Confusion & silence reign over Rabbi & flock
More questions than answers
Over 2,000 followers of Rabbi-on-the-run Breslov Chasidic leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland were set to join him in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe for Pesach. As the pilgrims started arriving at Zimbabwe’s borders, they realised something was amiss. They raided a Buklawayo house in which Berland and many of what Israeli media are now saying were 71 followers, found they had overstayed their visas and promptly tossed them aboard a ‘sponsored’ airliner and packed them off to Joburg.
RIGHT: The visitors added colour and curiosity to Glenhazel
Israeli daily ARUTZ SHEVA ran a story on Tuesday headlined “Fugitive Rabbi ‘In Hiding’ in South Africa, Sources Claim” and went on to say that “Despite warnings from local Jewish leaders,” Rabbi Eliezer Berland did not make an appearance in Joburg. “Has he gone into hiding?” asked Arutz Sheva.
Speculation is rife about the whereabouts of fugitive Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who was deported from Zimbabwe earlier this month on charges of overstaying his visa.
Berland is the leader of the Shavu Banim Chassidic sect and is wanted by Israeli police for questioning after being accused of committing indecent acts against several young female followers. R. Berland fled Israel before he could be arrested, however, to the US, Italy, Switzerland, Morocco and Cairo before coming to SA in December en route to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
Purim partying in Bulawayo
Initially the small, aging and conservative Jewish population of Bulawayo were concerned about the arrival of the Chareidim in their midst – and a deal was struck with local Jewry that the Chareidim would not daven at their Shul.
LEFT: This image was lifted from a video that can be VIEWED HERE
A member of the small Bulawayo Jewish community (who asked not to be named) told SAJR Online that “150 of them arrived at Bulawayo Shul erev Purim and over-ran the place. Our community was devastated,” said the source.
“Berland was surrounded by four heavily-armed guards at all times,” he said. The community had in particular complained about the schechting of a sheep on the pavement outside the Shul, calling local residents Ni***rs, and “urinating and defecating on the public pavement,” he said.
Confusion reigns in absence of info
Berland was expecting many hundreds of his followers to join him for Pesach in Bulawayo. But, on Monday 7 April, after Berland and 12 of his followers whose visas had expired were arrested, fined $200 and deported to SA on Wednesday, The Chareidim simply stayed here.
RIGHT: All attempts
to engage the Breslov
community were met
by a show of tongues
“Jewish community leaders released a notice shortly before the holiday began, banning Berland from attending local synagogues for his alleged crimes” and putting the community on high alert, wrote Arutz Sheva.
“Ultimately, the Sephardic community reportedly accepted him – a move which sparked last-minute protesting,” they say.
“Sources told Arutz Sheva Tuesday that he may have “gone underground” in response to a search warrant issued against him over the past week.”
Retailers loved it, locals less so
One area of confusion is about just how many followers of Berland were in the Shtetl over Pesach. Initial reports in Israeli media earlier this month referred to 200 supporters getting the boot by the Zimbabweans, clearly many more were on their way to join him. A fact that religious and secular local community leaders were just as clearly not aware!
The flock were a mix of very rich and very poor. The former stayed in hotels while the latter were accommodated by local families and several Shuls even laid on accommodation in halls and tents.
LEFT: Retailers loving it – but Pesachdik products soon ran out
Numbers have been bandied about wildly, but anyone who lives in, or visited the Shtetl as tourists over Pesach will attest to the fact that they were on every street corner. The total may well have exceeded 1,000. Another question being asked is how did Berland get into SA in the first place? What was the Glenhazel police raid all about? SAPS says it was the Hawks, who are still getting back to SAJR Online.