Thursday, September 11, 2014
The elderly Eliezer Berland of the Breslov Hasidic movement was allegedly smuggled out of the country on Wednesday night. It is believed that his next destination is Ukraine.
A former follower of Berland, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Star on Thursday morning: “His supporters only say he escaped from South Africa to a destination that is kept secret and that he wanted to visit soon the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in Ukraine.”
Rabbi Nachman was the founder of the Breslov Hasidic movement.
It is believed Berland’s decision to flee came after the police cornered him on Monday night. He escaped in a getaway car, ramping pavements and knocking over pot plants.
This was not the first time Berland had evaded the police. A few months ago, he was officiating at a wedding when the Hawks pounced.
“This man surrounded himself with a group of about 12 people or more. They were all wearing black coats and looked the same. The way things were, we would have arrested the wrong person. We asked people there where he was and they said he was not there. It is not easy to arrest him, but our guys don’t sleep - they are constantly looking for him,” said the Hawk’s Paul Ramaloko.
On Wednesday the SA Jewish Board of Deputies said they were not aware of Berland’s near arrest.
National director of the board Wendy Kahn said: “From what we understand, he is a fugitive from Israeli law, where he is accused of sexual crimes. As law-abiding citizens of South Africa, we encourage him to turn himself over to the South African law enforcement authorities so that he can be returned to Israel to stand justice.”
On Thursday morning, Kahn reiterated that they were not aware of the rumours that he had been smuggled out of the country.
According to The Jerusalem Post newspaper in Israel, Berland was accused of sexual abuse by a number of his female followers, including a 15-year-old girl.
Berland arrived in South Africa in April with about 200 followers, sparking a protest by the Sandringham Jewish community.
During the Passover holiday this year, Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein urged South African rabbis to take in some of Berland’s destitute followers, who were without food or shelter.
Goldstein, however, urged Berland to return to Israel immediately.
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