Police lose ‘sex pest’ rabbi again
A fugitive Israeli rabbi wanted for sexual crimes in his country has once again evaded police.
The elderly Rabbi Eliezer Berland fled from police on Monday night, ramping pavements in a car and knocking over plants as he fled.
Hawks spokesman, Paul Ramaloko, confirmed on Wednesday that their investigators received information that Berland was in Sandringham, Johannesburg.
On Monday night, they waited for him and saw him drive up the road. Ramaloko said Berland was travelling with a group of men, and they did not know their affiliation to the rabbi.
“Our team tried to nab him. We had a mini roadblock, and as soon as he saw that, he jumped out of the car he was travelling in and into a BMW that was nearby.
“The BMW climbed on the pavements and drove on them, hitting people’s trees and pot plants as they fled. We could not shoot at him because it is not how we wanted to operate this. We know we will get him.”
Ramaloko added they did not know whether the people travelling with Berland were armed.
This is not the first time Berland has evaded the police. A few months ago, he was officiating at a wedding when the Hawks pounced.
However, they were not prepared for what they saw.
“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,” he said.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies said they were not aware of this latest development.
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.”
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 during the Passover holiday.
But Berland himself should return to Israel immediately to face the criminal justice system there, Goldstein said at the time.