Balagan extraordinaire, bail hearing continues

  • Rabbi Eliezer Berland HOME
Johannesburg - Court 13 of the Magistrate's court in Randburg, was yesterday [THURSDAY] the site of a tableau probably never witnessed in a South African court before.
by JEREMY GORDIN | Apr 22, 2016

Pesach relief?

Three "followers" or aides of fugitive Rabbi Eliezer Berland - men in their twenties, wearing long black coats, waving their arms, and with their ear-locks and large skullcaps awry - confronted diminutive National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) special prosecutor Nerisha Naidoo and Interpol investigator, Detective Warrant Officer WJ van der Heever. 

The three shouted loudly and gesticulated angrily at the prosecutor and investigating officer because they were outraged at the order just handed down by Regional Magistrate Pravina Raghunandan, in the bail application of Berland, who is in police custody.

Berland is awaiting extradition on an Interpol warrant, to face sex-related charges in Israel. He has avoided arrest in both South Africa and the Netherlands. But a week ago the Hawks nabbed the elusive rabbi.

p16 BI3Raghunandan, the presiding officer, had ordered that, since Berland was required to remain in custody on Thursday night, he would have to spend the night in Pretoria at the Kgosi Mampuru prison.

RIGHT: Berland in the Randburg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday awaiting proceedings to begin   PIC: Ilan Ossendryver for JR Online

This was because the officer commanding the nearby Randburg police station, where Berland has been held for the last few days, had adamantly refused to have the 79-year-old head of the Breslov Chasidic sect Shuvu Banim, their yeshiva in Jerusalem (Yeshivat Nechamat Zion) and the Shuvu Banim International movement, back in her police station.

Prosecutor Naidoo had told the court that the Randburg police station authorities said that Berland was "disruptive" and his presence had "demoralised the station personnel and interfered with their work" because of his stream of visitors, special dietary requirements and all-hours visits from his doctor.

Breslov - TongueKnown previously as Pretoria Central, one of the country's most notorious prisons, especially for political prisoners, Kgosi Mampuru is a fully-fledged, maximum security prison, which means that Berland's aides would not be able to visit him at all hours nor would his doctor or other medical personnel have access to him whenever he felt unwell.

LEFT: One of the thousands of colourful supporters of Rav Berland in Glenhazel at Pesach 2014 - showing his disdain to a Jewish Report photographer

Special privileges

On Wednesday Raghunandan had overruled the objections of the Randburg police. But yesterday [Thursday] she said she could no longer do so, though she ordered that the State see to it that, in Kgosi Mampuru, Berland had all his medication and that he could summon a doctor in an emergency.

When Raghunandan made her order, just prior to quitting the court, one of Berland's aides rushed to the front of the court, shouting at the Regional Magistrate: "Excuse, excuse me, I want to talk to you!" 

In SA courts, members of the public are not allowed, under any circumstances, to address the presiding officer unless invited to do so.

16-berland logoRaghunandan left the court without reacting to the aide.

Also just prior to the magistrate leaving the court, Berland's attorney, Themba Langa, on hearing her order, had said: "This is unfair, you can't do this to the old man, a rabbi who has been persecuted" and he had shrugged his shoulders. Raghunandan said: "Mr. Langa, don't shrug your shoulders at me in my court. This borders on the contemptuous."

Both prosecution and defence had hoped to wrap up their arguments yesterday [Thursday], well before Passover. But a number of new affidavits were read into the record which means the case will continue today [Friday].

Rabbi Berland - who wears phylacteries and a prayer shawl throughout the proceedings and often spends his time ignoring the proceedings and reading what appears to be the Talmud - told the court in an affidavit: "The government of Israel has a penchant for targeting rabbis. I am one of these rabbis who have [sic] been unfairly targeted by the Israeli government.

"The government of Israel targets the rabbis whose teachings and sermons are viewed not to be compatible with the government's political objectives."

