Cops bungle third try to arrest Rabbi Berland

  • Rabbi Eliezer Berland - preferred pic - HOME
Followers say it was Divine intervention, police say he was tipped off. One way or another, as reported extensively by the Sunday Times & Ha’aretz today, armed police raided the Midrand hotel where around 500 members of the Shuvu Banim Breslov sect were staying last Shabbos. The Friday night raid again failed to net Rabbi Berland, who has been in SA since last September. Berland previously stayed in SA until after a second botched attempt to arrest him. He fled to Holland, from where he jumped bail & returned to SA after losing an appeal against his extradition to Israel.
by ANT KATZ with SUNDAY TIMES | Jan 31, 2016

The most recent attempt to arrest Berland, a fugitive on the run from Israel (and who skipped bail in Holland) occurred a week ago on Shabbos night January 22. The rabbi‘s furious followers blamed SA Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein for the Shabbos raid, an accusation SA’s Jewish communal leadership denied with a single voice this week.

It has been an eventful week following the raid, during which time:

  • Jewish Report discovered the whereabouts of Rabbi Berland and some 500-odd of his followers (although he is on the run again since the raid);
  • Both SAPS and Hawks spokesmen at first denied any knowledge of the raid, later claiming it was carried out by Interpol, SA Crime Intelligence, and finally admitting to it having been SAPS on an Interpol warrant;
  • Berland’s fanatical followers, quoting a rabbi, put a rodef (basically, a Jewish version of a fatwah) on Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein - which they later claimed to have withdrawn, saying it was not a threat and blamed it on an error in translation (although it remains on their blog);
  • The Sunday Times ran a major story today titled “Fugitive rabbi’s death threat to Jewish chief” (see below);
  • Israeli mainstream daily Ha’aretz also carried a major story today entitled: “Fugitive Rabbi Accused of Sex Crimes Issues Death Threat Against South Africa’s Chief Rabbi”; and
  • Israel National News has just published a story entitled: “Fugitive rabbi threatens SA's chief rabbi”.

Reprinted from Sunday Times

Fugitive rabbi’s death threat to Jewish chief

A fugitive rabbi on the run from Interpol (acting on behalf of Israel, and Holland where he has jumped bail) has issued a death threat against the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Warren Goldstein. The threat, made by followers of the Jewish sect’s leader in his name and on his website, has rattled the South African Jewish community.

Ten days ago, South African Police Service officers, acting on a request from Interpol, raided a hotel in Samrand, north of Johannesburg, where 78-year-old Rabbi Eliezer Berland has been staying on and off for five months with a number of his disciples.

Berland is one of the leaders of the Breslov Chassidic movement in Israel and head of the Shuvu Banim Seminary in Jerusalem - and considered a holy man by his followers - has been on the run since 2012 when allegations were made by female followers in Israel that he had sexually harassed or raped them.

He has managed to live under the noses of authorities from Morocco to the Netherlands and Zimbabwe. In South Africa he has been staying at hotels and golf estates. He is followed by about 40 families, to whom he is a spiritual guru. The men study with him all day and teach the younger boys while their wives take care of the many children and cook. They may not eat the food or use the crockery and cutlery at any of these establishments since the hotels are not kosher. They cook in their rooms.

ST Berland kid

RIGHT: This eight-year-old boy was apparently traumatised by the police raid

Sect members - most of whom speak Hebrew only - were this week adamant that the rabbi would return in two weeks’ time or so when things were “calmer”. They said they were upset about the police raid on the hotel on Friday night last week and said their children had been “traumatised”.

Hila Nakesh, whose mother was born in Greenside, Johannesburg, said she saw a policeman pull an oxygen mask off her eight-year-old son, Nathan, who has Down’s syndrome, and who was “traumatised” by the “assault” and had to be taken to hospital in Pretoria.

ST Berland kid

LEFT: Male followers are all full-time Torah  students and are in SA as tourists. None of them work.

Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, national spokesman for the police, denied that the boy had been touched. Berland - who has eluded the SAPS on at least two other occasions - apparently escaped from the hotel just before the raid. He is now in hiding.

