A rabbi wanted in Israel for the alleged indecent assault of women and hiding out in South Africa has issued a death threat against the country's chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein.
According to the Johannesburg Sunday Times, the threat was made by followers of Rabbi Eliezer Berland in his name and on his website.
It came after South African Police Service officers, acting on behalf of Interpol, raided a hotel in Samrand, where the 78-year-old rabbi has been staying with several of his disciples.
Berland apparently escaped before police stormed rooms belonging to him and followers of his Hassidic sect; he is now in hiding.
The head of Yeshivat Shuvu Bonim in Jerusalem, Berland fled Israel in 2012 after several women as well as a 15-year-old girl laid charges of sexual harassment against him.
He evaded capture in the United States, Switzerland, Morocco and Zimbabwe and managed to avoid extradition from Holland.
Berland's followers, including those in Israel, have blamed Goldstein for the police raid and asserted he should be killed under the Talmudic precept of din rodef (“law of the pursuer ”).
In the website post, the sect's spokesman wrote: "The police were sent in an attempt to arrest Rabbi Berland on Shabbat [sabbath] night. This is a very serious crime."
"[Jewish law] speaks extensively on the rodef, a person who goes and tries to imprison his fellow in the hands of non-Jews," it continues. "There is a commandment to stop him at all costs. And the law refers to a simple Jew ... whereas we are dealing with a great Rabbi, a great Torah Sage [Berland].”
An outraged South African Jewish community responded in a statement demanding that Berland "return to Israel immediately to face the serious criminal charges laid against him and for which there is an international warrant of arrest against him."
“We further condemn the baseless malicious lies and incitement to violence aimed at our Chief Rabbi, including the libelous accusation that the Chief Rabbi was responsible for the police raid on Berland’s compound.”