Convicted sex offender Eliezer Berland allowed to fly to Uman

Convicted sex and fraud offender Eliezer Berland, a Breslov Hassid and the head of Yeshivat Shuvu Banim, was previously convicted separately of rape and sexual assault.

 Rabbi Eliezer Berland covered with a prayer shawl arrives for a court hearing arrives for a police investigation at a police station in Jerusalem, November 2, 2021 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
Rabbi Eliezer Berland covered with a prayer shawl arrives for a court hearing arrives for a police investigation at a police station in Jerusalem, November 2, 2021
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Convicted rapist Eliezer Berland will be allowed to travel to Uman in Ukraine ahead of Rosh Hashanah, the Jerusalem District Court ruled on Thursday.

Berland, a Breslov Hassid and the head of Yeshivat Shuvu Bonim, was previously convicted of rape and sexual assault of multiple women as well as fraud, and has served two separate jail sentences.

He was released from prison in December 2021, after his most recent sentence, but still may face some new charges relating to two decades-old murders in which members of his sect are the suspected killers.

What about the investigation into Berland?

That investigation is ongoing. Berland’s past crimes have also meant that he is generally prohibited from leaving the country without a special court order.

Rabbi Berland Arrest (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)Rabbi Berland Arrest (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Thursday’s court ruling granting him the right to travel was especially shocking because Berland has fled Israel in the past to avoid law enforcement. It took years to catch him and eventually extradite him back to Israel in order to face justice.

The court did require Berland to post a NIS 650,000 guarantee, of which NIS 200,000 is cash.

Ukraine is in the middle of a war

Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Israel, the United States and Ukraine have discouraged Israelis from traveling to Uman, which in a normal year receives large numbers of hassidic visitors.

In November 2021, detectives from the Jerusalem Police Central Unit questioned Berland (at the time still in jail on charges relating to the fraud conviction), on suspicion of involvement in kidnap and murder cases dating back more than 30 years.

He was interrogated under caution at the prison for his alleged involvement in two murders in 1986 and 1990 in which Shuvu Banim’s involvement is also alleged.

Berland was suspected following information gleaned by police from other suspects in the cases arrested this week, according to Channel 12 News.

Two other suspects in those murders, both Jerusalem residents in their 60s and 70s, were arrested after questioning by the Jerusalem Police Central Unit. Both suspects were close associates of Berland and were senior figures in his Shuvu Banim community who were allegedly involved in violence as part of the sect’s “modesty squads.”

Earlier in 2021, three other members of Shuvu Banim were questioned in connection with two Jerusalem murder cases.

According to Channel 12 News, one of those suspects signed a cooperation agreement with the police which led to Berland’s arrest.

Will Berland actually face charges? 

Berland was suspected following information gleaned by police from other suspects in the cases arrested this week, according to Channel 12 News.

Two other suspects in those murders, both Jerusalem residents in their 60s and 70s, were arrested after questioning by the Jerusalem Police Central Unit. Both suspects were close associates of Berland and were senior figures in his Shuvu Banim community who were allegedly involved in violence as part of the sect’s “modesty squads.”

Earlier in 2021, three other members of Shuvu Banim were questioned in connection with two Jerusalem murder cases.

According to Channel 12 News, one of those suspects signed a cooperation agreement with the police which led to Berland’s arrest.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.