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79 balloons for runaway rav’s 79th birthday

  • Berland 16 Balloons HOME
Fugitive Rabbi Eliezer Berland celebrated his 79th birthday last week. The rabbi is living in exile in South Africa after he jumped bail and disappeared from the Netherlands earlier this year. His disappearance was discovered after his final appeal against his extradition to Israel was denied and the authorities went to detain him at a hospital where he was reportedly being treated. His Dutch lawyer said in an interview in December that the charges were spurious and that Rabbi Berland intended to settle in SA where he enjoys some sort of "diplomatic immunity".
by ANT KATZ | Jan 04, 2016

Rabbi Berland is wanted for questioning for a string of alleged rapes and sexual assaults against young female followers, many of who were married at the time their assaults allegedly took place. One of those alleged victims was a minor when Berland allegedly sexual assaulted her.

The many followers of the rabbi, most of whom are based at his yeshiva near the Kotel in Jerusalem, agree with his lawyer and emphatically deny the charges. They claim that it all had to do with husbands refusing to give their wives gets.

Berland 16 HOMEThe “Rabbinical Pimpernel” turned up in South Africa prior to the High Holidays with around 200 followers. He has been widely quoted as planning to set down roots in the country.


RIGHT: A picture of Rabbi Berland believed to have been taken at Pinnacle Point last month


Hareidi media
Behadrei Charedim and FailedMessiah.com reported on his birthday celebrations and the published pictures would indicate that he is back at his Gauteng "compound" with his followers. Rabbi Berland had last been reported as staying at the luxurious Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort in Hermanus in December.

According to the religious media sites, the “79 balloons (were) given to him by a small subgroup of his followers who allegedly came from Israel to South Africa to celebrate with him”. They added that Rabbi Berland’s son, Nachman, a rabbi in his sect, was among those who came to celebrate his birthday with him.

Berland 16 birthday“The celebration supposedly took place in the outer suburbs of Johannesburg, where Berland is allegedly living after jumping bail in the Netherlands last year,” said the reports. The reference is to a supposed compound where the followers are staying somewhere between Midrand and Pretoria.


LEFT: Rabbi Berland with
his 79 balloons last week

Following Rabbi Eliezer Berland is somewhat like bird-watching as members of the community regularly call in to Jewish Report with “sightings” and, when there are multiple calls, it becomes a maybe…

What is clear is that Rabbi Berland has been delivering lessons and shiurim regularly from SA to followers at his yeshiva in Jerusalem.

While Rabbi Berland’s followers are asked to remain at the compound where they stay, which reportedly includes a school, shul, accommodation and other facilities, the rabbi himself is constantly on the move – some reports going as far as saying he never sleeps in one place two nights in a row.

However, since it emerged in an interview with his Dutch lawyer, Louis de Leon, that the elusive rabbi had acquired some sort of diplomatic passport, it would appear that he believes that he is in less, or no, danger of being extradited and his followers have taken to posting pictures of him almost daily on his blog.

It is known that he was staying at the upmarket Pinnacle Point Beach and Golf Resort in Hermanus on the Cape coast in early December, that some of the followers’ wives made use of a mikvah in George and that the rabbi himself was ailing that week. From the daily pictures posted over Chanukah it would appear that the party spent the holiday there.

The Breslov followers who have been staying at the compound entered South Africa on three-month tourist visas and they are said to have gone in several buses to neighbouring Botswana for a day so that they could re-enter South Africa with a further three month visa stamped in their passports. 

Neither the South African Police Service (SAPS), nor their priority crimes division “The Hawks” have been able to confirm that there is still a valid warrant out for the rabbi’s arrest and extradition. SAPS Crime Intelligence have also not been able to shed any light on the matter, despite the fact that there had been a warrant in 2014.



Revealing interview with lawyer

Jewish Report and Dutch daily newspaper NRC both published an interview on Friday December 11. The newspaper’s editor, Danielle Pinedo spoke to Louis de Leon, Rabbi Berland’s Dutch lawyer, which can be read in English - or directly in Dutch here: ‘Ik geloof niet dat Berland ooit vrijwillig naar Israël terugkeert’.

The interview was revealing in that De Leon told Pinedo that Berland “resides near Johannesburg. He has a kind of diplomatic status, making him criminally immune and cannot be held if Israel appeals to South Africa". Jewish Report was unable to find out more about this “diplomatic status” and followed trails to Zimbabwe and Botswana where Rabbi Berland and/or associates are known to have high-level government connections. Both leads went cold. The rumour-mill, however, has it that his diplomatic status was granted by South Africa. While this has been impossible to confirm over the holidays, it has been reported by so many Berland-watchers to qualify for its inclusion in this story as a rumour.

Asked by Pinedo if Rabbi Berland would settle permanently in SA, De Leon answered: "It looks that way.” Berland, said De Leon, was “raising money for a yeshiva. I asked him before his flight: 'Do you mind if you never set foot in Israel again?' He replied: ‘Moses also did not succeed after forty years.’ I do not think Berland would ever voluntarily return to Israel." 

Despite Berland’s wishes that his followers remain at their compound (the exact whereabouts of which are not known to Jewish Report) “to avoid conflict” with South African Jewry as had been encountered in 2014, followers were spotted in and around Glenhazel in early December.

In the last week of December several Berland-watchers called Jewish Report to say that either the rabbi himself or some of his followers had been involved in a major motor vehicle accident. On enquiry, Jewish Report was advised by a source that there had, in fact, been an accident involving followers, but that there had been no serious injuries.

4 Comments

  1. 4 Chaim 04 Jan
    BS"D

    To explain the irregularities in the "allegations" against Rabbi Berland, the arbitrary and outrageous steps taken against him by the Israeli police and their cohorts, and the criminal records of his villifiers (including the conviction of attempted murder several years ago by their ringleader) - this is all quite an issue in itself.

    Never mind that. You should just know that "...as one judges, so is he judged from Above." So is explicitly stated several times in Tana D'vei Eliyahu. It is self evident that Rabbi Berland's enemies have devoted millions towards his villification, and pulled along the explicit anti-religious Israeli media sources to run their ugly campaign (despite its WILD discrepencies), and the oddity of inciting the hawks in the world's highest crime-ridden society to chase after a near-octogenarian Rabbi from a foreign country (based upon obvious fabrications to the unbiased mind) bespeaks it's own hypocrisy.

    You ought to rewrite your sizeup of Rabbi Berland in more realistic and objective terms - for your own good as well. You have nothing to lose; in the end the truth shines it's own path, and slanderers sink themselves in the quagmire they themselves created. Do not - in a weak moment - give any credence to their shameful scam...
  2. 3 Choni 05 Jan
    Because the Rabbi has "chosen" to live in exile, does this mean his followers must do the same.
    Are we not taught (Ketuvot 110b) that a (Jewish) person must always live in Eretz Yisrael even in a city full of idolators, and not outside of Israel even in a city full of righteous Jews.
  3. 2 Aaron 06 Jan
    Choni:
    "Are we not taught (Ketuvot 110b) that a (Jewish) person must always live in Eretz Yisrael even in a city full of idolators, and not outside of Israel even in a city full of righteous Jews."

    An absurd comment for a South African Jewish website, you should just as well address this to the entire SA Jewish community just as of the Rabbi's students.

    Actually we are taught (makot 82) "A Rabbi who is exiled his Yeshiva shall be exiled with him".

    So actually the comment should be redirected altogether.
  4. 1 Lappy 10 Jul
    Moses did not do anything wrong while he was tending sheep by Mt. Horeb. 

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