More details emerge on R. Berland extradition

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UPDATED: TUESDAY 3pm: Rabbi Eliezer Berland was extradited to Israel overnight accompanied by Interpol agents. On landing at he was handed over to the Israeli police who took him into custody and he is being “questioned on suspicion of serious sex offenses.” Some fifty of his followers took the same flight. The extradition was conducted with full co-operation between the SA authorities and their Israeli counterparts - but in complete secrecy.
by ANT KATZ | Jul 19, 2016

It has now been confirmed by the Israeli Embassy that Rabbi Eliezer Berland is in the custody of Israeli police after his extradition was affected overnight. The South African authorities placed him in the custody of Interpol agents who escorted him on an ElAl flight.

Berland, who fled Israel three years ago when called for police questioning and who has wandered from country to country since then but has spent most of his time in exile in South Africa – where the Hawks and Interpol botched three attempts at arresting him before finally getting their man – was greeted by hundreds of Breslovers on landing.

Israel’s outgoing Deputy Ambassador to South Africa, Michael Freeman, told Jewish Report this afternoon that, “on landing at Ben Gurion airport, he was handed over to the police and immediately arrested and taken into custody where he is being questioned on suspicion of serious sexual offences.”

Speaking on behalf of the embassy, Freeman said: “We are pleased that this part of the story has finally come to an end.”

Deputy Ambassador Freeman, who will be taking up a new position in the UK next month, said that the “cooperation between the South African and Israeli authorities was professional and excellent on every level.”

Although the news of the planned extradition was kept on a need-to-know basis, Jewish Report became aware of the proposed action several days ago but agreed to respect an embargo.

Freeman says not even ElAl was aware that they were to be carrying one of Israel’s most wanted fugitives before the time. Around fifty of Rabbi Berland’s followers bought all the remaining seats on the plane, says Freeman, “and if there were more available they would have taken those too.”

On Rabbi Berland’s English language blog today, his followers posted the following: “The Tzadik is coming home! 12 Tamuz is the day that Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn was released from a capital sentence and imprisonment in Soviet Russia (1927), today is the day that the Tzaddik Ra+v Eliezer Berland will be returning to Eretz Yisrael.”

Freeman - Michael HOMEThe embassy’s Michael Freeman, PICTURED RIGHT, said he wanted to “publically thank the South African authorities and all those involved in the case both here in SA as well as Israel” for their assistance.

The extradition had taken place with full inter-governmental cooperation, he said, adding that “no one from anywhere else had any advance warning.”

Jewish Report sources close to the extradition process said that the Israeli Embassy in South Africa playing a pivotal role in the extradition process – which would be normal procedure. Freemen said he could not comment on that.

Be the first to know, watch for further updates in the coming hours and days.

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Parts of the story did, in fact, leak to Israel’s Arutz Sheva news website yesterday afternoon. David Rosenberg wrote the following account (Read it here or follow the link) - published verbatim:

Extradition of Eliezer Berland begins, as own son shuns him

Berland's son Nahman condemns 'criminal' father, as Breslov rabbis warn public to 'keep away' from fugitive rabbi.

The four-year international odyssey of Rabbi Eliezer Berland is about to come to an end.

The fugitive rabbi and spiritual leader of the Shuvu Banim yeshiva in Jerusalem fled Israel four years ago, following allegations of sexual misconduct with female members of the religious movement he founded within the Breslov stream of Hasidism.

Since then, Israeli authorities have sought his extradition, tracking him across the United States, Italy, Morocco, and Switzerland.

Finally, in 2015, Berland was arrested in South Africa, though he was not transferred for extradition until this week.

Now, however, the elusive rabbi has been handed over to the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol), finally paving the way for his extradition to Israel, where he will stand trial for a variety of sex crimes.

While officials at the Shuvu Banim yeshiva maintain Berland’s innocence, Berland’s son, Nahman, and leading Breslov rabbis have condemned him and warned the public to steer clear of the fugitive rabbi and his teachings.

On Monday, BeHadrei Haredim publicised a recording of Nahman Berland lambasting his father as a “criminal”.

“[H]e pretends to be a great saint,” the younger Berland said. “My father has no shame… when people know about his crimes they won’t come near him; my father is such a criminal – either he’s totally wicked or he’s mentally ill, and I don’t care which.”

Nahman Berland also railed against some of his father’s followers who he claimed dismissed his crimes.

“So they say my father is G-d, so everything is permitted to him,” said Nahman, calling such ideas “Christianity”. “You’re Christians, you are.”

A number of prominent Breslov rabbis, including Yaakov Meir Schechter, Shmuel Moshe Kramer, and Natan Libermentch, released a joint statement condemning Berland and warning the public to “keep their distance”.

“We hereby announce our view that we have no part or share or ties with this man or any of his followers, and anyone who cares for his own wellbeing will keep his distance from him.”

While many of these facts were known to SAJR the publication was respecting a news embargo until Rabbi Berland was "wheel-down" and in the hands of Israeli police – which he now is – on charges of suspected sexual offences.

Remember to check back for updates or follow @antkatz1 on twitter



  1. 2 Tony 19 Jul
    'Pimpernel R. Berland in Israeli police custody'....

    You seemingly innocuous, derogatory headline is not appreciated.
  2. 1 Rivka Levy 19 Jul
    These allegations have been proven to be completely false - Rav Shechter had big posters proclaiming his support of Rav Berland posted all over Meah Shearim on SUNDAY - a full day before this story was reported. Also Rav Berland's son released a statement saying all the quotes attributed to him were lies.

    You can read and hear their statements for yourself here:

    Why is the media not checking their facts before rushing into print with these falsified, libellous stories? One phone call to any of the people quoted in your article to verify they said what was being claimed would have been enough to show you the whole thing was a libellous farce.

    Whatever happened to integrity in journalism?
    Your opinion is welcomed, Rivka, but remember that information published on personal blogs on the web are very different from professional news websites. People also get confused when reading letters or opinion pieces on, for instance, the New York Times and then say "The NYT said..." - they didn't. Their reader expressed the opinion. Similarly with personal blogs - real media will never take them to be fact - a look at the video we have just posted from Rav Berland's blog, for example, has been carefully edited by his followers to make it look like he returned to Israel voluntarily. He didn't, he has been fighting extradition for over three years. That is not a statement of opinion, but of fact. We would never presume him to be guilty of anything until a court decides.  -ONLINE EDITOR



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