Rabbi Berland recorded confessing to rape
Speaking to his followers, Rabbi Eliezer Berland is heard telling them that since he had forced himself on a woman against her will, there was no need for her to divorce her husband; despite already having escaped from a previous house arrest, Berland is seeking to be allowed to await trial at home.
Channel 2 News revealed on Tuesday recordings where Rabbi Eliezer Berland, who was extradited to Israel last week on charges of sex crimes, confesses to sexually assaulting a woman, explicitly stating that he committed the act against her will.
The recordings include a conversation between Berland and several of his followers, in which he referred to "the first time I raped her," explaining that she was not obligated to divorce her husband, since she did not consent to the act.
"She had not idea what was happening, so there is no need for a get (a Jewish divorce document —ed.)," Berland told his listeners. "The rape had completely broken her, start to finish." He told them that "she never did it out of her own free will."
The woman explained that the entire situation left her confused. "I couldn't understand what he was even doing. And if I didn't understand what was going on, how could I have asked any questions about it?"
Berland's attorney, Rachel Toren, refuted the claims of misconduct on her client's part. "I have no doubt that this is yet another fabrication created by his adversaries, some of whom include members of his own family." Toren fundamentally discredited one of the women who had allegedly been violated for not filing an official complaint sooner. "If there was any truth to it, she would have already gone to the police."
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.
Berland had fled from Israel to Morocco in 2013, after being requested to make himself available for police questioning on suspicion of sexual misconduct. After King Muhammed VI of Morocco ordered him to leave, Berland moved to Zimbabwe. When news of the standing sexual allegations against him reached Zimbabwe, the government decided to eject him, as well, claiming that his Visa had expired. In 2014, Berland moved to South Africa, but after a warrant for his arrest was filed by Interpol, he escaped to Holland, where he was finally arrested. Berland was then placed under house arrest and due to be flown back to Israel, but in July 2015 he disappeared. Two months later, it was discovered that he had returned to South Africa, where he was ultimately apprehended and sent to Israel to stand trial. Hundreds of his followers awaited him at Ben Gurion Airport, joining in a group prayer after he had landed.