Eliezer Berland, the fugitive Israeli rabbi who has fled to South Africa.
(photo credit: BE'OLAMAM SHEL HAREDIM)
Israeli Rabbi Eliezer Berland, 77, fled to South Africa last week after Zimbabwe deported him for violating its immigration laws.
Berland, a member of an offshoot of the Breslov Hassidic sect, left Israel to avoid arrest after several women, including a 15-year-old girl, complained of being sexually abused. Before Zimbabwe Berland hid in Miami, Zurich and Morocco.
South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein sent an email to his colleagues throughout the country informing them that Berland and a number of his followers had arrived in Johannesburg.
“Our community [must] not be involved with sheltering or supporting Berland and his followers,” Goldstein warned.
Any congregants likely to be “drawn into supporting or sheltering Berland and his followers” should be spoken with, he added.
“Berland must return to Israel to face the criminal justice system,” Goldstein insisted.
Many of the fugitive rabbi’s supporters have followed him into his self-imposed exile, creating something of a mobile hassidic court around Berland.
Zimbabwe’s Chronicle newspaper reported that the rabbi, whom it described as a “mega rich cleric,” had flown into the country in the private jet of a supporter and had been living in one of its more expensive hotels together with “dozens” of supporters.
Berland’s exit from Morocco was likewise the result of a government-ordered deportation.
It was reported that Moroccan King Mohammed VI personally ordered him kicked out of the country after reading the accusations against him in a local newspaper.