Speaking for Breslov Rabbi Eliezer Berland
It took some time to build confidence with Yossi as the Shuvu Banim Breslovs are famously media shy (SEE BELOW). Yossi is well-spoken born-American member of Berland’s Yeshiva and has been in the Yeshiva for many years he says. He is in regular contact with Berland.
SAJR has verified Yossi’s bona fides regarding him being a senior member of the Shuvu Banim and he says anyone in the sect will know exactly who he is. As can be read by several interviews with members of the sect and comments they have posted on this website, the Jewish Report understands that all members go by their first names only.
At first, Yossi wanted to speak anonymously, but eventually felt that someone had to present the other side of the story and agreed to be named.
RIGHT: The Yeshiva is situated in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and very close to the Kotel (on top in the picture)
Asked where he fitted into the organisation, Yossi said that Shuvu Banim is “not an organisation as such.” He says the 77-year-old Rabbi Berland opened the Yeshiva about 50 years ago. “All he did was teach Torah and people came, he never intended to open an organization,” explained Yossi. He would only identify himself as “a follower, close to him and his family.”
From the 90-minute discussion, SAJR Online gleaned that Yossi is in some sort of regular communication with Berland.
Yossi insists that there is much more to this story than the media have depicted. In fact, he insists that the stories of a RABBI ON THE RUN could not be further from the truth. Berland and is understood to be hoping to return to Zimbabwe in the near future.
Yossi says that it is indeed a long story and, with Shabbos moving ever-closer on Friday, it was agreed that the interview would continue at a later date.
Yossi has an amazing story to tell…
Yossi and the Rav’s remaining followers are convinced that they are the victims of a conspiracy. The plotters are money-hungry and power-hungry ex-followers, the and Israeli media, along with the anti-religious divisions in the Israeli Government
The whole balegan, says Yossi, began at the Yeshiva. A few years ago it was the fastest-growing community in Israel, he says, “and people were wondering how they were could reach out to so many.” Says Yossi: The wisdom of Berland and his basic tenet of ‘Help every Jew, love every Jew’ was sustaining the continued inflow of members and money.
Some years ago, says Yossi, (adding aside that “the story had several stages”) around five people went against Berland and what he was doing, “and they decided that they were going to go war with him.”
“Before the STORIES ABOUT THE WOMEN, there were other attempts (to bring Berland into disrepute),” says Yossi. “After those didn’t work, they decided to wage war through the media by creating a story against the Rabbi.” Yossi says “the Israeli media love any story which negatively affects Chareidim.”
The rape claims
Yossi says that the claims are nonsense and part of the conspiracy in Israel to discredit Chareidim in general, and Rabbi Berland in particular. “Two ladies have complained, and one was asked to by her husband who is a criminal with a grudge against Berland and was arrested earlier before for attempted murder after shooting four bullets through the door of the family of Rabbi Berland’s closest disciple,” says Yossi.
“The other one is a woman who was raised in a very difficult home with newly religious parents whom have been known for child abuse,” comments Yossi. ”For years she has rebelled tremendously against religion and was therefore more than happy to accept large amounts of money to speak in front of the television against a religious Rabbi.”
PIC LEFT: The Shuvu Banim Yeshiva
Another woman, says Yossi, “admitted to being offered large amounts of money to testify falsely against the Rabbi but declined. She is afraid to say this in public media for she claims, ‘those people (who tried to bribe her) are scary’.”
He says that, as a man had to have witnessed a crime to validate a complaint at a Beth Din*. So, explains Yossi, “the man who appeared on TV and who said he had seen the incident through a window, lied. And when he couldn’t find any women to justify his claim, he used his wife who testified on television with her face blurred and voice changed.”
But pictures behind the scenes, which Yossi claims to possess, clearly show that it was this man’s wife.
Berland has a house in Betar and there are several holes in the story, says Yossi.
- Firstly, there is no window in the house that can possibly be seen into from the street;
- Secondly, Rabbi Berland is never alone. He is permanently in the company of bodyguards and assistants.
- Thirdly, there are medical reasons why Rabbi Berland could not have sexual relationships; and
- Fourth, a week before the man who spoke about Rev Berland on TV was released from jail after being arrested for attempted murder.
Of course, the last-mentioned justification is not relevant except that it speaks to character.
“These, and many other holes that are in the story are not even needed to prove the Rabbi’s innocence,” Yossi says, “because anyone who knows the Rabbi even if he isn’t one of the Rabbi’s followers, laugh at these accusations.”
Yossi says that “For years Rabbi Berland has been known for his extra holiness in these matters, doesn’t talk (to) or look at woman if not his own wife and his five daughters. 24 hours a day, he is either studying Torah or praying, he hardly has time to eat or sleep.
