Rabbi Eliezer Berland
Rabbi Eliezer Berland Flash 90

The Israel Police is attempting to prevent prominent hassidic leader and convicted felon Rabbi Eliezer Berland from lighting the traditional Lag Baomer bonfire at the tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron next week.

According to Haredim 10, police fear that the rabbi's appearance will cause scuffles and disturbances between his supporters and detractors and intend to seek a restraining order in the coming days to prevent Rabbi Berland from arriving at Meron on Lag Baomer.

The Israeli Center for Cult Victims has also appealed to the Chief Rabbi of Meron asking him to prevent Berland from lighting a bonfire in order to prevent him from recruiting new members. "Such an event may cause new people to be exposed to the sect, and those who are later liable to be the next victims," wrote the center."

CEO Rachel Lichtenstein added that Berland would attempt to use the main Lag Baomer event as a way to regain legitimacy from the haredi community: "Berland tries to hold meetings with rabbis in each city and makes sure that his followers will photograph these meetings in order to publish the pictures and try to regain the status of the righteous rabbi. In general, this will lead to blasphemy and contempt for Judaism and the Torah," she wrote.

Berland, 81, is the founder of the Shuvu Banim yeshiva in the Old City of Jerusalem and was a prominent figure within the Breslov community. After the allegations of sexual misconduct came to light in 2012, Rabbi Berland fled the country, traveling Europe and Africa while evading arrest and extradition.

In 2016, after years abroad, Rabbi Berland was arrested in South Africa and extradited to Israel, where he was convicted under a plea bargain agreement to two counts of sexual assault and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

However, five months into his sentence he was released to a hospice to receive regular treatment for serious health problems he has suffered in recent years.