(photo credit: JTA)
Fugitive Breslov Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 79, was successfully extradited from South Africa to Israel on Tuesday morning, with the Israel police arresting him upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport on suspicion of various sex offenses.
Berland has been wanted by the authorities since he fled the country in February 2013, and was arrested in South Africa in April this year, leading finally to his extradition back to Israel after a lengthy legal process.
Upon his arrest, police took the rabbi for questioning. Depending on the developments of the interrogation, police will ask for the court’s approval of an extension of Berland’s custody.
Berland, the leader of the Shuvu Banim community of the Breslov Hassidic sect, fled Israel after claims of sexual abuse were made against him by several women, including a 15-year-old girl.
He has since resided in three continents over a period of three years seeking to evade law enforcement authorities and extradition to Israel, including stops in Florida, Switzerland, Morocco, Holland, and Zimbabwe.
He has been accompanied by a band of devoted followers during this time.
Several dozen of these followers were on the plane with him to Israel and were recorded dancing and singing as Berland, wearing his prayer shawl and tefillin, prepared to disembark from the plane.
Several hundred of his followers from the Shuvu Banim community were present at the arrivals area of Ben Gurion Airport, although the rabbi was arrested immediately as he left the plane, and was escorted by numerous police officials.
The rabbi was arrested in Amsterdam last year, but escaped before he could be extradited, and made his way back to South Africa, having previously sought shelter there after being expelled from Zimbabwe in 2014.
“The completion of the extradition process this morning is an additional expression to the determined and professional work of the Israel Police, the State Attorney’s Office, and the law enforcement agencies in Israel and the close cooperation with global law enforcement agencies, which are not limited by time or place,” the Israel Police said in a press statement following Berland’s arrest.