Convicted sex offender and head of the Shuvu Banim Breslov community Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 81, was given full honors as he was driven to the Western Wall during Passover.
Last Wednesday, Berland’s car entered through the main gates of the Western Wall complex and continued through the upper Western Wall plaza accompanied with full honors by his hassidim who sang and danced alongside his car as it made its way to the men’s prayer section in front of the Western Wall.
From there, Berland was celebrated and hailed by his hassidim as he made his way to the wall itself to pray.
Berland was given permission by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation for his chauffeur-driven car to enter through the main gates of the complex, due to his age and medical problems.
The foundation said however that he had not been given permission to drive up to the prayer section, and that Berland’s driver took matters into his own hands and drove up to the prayer section without authorization.
It added that permission to even enter the complex would now be denied to Berland in the future.
Some very senior haredi rabbis are, out of honor, given permission by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation to be driven into the complex and up to the prayer section, as happened last week as well with Rabbi Haim Kanievsky, one of the two leaders of the Ashkenazi, non-hassidic, ultra-Orthodox world.
“In light of the age and the medical condition of Rabbi Berland, his arrival to the parking lot alone was authorized, but he continued on from the parking lot,” the Western Wall Heritage Foundation said.
Asked why Berland was given preferential treatment at all to even enter the Western Wall complex by car, a spokeswoman for the foundation noted that, like Kanievsky, Berland had requested permission to drive up to the prayer plaza itself during Passover but was only given permission to enter through the main gate. The spokeswoman said that anyone of an advanced age can request vehicular access to the complex during the intermediary days of Passover and Sukkot.
Berland was convicted
in 2016 of two counts of indecent assault against two women, and one count of assault for beating up the husband of one of the women he abused.
In 2016, audio recordings of Berland were released by Channel 2 News in which he seemingly admitted to raping one of his victims. He was however not convicted for rape.
Berland was sentenced to 18 months in prison but served five months before being released to house arrest in April 2017, which ended in October that year.