Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who was extradited last week from South Africa to stand trial for accusations of sex crimes against female followers, instructed supporters to murder an apparent opponent of the rabbi, telling them to plant explosives in his bed and “send him straight to heaven”.
Berland, the founder and spiritual leader of the Shuvu Banim yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem, denies charges he sexually assaulted four women prior to fleeing Israel in 2013. Berland has also been accused of threatening the husband of one of his victims.
The fugitive rabbi spent three and a half years abroad, on the run from authorities looking to extradite him.
As part of the investigation against Berland, a video recording of a class given in 2013 was handed over to Israeli police. In the recording, Berland instructs a follower to target an unknown man and “send him straight to heaven”.
“There is an explosive pack in the house; put the explosive pack underneath his [the target’s] bed. An explosive pack, so that he’ll go straight to heaven.”
Prior to his return to Israel, a number of leading Breslov rabbis distanced themselves from Berland, warning the public to “keep their distance” from him.
“We hereby announce our view that we have no part or share or ties with this man or any of his followers, and anyone who cares for his own wellbeing will keep his distance from him.”
Berland was also condemned by his son, Nahman, who suggested his father was either “totally wicked” or “mentally ill”.
“He pretends to be a great saint,” said Nahman Berland. “My father has no shame...when people know about his crimes they won’t come near him, my father is such a criminal”.