The head of the Shuvu Banim sect, convicted criminal Eliezer Berland, is expected to arrive in the city of Hebron on Thursday evening in order to hold a prayer event at the Cave of the Patriarchs (Me'arat Hamachpeilah), together with his followers.
Berland has to date served two prison terms, the first following his plea bargain after admitting to serious sex offenses, the second following another plea bargain after admitting to fraud and extortion. However, he has thus far not faced justice for his role in the deaths of two young men targeted by his students, even though he has freely admitted that he knew of at least one of the deaths at the time. Furthermore, several people who were then considered close to him have testified that it was Berland who ordered his followers to commit the murders.
Meir Shitrit, the brother of one of the young men, Nissim Shitrit, who disappeared in 1986, is protesting Berland's visit to the holy site. Berland met with him several months ago, following the arrests of several of his students. "I'm sorry I did not tell you 35 years ago: You can say Kaddish for him," Berland said, referring to the Mourner's Prayer recited by first-degree relatives. Shitrit's body has not been recovered.
"This is an absolute disgrace," Shitrit wrote on Thursday, after hearing of the intended visit of the sect to Me'arat Hamachpeilah. "The Jewish community of Hebron is about to welcome this notorious individual, Eliezer Berland, a person who is unworthy of being a leader of anyone. They are using public money to support a convicted sex offender who admitted to and was found guilty of terrible crimes and who is guilty of the three cardinal sins in Judaism, sins so grave that a person must give up his life rather than transgress them - sexual offenses, murder, and idol worship."
Shitrit added that, "They are advertising that the 'tzaddik' [exceptionally righteous person] is going to visit Me'arat Hamachpeilah today, the resting place of our holy Patriarchs and Matriarchs. It's incomprehensible that a person like this could be a descendant of our holy ancestors when the blood of their descendants is on his hands. I cannot comprehend the sheer insolence of this cruel murderer whose followers, to this very day, continue to conceal the place where my brother Nissim is buried, may Hashem avenge his death. I cannot comprehend the fact that there are still people who support this man.
"The Torah teaches us that we must not stand by and allow our fellow Jews' blood to be spilled," Shitrit continued. "We are all the children of our holy ancestors - all of us, other than this man who brazenly and openly transgressed the three gravest sins in the Torah. I sign this with grief: Meir Shitrit. May Hashem console His people and avenge the blood of His servants."