Mystery arrival of tzadik to ‘aid’ Berland
JEREMY GORDIN & ANT KATZ
Mystery surrounds the arrival and whereabouts in South Africa on Monday of the Chief Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek, Yitzchak Dovid Grossman. He has come to try and assist Rabbi Berland in his plight. Exactly how is not known, but perhaps we will see Rabbi Berland making a more dignified exit than had been expected. The video above is of Rabbi Grossman
The 79-year-old Berland is detained at the Medium A section of Johannesburg Prison, known sarcastically – or tongue-in-cheek – by inmates and others as Sun City, until his extradition order is signed by the Minister of Justice.
South African government departments are not known for the rapid processing of bureaucratic matters, but it is understood that the Israeli embassy in South Africa will be doing its best to have Berland’s extradition implemented as quickly as possible. It is understood too that the rabbi will be allowed to keep the single cell that Regional Magistrate Pravina Raghunandan had ordered he should have due to his age and dietary requirements.
CLICK HERE TO SEE SEE tens of thousands of followers of Rabbi Berland davening in an all-night prayer rally for Rav Berland’s release the day before judgment was handed down.
Last Wednesday night, the colourful Israeli supporters held a “Mass Prayer Rally” at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Chevron for their spiritual head. They laid on buses from all over Israel. Feel the energy of this MP4 video…
Berland may appeal against the bail finding but then, given the serious backlogs in the South African justice system, he could find himself in custody for months. The SABC News website posted a story on Sunday saying that Berland would, in fact, appeal – but that is as yet uncorroborated.
Now, however, one has to factor in the arrival in South Africa of the Chief Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek, Yitzchak Dovid Grossman. Such an eminent rabbi would hardly have flown to South Africa without having made contact with local religious or secular authorities beforehand. And he has not been heard of or seen since his arrival.
RIGHT: an old photo of Rabbis Grossman and Berland davenning together
What exactly his mission may be is impossible to know, but when a mainstream news source like Arutz Sheva headlines: Will fugitive Rabbi Eliezer Berland evade justice again?, and Yeshiva World says Chief Rabbi of Migdal HaEmek, Yitzchak Dovid Grossman is coming to see South Africa’s Chief Rabbi Ze’ev (sic) Goldstein – anything is possible.
Berland, the leader of the Shuvu Banim Breslov Chasidic movement with headquarters at his yeshiva in Jerusalem, has been on the run since 2012 when allegations were made by female followers in Israel that he had sexually assaulted them. He has strenuously denied the charges.
Berland has managed to live under the noses of authorities from Morocco to the Netherlands and Zimbabwe. In South Africa, prior to his arrest on April 7, he had been staying at hotels and golf estates. He is followed by about 40 families to whom he is a spiritual guru.
Last week Thursday did not go off without incident, however. It began with Berland’s attorney, Themba Langa, alleging in his final submissions that the fake Israeli passport found in Berland’s possession when he was arrested, had been “planted” by Interpol agents.
Langa also took offence at Raghunandan remarking that he sometimes tended to “manipulate” evidence. Langa told the magistrate that he did not “like being called names by the court”. Court was adjourned for 20 minutes and when the magistrate returned, she asked Langa three times if he wished to apply for her recusal. He declined.
Langa said it seemed understandable that Berland believed he was “under threat” by the State of Israel because, he asked: “Why else would a state spend so much money and energy chasing a man accused of kissing a woman on the cheek?”
Langa also accused South Africa of trying to “microwave justice” by omitting certain steps in the extradition process and that therefore Berland’s continued detention was clearly unlawful.
Advocate Harold Knopp then presented a number of legal precedents on behalf of Berland. He argued that there did exist ways in which Berland could be given bail while at the same time “the interests of justice” could be served.
Knopp suggested house arrest, electronic tagging, and other stringent conditions.
After all, he said, the same court had given bail to one Shai Musli, said to be head of one of the largest and most influential crime families in Israel and wanted for conspiracy to commit a number of murders – which were surely more serious crimes than Berland was wanted for.
Knopp said he knew Musli was obeying his bail stipulations and had not fled because he was one of Musli’s legal representatives.
Prosecutor, Advocate Nerisha Naidoo, said the “truncation” of the extradition process had been by agreement between the prosecution and defence; that she was dismayed by the apparent connection between Berland and Musli (via Knopp); and that Berland was clearly a flight risk if one considered that he had somehow managed to procure other passports when his extradition appeal failed in Holland – and had then fled the Netherlands, forfeiting bail of 50 000 euros.
“Berland clearly does not act alone; he has assistance everywhere. This country does not have to bend over backwards for a fugitive from justice,” said Naidoo.
After a long adjournment, Raghunandan said she had carefully considered the evidence from everyone. She said she was concerned that Berland’s affidavits “were worryingly devoid of information” – he said he was in danger from the State of Israel and various other people but offered no detail.
Above all, it was his “brazen” procurement of a passport in Holland while on bail and then his departure from Holland that “weighed heavily” with her.
She concluded therefore that Berland was definitely a flight risk. Bail was accordingly denied and he had to be detained in prison until the Minister of Justice signed off on the extradition.
As she left the court, Berland’s main assistant, known only as Natan, walked up to the prosecutor’s desk, saying loudly: “They want to kill him, that is all, they want to kill him, that is what this is about, they want to kill him! How can you send an old man to a place where he cannot eat?”
Follow the court proceedings:
JEREMY GORDIN & ANT KATZ | 30 Apr: Hearing ends as it started, dramatically
ANT KATZ | 28 Apr: Rabbi Berland denied bail, faces extradition
ANT KATZ | 28 Apr: Live from all-night vigil for Rav Berland
ANT KATZ | 27 Apr: Mass prayers to try and defeat the odds
JEREMY GORDIN | 26 Apr: Rav Berland opts for ‘Sun City’ jail
JEREMY GORDIN | 26 Apr: Berland spent Pesach in ‘Sun City’ prison
ANT KATZ | 25 Apr: PDF Document of Pretoria High Court papers
JEREMY GORDIN | 22 Apr: Balagan extraordinaire, bail hearing continues
ANT KATZ | 20 Apr: Berland court proceedings end in a fracas
ANT KATZ & JEREMY GORDIN | 20 Apr: Rav: Israel, SA want ‘illegal rendition’
ANT KATZ | 20 Apr: Berland to fight an uphill battle for bail
ANT KATZ | 18 Apr: Dramatic first court appearance for Berland
ANT KATZ | 13 Apr: Rabbi Eliezer Berland under arrest in hospital
ANT KATZ | 08 Apr: Hawks’ official notice ticks more Berland boxes
ANT KATZ | 08 Apr: Hawks nab ‘elusive Pimpernel’ Rabbi Berland
ANT KATZ | 07 Apr: Reports strongly suggest Rabbi Berland nabbed
ANT KATZ | 31 Mar: Berland says he’ll hand himself in Monday
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Here’s one not to miss!
Don’t miss this exclusive and revealing collaboration between Dutch daily NRC and JR Online. Hear the exclusive interview with Rabbi Berland’s Dutch lawyer, Louis de Leon, from November 2015.
Read how the ailing rabbi hoped that a new-found diplomatic status could be the game-changer in Israel’s attempts to extradite him and how he had escaped from bail in Holland.
Israel “wanted to taunt him”, said De Leon. He explains Berland’s side of those supposed sex crimes which turned him into the “rabbi-on-the-run” and confirmed Rav Berland’s plan to plant roots in SA.