His followers, especially those in Israel, have blamed Goldstein for setting the police on Berland. They went further this week and claimed that Goldstein should be subjected to din rodef (“law of the pursuer”), one of the few provisions in Jewish religious law that permits extrajudicial killing.

Taken from the Babylonian Talmud, the relevant passage speaks of “one who pursues his fellow to kill him” - this would include informing on “his fellow” to the police - and says that such a pursuer or informer may legitimately be killed.
Using the religious legal opinion of a well-known Johannesburg rabbi, the group’s spokesman posted on Berland’s website: “The police were sent in an attempt to arrest Rabbi Berland on Shabbat [sabbath] night.

"This is a very serious crime. [Jewish law] speaks extensively on the rodef, a person who goes and tries to imprison his fellow in the hands of non-Jews. There is a commandment to stop him at all costs. And the law refers to a simple Jew . . . whereas we are dealing with a great Rabbi, a great Torah Sage [Berland].”

Much controversy was generated in Israel in 1995 when Yigal Amir, the murderer of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, defended his actions partly on the basis of din rodef.

Amir argued that Rabin’s offer of concessions to the Palestinian Authority would endanger Jewish lives.

Goldstein has not commented on the matter but the South African Jewish community [drew up] an official statement “representing the full spectrum of South African Jewry”.

“The South African Jewish community calls on Rabbi Eliezer Berland to return to Israel immediately to face the serious criminal charges laid against him and for which there is an international warrant of arrest against him,” it said.

“We further condemn the baseless malicious lies and incitement to violence aimed at our Chief Rabbi, including the libellous accusation that the Chief Rabbi was responsible for the police raid on Berland’s compound.”
Asked why Berland’s followers had accused Goldstein of “a merciless blood libel campaign”, a spokesman in Israel, identifying himself as “Yossi”, said: “This is what we feel is being done to us. Only by us we don’t have the SAPS . . . or the government protecting us, and sending after us the Hawks or the police and spreading lies about us in the media - which is literally spilling innocent blood.”

ST Berland Full
ABOVE: The Sunday Times story that ran on page 5 today
ST Berland full Haaretz
ABOVE: The Haaretz headline this morning 
ST Berland for lowres FULL

A picture of Rabbi Eliezer Berland posted on his blog this month when he believes he was no longer on the run from the authorities

Related Reads on SAJR Online:




  1. 5 David Gross 31 Jan
    Translating the word "rodef" as "fatwa" is ignoramous to say the least. 

    "Rodef" literally means "someone who is persecuting another". In this case they are saying that Rabbi Goldstein in persecuting Rabbi Berland, but the word has nothing to do with issuing a death threat.

    "Fatwa" according to websters dictionary is "a legal opinion or decree handed down by an Islamic religious leader."

    It is hard to understand how a writer can make such a mistake without first doing some basic research in the matter. 

  2. 4 Craig Sacks 31 Jan
    The word Rodef as used in the context of halachic discourse, means to pursue. Not to persecute. To pursue someone with intent to kill. Only during that time is one allowed to kill his pursuer. A fatwa is completely different.
  3. 3 ANT KATZ 01 Feb
    Okay, guys. We did write a story on What is a Rodef which you can click through to. Researching it only served to shoe that there are some differing opinions, but conceptually it is clear. Rabbi Gavin Michal is in the process of writing a seminal piece on the matter which he will be posting shortly on his very well-followed Kotzk Blog - and we will publish it as well. Anyone who knows his work will know why he has tens of thousands of followers - so let's wait for that before being too hasty in judgement.
    There is no comparison between a fatwa and a din rodef - other than for illustrative and comparative purposes as the former is a commonly-known term. For that specific reason we posted a special informative piece on the din rodef. ANT KATZ
  4. 2 nat cheiman 01 Feb
    Palestinians act in this way. Not Jews. Leave this man alone and don't judge him. He is innocent until proved guilty.
    Are we, as SA Jews mandated by the useless SA cops to pursue this man? 
  5. 1 nat cheiman 01 Feb
    Of course the cops bungled the arrest. The only thing they dont bungle is the purchase of expensive luxury cars and bribes


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