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