Rabbi Eliezer Berland
Rabbi Eliezer BerlandFlash 90

A fugitive rabbi fleeing sex-crimes charges in Israel has once again evaded police in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who heads the Shuvu Banim hassidic sect, was conducting a wedding for one of his followers at a house when police attempted to arrest him. However, relatives and other supporters managed to spirit him away, chalking up another narrow escape for the runaway rabbi.

Berland managed to escape arrest last month under very similar circumstances, when plainclothes police officers attempted to apprehend him at a previous wedding he was officiating at in Johannesburg.

According to a witness - a follower of Berland's who had traveled to the South African city for the wedding - in that incident hassidim managed to hide the rabbi in another room while police were duped into chasing after the wrong man.

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 being forced out by the government. He then moved once again to Zimbabwe, from where he was allegedly deported earlier this year.

Last April, before the Passover holiday, the Johannesburg Jewish community was notified that Berland may be staying there for Passover - putting the community on high alert.