The Jerusalem Magistrate Court was presented on Friday with an indictment against rabbi Eliezer Berland, who is accused of several counts of sexual misconduct and assult. He allegedly told one of the four women, “I’ll hug you until (the end of the Sabbath).” Berland’s lawyer, Rachel Toren, denied these allegations. He claims to have.
79-year-old Berland had founded the Shuvu Banim Yeshiva in Jerusalem and is considered a leading figure among the Breslov Hasidic community. In 2012, one of his followers had stated seeing him in a compromising position with a girl from the local community. The man was beaten by his other followers, which brought the incident to the police's attention. The ensuing investigation gathered testimonies from several women, accusing him of sexual misconduct.
Prosecutor Shmulik Barzilay asked Judge Hanna Miriam Lomp to keep Berland in custody, denying him bail, for the length of the trial. He stated the Berland is considered a flight risk, saying, “This is someone who conducted a three-continent journey, went from country to country, and fled the United States Morocco, Zimbabwe, South Africa, The Netherlands – and (he fled) The Netherlands despite depositing €50,000. The rabbi has not just the will to flee but the ability as well. He has the ability to get on planes, get a fake passport, an Ivory Coast diplomatic passport, the ability to get sums of money.”
Toren opposed the prosecution’s decision, saying, “This is a man who’s nearly 80, a very ill man, who has a heart illness, a pacemaker, (a man who) went through a heart reversal procedure twice. After his arrest he collapsed and was evacuated to a hospital, where he stayed for two days.” She also explained to the Judge that since Berland purchased assets in the Ivory Coast, he is legally entitled to a diplomatic passport there.