Daily Israel Report

Fugitive Rabbi Nearly Nabbed at Johannesburg Wedding

Shuvu Banim leader Rabbi Eliezer Berland in hiding after plainclothes police infiltrate wedding party; followers lament 'discrimination.'
By Haim Lev
First Publish: 8/11/2014, 1:53 PM

Rabbi Eliezer Berland
Rabbi Eliezer Berland
Israel news photo: Flash 90

'Shuvu Banim' Hassidic leader and Rabbi-on-the-run Rabbi Eliezer Berland narrowly escaped capture by the Johannesburg police on Sunday, as he was preparing a wedding for one of his followers. 

Plainclothes police hid among attendees before the wedding ceremony, the hassidim stated, and attempted to apprehend Berland and put him into a waiting police vehicle near the event. 

Local hassidim managed to hide the Rabbi just in time, a source close to the sect told Arutz Sheva, and police chased after a different hassid before realizing they were duped.

Followers claim that the fugitive Rabbi, who is on the run after facing sexual assault charges in Israel, is legally allowed to stay in Johannesburg and complained of discrimination by local officials.

"From the first moment we got here, senior figures in the Jewish community were trying to exile the Rabbi," one Shuvu Banim member lamented. 

Berland was accused of committing indecent acts against several young female followers; he was wanted in Israel for questioning. Berland fled Israel before he could be arrested, however, to the US, Italy, and Switzerland.

He eventually settled for a time in Marrakech, Morocco before moving once again to Zimbabwe. But in April, before the Passover holiday, the Johannesburg, South Africa Jewish community was notified that Berland may be staying there for Passover - putting the community on high alert.