More on the Israeli charges

One of these read In his affidavit, opposing bail for Berland, Warrant Officer Van der Heever listed in great detail the "charges" of sexual assault for which Berland is wanted by the Israeli police.

Berlov Geoff2One of these read as follows: "FI (one of the Israeli complainants) grew up in the Shuvu Bonim community. Sometime in 2007-2008 when FI was 16.5 years old (a minor, according to Israeli law), she had a spiritual crisis and her father suggested she meet with Berland. FI agreed and one night at 1am her father took her to Berland's house ... FI entered Berland's room alone while her father waited for her outside. Berland wrapped FI in his prayer shawl and told her that she was a pious woman and that all of her sins would be transferred to him.

RIGHT: A 2015 picture of Rabbi Eliezer Berland's followers at the Genesis Shopping Centre

"Berland then kissed FI on both of her cheeks and her forehead and embraced her while touching her chest. FI felt Berland's body shaking with pleasure, like an orgasm, when he embraced her.

"FI left Berland's room feeling numb. She thought that perhaps she was at fault for what had happened. . . FI told her father that everything was fine... The next day Berland asked that FI be brought to him at the same time... Once again Berland wrapped her in his prayer shawl... Once again Berland kissed her, embraced her, and fondled her chest over her clothing."

Rabbi's 'diplomatic status revealed

Van der Heever also told the court that he had discovered, with the co'-operation of the Israeli authorities, that Berland's diplomatic passport from the Cote d'Ivoire - which the rabbi claimed he had been given because of the large number of followers he had in that country - was in fact a fake passport.

The warrant officer told the court that he had also found an Israeli passport in Berland's possession, which had turned out to be false as well - it actually belonged to someone who had died two years previously.

The case continues Friday.

posted on JR after court Wednesday, links to the recent
events and to the whole Rabbi Eliezer Berland magilla



  1. 5 avraham 24 Apr
    Discrase for the hole jewish community.that a big rabbai that represent a big group and dedicated his whole life for saveing people or teaching them religious movement.and works god like no other person does.would be in jail especially in the seder night and all the jewish people in south africa wil close ther door on him.I think that god is very very disappointed.i hope i am wrong but the price is going to be very very heavy for the whole community
  2. 4 Mordechai 26 Apr
    if he is guilty of the charges then he deserves to be locked up in jail. He has had an opportunity previously to go return to Israel and face Israel's Judicial system but it was his decision not to
  3. 3 Hatikvah 26 Apr
    If Rabbi Berland is innocent then why doesn't he just lead his followers (like Moshe Rabeinu did during Pesach) back home to the Holy Land and explain to Israeli authorities why he is NOT guilty. The sooner that happens the better for us all and we'll all be free including your rock star Rabbi! Chag Kasher ve'Sameach!
  4. 2 Irene Nair 17 Nov
    Persecutor Nerisha Naidoo isn't up to std herself. She used her political influence and her job to have me [Sorry, user, you can't say this unless you can prove it  -ED]. Polices [Ditto  -ED] and I am full of STDs. I left an abusive family. Had a safe job at FNB. And then I bore [Ditto  -ED] rage. I understand the rabbi may have his faults but a [Ditto  -ED] is prosecuting him. I believe it could be his failures were exploited. I am not sure if I am Hebrew, but Ishwara is my nachala (heritage). Please can Israel stand united. [Ditto  -ED]. I fell pregnant and I think I womb was removed, with a soul call [Ditto  -ED]. I know Gd saved me from the torment of [Ditto  -ED]. I think they [Ditto  -ED]. I pray PS 137 nowadays. Its not an attack against this man, its an attack against Jews. [Ditto  -ED] set him up to fall.
  5. 1 George 01 Nov
    if he is guilty of the charges then he deserves to be locked up in jail. He has had an opportunity previously to go return to Israel and face Israel's Judicial system but it was his decision not to
    juegos friv gratis online.


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