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How we found Rav Berland & his band of merry men

  • Berland 16 HOME1
After five months and much searching, Jewish report was able to identify where the followers of Rabbi Berland were staying. Around 200 people in family units arrived with Berland in the latter half of 2015. Their numbers are now reportedly over 500. This represents the rabbi, his bodyguards and handlers and over sixty family units according to the Sunday Times. Read how Jewish Report relentlessly sought them out - and found them!
by ANT KATZ | Feb 01, 2016

It took 5 months, but we found him!


From the time Rabbi Eliezer Berland, head of the Shuvu Banim Breslov sect, skipped bail in Holland in early July 2015, after losing his appeal against being extradited to Israel to stand trial on sex charges, until the second week in January 2016, Jewish Report – along with media in Holland and Israel particularly – were jostling to find the elusive Rabbi-on-the-run.

Fast-forward one month, and media reports had him on an island in the Caribbean, so small and remote that it neither appeared on maps, not had any extradition treaties with anyone, let alone Israel. Could this be true?

Berland -  Petit Tobacco Island Maps + Venezuela


RIGHT: Was Rav Berland ever on Petit Tobacco Island off the coast of South America, or was it all a red Herring?

The mainstream media in the Netherlands believed so. Some even dispatched news teams to try and locate him. But, before anyone could reach the remote Petit Tobacco Island, the rabbinical pimpernel had surfaced back in South Africa. It is now speculated that he may have been here all the time.

Certainly, by a week before Rosh Hashanah, SA Jewish Report had conclusive evidence that:

  • Rav Berland was in South Africa;
  • He had arrived with around 200 followers in family units;
  • He had forfeited a purported R2-mil bail behind;
  • His followers were staying somewhere comfortable, in or near Midrand;
  • Rav Berland himself was skipping from place to place daily to avoid police detection.

Berland 16 4 JanJewish Report was able to glean that Rav Berland and his merry band of fanatical followers were here. We immediately began trying to arrange an interview through our contacts with influential members of the Shuvu Banim sect.


LEFT: The unique style of balconies and railings kept cropping up - see background to picture - in our quest to find Rav Berland

SA police spokesmen claimed to have no knowledge of the issue, the man, or the warrant that they had tried twice to arrest him under in 2014. Despite this, Rabbi Berland now had Israeli and Dutch warrants against him and was being sought by Interpol. This left him very vulnerable indeed.

In October, Jewish Report managed to arrange an in-depth interview with several of Berland’s most senior followers and security personnel, who explained that the Rav had instructed his followers to stay where they were so as not to have any conflict with local Jewry as had been the case in 2014.

Then, in November, Dutch Daily NRC – with whom Jewish Report had been colluding in the quest for a personal interview of Rabbi Berland, got a scoop! They conducted and published an exclusive interview with Berland’s Dutch lawyer, Louis de Leon. Jewish Report published it in English on the same day.

In the course of the comprehensive and exclusive, De Leon explained how the ailing Rav had escaped Holland, and how he hoped a newfound diplomatic status could be the game-changer in Israel’s attempts to extradite him to Israel.

ST Berland Chupah


RIGHT: This chupah picture from an Israeli newspaper showed the same architectural style


Now the Shuvu Banim spiritual head announced that he wanted to plant roots in South Africa. By December the number of Berland’s followers had grown to over 500 and the word was that the Rabbi was collecting money to build a permanent Yeshiva in SA.

During December, several reports came in that the Rabbi had been in Southern Cape golf resorts, first at Oubaai and then Pinnacle Point. Another report had some of the female followers using the mikva in George.

Jewish Report had, at this stage, information that the “compound” or “campus” that had been referred to previously as the place where the bulk of the followers were staying, was, in fact, a hotel. And the rabbi's followers started posting pictures of him openly on his English Blog and seemingly at the Hotel.

Berland 16 compound


LEFT: Picture of Rabbi Berland outdoors with his birthday party balloons, and the caption which suggested he was with his followers in Midrand, allowed the Jewish Report to begin looking for unique features on Google Earth



Then, a few days later, the fugitive Rabbi Eliezer Berland celebrated his 79th birthday in the first week of January.

 

Victory that wasn't

The following day, in what he touted as a “victory over the Israeli legal authorities,” Rabbi Berland’s son, Nachum, announced that his father had been issued South African citizenship and “no longer needs to run.”

This may have explained the "diplomatic immunity" that De Leon had spoken of in December… or did it!

ST RodefNot according to the spokesman for the Hawks, the elite unit of the SA Police Services.


RIGHT: A picture from the website of the Protea Hotel Samrand was all it took to clearly identify where the Rabbi's followers were staying - SEE BELOW

This morning Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told Jewish Report that the police were unable to comment on whether Rav Berland was a South African citizen or not – but that it would make no difference with regard to his arrest and extradition.

At the end of 2015, Rabbi Berland was chosen by Jewish Report Online as the 2015’s top newsmaker opens up – which was subsequently updated and gives all the background to the story over the past three years.