“The 77-year-old Rabbi never sleeps at night,” says Yossi. “He rests barely two hours in the mornings after prayer, and his meals consist of a glass of pureed vegetables.
Nu, so why a conspiracy?
Yossi says that “the Israeli government know very well what Rav Berland is doing. He tells his disciples to go into the Shechem and Chalchul – dangerous Arab towns – where they go and pray by the shrines of Tzaddikim who are buried there.
“While Rav Berland and his students are at peace with the local arabs who respect them, The Israeli government for ‘security‘ reasons want to stop Rev Berland sending his people to pray there,” says Yossi.
The government, he says, have unsuccessfully tried threatening Berland before, he says, so “they jumped onto the opportunity (the claims of rape) to get him off the scene, in order to stop him and his followers from going into the Arab villages.”
“He didn’t run away from Israel,” says Yossi. Berland had “left of his own free will.” When the SA government checked Berland’s credentials they found no reason not to let him in.
Yossi also says that somebody from Israel bribed a government official in Zimbabwe to throw Berland out earlier this month. They know the name of the person who bribed the Zim official, says Yossi.
Berland was not born into the Chassidus movement, says Yossi, but into the dati-leumi community. His followers live with no internet or television. “We just carry on learning Torah and bringing more people towards religion – which enrages the forces of the government, and the Israeli anti-religious media,” says Yossi.
We are not anti-Zionists
“Don’t get me wrong, we are not in any way anti-Zionist,” says Yossi. “Several members of our community even hold high ranks in the Israeli army, we are very active in Zionistic activities.” Yossi did admit that these officers gained their positions before joining the Chassidus, are on the reserve, but would respond to a call-up. (STORY CONTINUES BELOW PIC)
PIC ABOVE: The Shuvu Banim Yeshiva at night
“But the leftist/anti-religious Government today is waging war against anything that has to do with religion, and the expansion of Jewish people in the Jewish Land.”
Yossi says that in Morocco, the majority of the local Jewish community accepted them. “The few who didn’t, complained to the King that they don’t feel secure with all the thousands of Chassidim roaming around in a predominately Muslim country and that he should make them leave – but the King really liked Rav Berland,” says Yossi, and had even “wanted to give Berland citizenship before he came under media pressure.”
It had been the “same person who wrote to the newspapers in Zim about all the accusations that the Israeli media said about (Berland), also wrote to the newspapers in Morocco. We know who it is, they told us his name, it is of the same group of people that started the lies in the first place,” says Yossi. “Their purpose is to prevent the Rabbi from teaching Torah and continuing to inspire thousands of secular Israelis to become religious. But the accusations of the newspapers were not the reason for him being asked to leave.
“In Zim it was visa problems, and in Morroco it was that the Government didn’t want to take responsibility for the security (for Berland’s) hundreds of followers. But the media together with those from Israel who are out to demonize the image of the Rabbi wrote in the headlines: ‘Fugitive sex-pest who is wanted in Israel has now been deported from Morooco and Zimbabwe,’ they make him look like the biggest criminal in the world.
It’s all about a picture
The government in Israel, says Yossi, just want to put Berland in handcuffs and use it in the media to show an image. “If (Berland) was shown in handcuffs and jailed for just one day, with the headlines calling him a rapist it would reflect badly on the whole Chareidy community,” he says. “Lapid and his like, they consider Chareidim as leaches and want to end the Tshuva movement.
“And that’s exactly what they did with Rabbi Yoram Abergel five months ago,” says Yossi. “Abergel is also a major player in the teshuva movement, they out him in handcuffs with headlines saying he is behind a large mafia scheme, only to be release two days later without a word of explanation, the media barely mentioned his release.
“They are fighting to not let Israel become a religiously-governed country – that is the only reason we can think of – every week we hear of another religious person who is being put in jail, including young yeshiva boys.”
The unspoken issue
Yossi spoke – on an agreed off-the-record basis – at length of a family matter which occurred three years ago. This, says Yossi, is the main reason Berland is not prepared to return to Israel. He may well do so once that matter is resolved.
An amazing eight-page feature story on Rav Berland was published IN
MISHPACHA MAGAZINE last year. SAJR Online has posted it as an
on-site PDF for the convenience of our users who wish to read it, save it,
print it or forward it on to friends and family. DOWNLOAD IT HERE!
* A Beth Din [also pronounced Bet Din, Beit Din or Beis Din] is, literally translated from Hebrew, a “house of judgment.” It is a rabbinical court of which, in ancient times, was the building block of the legal system in the Biblical Land of Israel. Today, it is invested with legal powers in a number of religious matters both in Israel and in the Diaspora. In SA its judgments are accepted and can be executed by the Sheriff of the Court.