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Elusive Rabbi Berland still hogs the headlines

  • Berland
In what he touted as a “victory over the Israeli legal authorities”, the son of fugitive Rabbi Eliezer Berland (pictured) announced last Monday that his father had been issued South African citizenship and “no longer needs to run”. The Shuvu Banim Breslov sect’s spiritual leader is wanted in Israel on charges of child molestation.
by ANT KATZ | Jan 14, 2016

His son Nachum had been in SA on Sunday January 3 for the Rabbi’s double celebration (of his 79th birthday and his being granted SA citizenship), he said on his return to Israel on Monday. 

The party reportedly took place at the sect’s new Gauteng campus which has a school and shul and houses a growing number of followers since Berland arrived with around 200 of them before the High Holy Days.

Rav Berland skipped Israel some three years ago, accompanied by a few close followers and bodyguards. His early travels took him to Morocco, Egypt and Zimbabwe. Throughout his journey, the rabbi has kept in constant touch with his yeshiva in Jerusalem.

On April 14, 2014, the Breslovers were evicted from Zimbabwe and entered SA where they settled in and around Glenhazel. Many among the local Jewish community were upset by the behaviour of the followers. At the behest of Israeli authorities, SA issued an arrest and extradition warrant which the priority crime unit known as The Hawks tried twice to execute. 

Both attempts were, however, botched by the Hawks and on September 10, 2014, the rabbi, his wife and a friend boarded a KLM flight to Holland. On landing at Schiphol Airport, Dutch police arrested him at the request of the Israelis.   

Dutch courts turned down Israel’s requests for an extradition order several times before finally granting it. The Dutch had initially been unhappy as the “paper work” had not been in order. Berland lost an extradition appeal in a Dutch court but skipped that country and returned to South Africa, accompanied by about 200 followers. 

Rumours were rife that they had settled in a custom-built campus in Midrand for some time, but it was not until October 12 that Jewish Report was able to confirm and definitively report that Rabbi Berland was back in SA.

Although Nachum Berland’s claim that his father has SA citizenship has been substantiated by other members of the sect, questions remain about how he could have attained citizenship so quickly when it is normally a five year process.

In early December Jewish Report online worked with respected Dutch daily newspaper NRC to publish an interview with Berland’s Dutch lawyer, Louis de Leon, who said that the rabbi hoped that “a newfound diplomatic status” would be the game-changer in blocking Israel’s attempts to extradite him. The interview also noted that Berland planned to plant roots in SA, explained how the ailing rabbi had escaped the Netherlands and gave Berland’s account of the purported sex crimes, which had turned him into the “rabbi-on-the-run” for the past three years. 

Berland kept moving around South Africa, allegedly sleeping at different places every night.

As the year drew to a close, when Jewish Report tried to establish whether the arrest warrant was still valid, several SA Police spokesmen were unable to confirm this, or that he was in SA, despite there now being international Interpol “red tickets” out for his arrest - from Israel and, apparently, Holland. 

Berland had reportedly instructed his followers to remain on the campus to avoid upsetting local Jewry as had happened in 2014.

De Leon would not comment further on the Rav’s “diplomatic immunity” but the charismatic rabbi was staying out of sight. His followers were in SA on tourist visas and they were getting bussed to neighbouring Botswana to renew the visas quarterly. According to SA immigration law, visitors can stay here indefinitely if they don’t seek work and renew their tourist visas quarterly form outside the country. 

Construction of the “elusive” campus, said to be between Midrand and Pretoria, has apparently continued with the aim of ultimately accommodating thousands.

Since receiving his “SA citizenship” last week, Berland apparently has felt safe. He has reportedly been staying at the campus on some days, and followers have been posting pictures of him with them in SA on his blog since last Monday. 

However, a well-placed source, who asked not to be named, told JR this week that Berland flew to Israel with four bodyguards on Ethiopian Airlines on Monday evening. The son of the source was on the same flight and called from Israel on Tuesday morning to tell his parents he had davened Maariv with the rabbi on Monday evening in Addis Ababa on their stopover en route to Israel. 

 

2 Comments

  1. 2 Anthony Lange 21 Apr
    I OBJECT  to you scandalous headline - Hogs! What is this?
    You Zionist Pig!

    Point well made and taken  -MODERATOR


  2. 1 Anthony Lange 25 Apr
    It really gave me NO PLEASURE to say what I said above and in a way, I regret having worded it quite like that so let me say what I mean to say in a more level headed way.

    I am really concerned that NO ONE,  not even our Chief Rabbi is prepared to speak up at The Rav's bail application.  No One!  Were all quick to complain that the 'goyim' do nothing for each other, that we care about or fellow Jew and yet, I don't see it.

    This is a copy of a message I attached to a post featuring Rabbi W Goldstein.....

    'Dear Rabbi. As there is absolutely no way to get hold of you during Chol hamoed. I hope you read this before the opportunity to do something is past. Please can you appear at Rabbi Berlands hearing on the 26th and stand guarantor for his bail application. They will listen to you and al least he will be out. If you agree to place him under you supervision I'm sure they will release him into your custody.

    Is it too much to ask?
    Have I lost touch with reality?
    Why wasn't this already done?

    We ALL have a lot to answer for.

     

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