From the beginning of January, a newly-emboldened Rav Berland and his followers were posting pictures daily on his English Blog and, the pictures showed a clear architectural style.

That was the kicker. It took some tough sleuthing: first by finding the names of all the hotels in the Midrand area, and then using Google Earth to identify and inspect each of them.

However, once we had it, it was clearly the right stuff. We had found him!

ST Rodef1
A Google Earth picture of the Samrand Protea Hotel 

Berland 16 4 Jan full
The picture that gave it all away - the Samrand Protea Hotel in Midrand with Rabbi Berland highlighted


8 Comments

  1. 8 nat cheiman 01 Feb
    Is the Rabbi harming anybody? Why must we inform on Jews?
  2. 7 Samuel Shalom 02 Feb
    @ nat cheiman on 01 Feb said: "Is the Rabbi harming anybody? Why must we inform on Jews?"

    Excellent question!

    What is really going on here one might ask, meaning in terms of global Jewry and in particular in terms of Orthodox, specifically Charedi Jewry??!!

    The answer is complex but rather simple:

    On the one hand South African Jewry has radically shrunk from its former glory days of about 120,000+ Jews around 50 years ago, down to about 50,000+ Jews left in SA today!

    On the other hand and by the same token Charedi Jews are growing by leaps and bounds all over the world, especially in Israel!!

    Add to that, that within South Africa it is mostly the very Frum meaning more Charedi type of Judaism that has become very popular such as the Chabad, Ohr Sameach, Maharsha, Aish HaTorah and Sefardi types of Judaism that have attracted thousands of new adherents of South African Jews.

    Along come Rav Berland and his band of Charedi Breslov Chasidim from Israel and it is a face to face toe to toe direct clash of two Charedi groups, between the growing SA ones and Chief Rabbi Goldstein is a product of the Charedi style Yeshiva Gedola's Rabbi Goldfein who came from the very Charedi Telz Yeshiva in America, and they now have to contest with the Rav Berland led style Breslov Chasidim from Israel who have found an entry point, willy nilly, into South Africa.

    Ask around, there are plenty of rabbis in South Africa itself who have faced various sorts of sex and other scandals but it is covered up, so they are picking on Brland not for his alleged sex crimes but rather it's a power struggle plain and simple between who will, can and should be a leader of Charedi style Judaism in South Africa, Berlov or Goldstein?

    Really there is not much of a  difference between them in their core beliefs at heart, they both are striving for the same thing, but this is a fight about territory and who will rule the roost, it's a real "true rival" sort of challenge that Rabbi Goildstein, and his superior at the Beth Din Rav Moshe Kurtstag the Rosh Beth Din had never expected, but God has obviously had other thoughts and intentions and has sent it to them like it or not, and one that Rav Berland is obviously relishing as he becomes the hunted martyr underdog, and at this point, the race is still wide open.

    Both sides have now upped the ante and raised the stakes and taken the rivalry to its next level by invoking the Rodef-Pursuer stratagem with each one wanting to portray themselves as the "victim" of the other, but they are so far proving to be worthy rivals ...of each other!

    Stay tuned....
  3. 6 Choni 02 Feb
    In my opinion all of these groups are going against Hashem by propping up the exile.
    They should all take their "rivalry" to Eretz Yisrael, and encourage all their adherents to follow them.
    Rabbi Berland should know that it is a loathsome sin to leave the Holy Land.
    Rabbi Goldstein should know that the punishment of exile ended 67 years ago, and that keeping the Jewish community in exile is neglecting the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael.
    One cannot be an authentic Charedi while living in voluntary exile.
  4. 5 Howard 03 Feb
    Isn't one of the owners/direcrors of SAJR a brother in law of Chief Goldstein? That would then make sense why you are being an accomplice to his crime. At least you were kind enough to publish my comment... 

    As a matter of policy we try to publish any comments critical of this platform. A relative of the Chief Rabbi was a director and even chairman of SAJR at one stage. No longer. Editorial policy is set by the editor, the directors all serve in non-executive roles  -MODERATOR
  5. 4 George 03 Feb
    Samuel, thanks for the insightful comment. It seems like you understand the depths of the matter. Please keep us updated. 
  6. 3 LJ 03 Feb
    Choni are you seriously telling me that the worst thing you take out of this Rabbi Berland saga is that he has left the Holy Land?

    HE IS A SEX OFFENDER! He has prayed on innocent women! That is his crime! Be outraged at that.
  7. 2 Samuel Shalom 03 Feb
    @ George on 03 Feb said: "Samuel, thanks for the insightful comment. It seems like you understand the depths of the matter. Please keep us updated."

    Sure, no problem, my pleasure!

    Here's the thing, Charedi Judaism is still growing by leaps and bounds worldwide and in Johannesburg, and Rav Berland and his brand of Breslovers are not a contradiction to Rabbi Goldstein & Co i.e.the Goldfein, Kollel, Ohr Sameach, Aish, Maharsha and even Chabad etc types in JHB!! They are one and the same phenomenon at their core really!

    If one thinks about it, there is a lot of hypocrisy and fake "moral one upmanship" floating around since, without mentioning names, everyone knows that there are and have been big name rabbis in SA that have been accused and even found guilty of serious sex abuses and moral turpitude yet they are forgiven and their wrongs are ignored, while poor old Berland who is at this point facing allegations, nothing has been proven in any court of law or Beit Din is now hounded and treated as if he had just escaped from a life sentence handed down by the Nuremberg Tribunals!

    You know, this situation is nothing new if only people would remember their histories.

    The first big waves of  Jews to come to South Africa were assimilated Western European German and English Jews who came with their airs and manners, to dig gold and diamonds mind you starting from the 1800s into the early 1900s and they were mostly Reform Jews types. Then when the Eastern European Russian and Lithuanian Jews started arriving in droves building up in the early 1900s the old-time Reform Jews had a fit and were not happy with the Orthodox Yiddish speakers.

    In the USA for example if you read up the history the same thing happened and the old time Reform Jews worked hard to assimilate and acculturate the newcomers from Eastern Europe who refused to become Reform. So they came up with a half-way solution by creating the Conservative movement that was a half-breed between Reform and Orthodox.

    Now we see the same thing happening, in fact it's been going on for a long time, from about 1945 mostly after the Holocaust as a new wave of Charedi ultra-Orthodox Jews start coming in and the old-timers of today have the same fit and reaction as the old-timers of yesterday and everyone gets moved up or down a notch on the "high and mighty I own South Africa or USA or whatever" mentality that is so short-sighted.

    Nowadays the new bogey-men are the Charedi rabbis and their followers.

    When the Kollel and Chabad started in Johannesburg in the 1970s people had a fit but many of the youth who were becoming hippies and counter culture rebels in any case were curious enough to check it out, and guess what, first a trickle, then a few dozen, then a few hundred and now 50 years later if you look around all of a sudden it's thousands of Jews who find its trendy and popular to be Charedi that is now sold as the hip and cool thing, by people such as Rabbi Goldstein himself.

    Now comes along a serious Charedi Chasidic Rebbe from Israel with a  genuine following, how can one account that overnight out of thin air they have at least 500 Breslovers coming to SA to be with their Rebbe Berland? They must know something that everyone else does not!

    Okay so Berland is being chased by the Israeli police and by Interpol. First of all from what is know Interpol was founded and may still be run by former Nazis, look it up and do the research, Interpol are not "tzadikim" when was the last time they stopped something serious from happening? Yet they have time to come to the southern tip of far off Africa and run around chasing an old sick rabbi? Come on! You must be kidding! Then you have the Israelis, also not prefect people by a long shot, and as everyone knows the secular Israelis hate the Charedim with a passion and look for any excuse to besmirch and undermine them. Yet just take a look how many secular Israeli politicians have had to resign because of allegations of sex offenses, plenty, just recently the Israeli minister of the interior had to resign and was replaced by a Charedi rabbi (Deri) who had once gone to jail also on very fishy charges.

    So Israelis have their own issues and it should not let South African Jews get tangled up in it.

    As far as anyone knows, one is innocent until proven guilty, and one deserves the benefit of the doubt just as some prominent SA rabbis have been "pardoned" -- how and why is not clear -- even by the the same Chief Rabbi and Beth Din that is now hounding poor old Berland for stuff that has not been proven in any court of law or Beit Din.

    You know, the way Rabbi Goldstein carries on, he seems to be acting like a "Shaliach" of the Israeli Police rather than a compassionate Chief Rabbi of the Jewish People who should be welcoming all Jewish strangers into our midst in the spirit of Avraham Avinu who welcomed unknown guests even if they were idol worshipers and tried to show them Chesed and not chase them out of his tent.

    In the olden days, Jews used to protect their own when they were hunted by governments and foreign armies and police, while now we have a scenario where some higher ups in the JHB Jewish community are accomplices with the police in breaking up Shabbat gatherings !!!!! and Jewish weddings !!!! just because they are afraid of Berland who is as Charedi, Chasidic, Israeli, rabbinic, Talmudic, learned and Jewish as they come and not the hunted demented animal they are treating him as.

    Something is very wrong with this picture and it is not just Berland who is the problem it is the way he is being hunted and tainted and taunted by the Rabbi Goldstein-Kurtstag-UOS-Beth Din people that is very troubling and very un-Jewish, sadly!

    Stay tuned.....

  8. 1 Anthony 29 Apr
    The question really needs to be asked Why Goldstein didnt offer his assistance to help keep R. Berland out of prison. He could have assured the court that he could be under house arrest at his house to keep a Jew out of jail over Shabbos and Pesach.  As far as I can see, this kind of apathy is [Removed, incitement  -Moderator] knowing the prisons in SA are really bad.

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