Top Israeli Officials Visit Rabbi Convicted of Sex Crimes: 'He Paid His Debt to Society'

Health minister and deputy education minister visit former fugitive Rabbi Berland, who was convicted on two charges of sexually assaulting women and minors

Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and Rabbi Eliezer Berland in Jerusalem, April 18, 2017
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Two senior members of government, Health Minister Yakov Litzman and Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush, visited Rabbi Eliezer Berland on Tuesday, following the spiritual leader's release from prison at the start of the month for sexual molestation and assault.

Berland, head of the Hasidic community "Shuvu Banim," had been sentenced to a year.

The popular rabbi had routinely held personal meetings with followers at his home and elsewhere, for spiritual guidance, to confer blessings, and so forth. He was accused of abusing his position and was ultimately convicted on two charges of sexually assaulting women and minors, in November 2015, after fleeing Israel and spending two years abroad as a fugitive.

Ultimately Berland was arrested in South Africa, extradited to Israel and sentenced to 18 months in prison. The parole board subsequently shortened his sentence.

Since his release, Berland has been staying at the hotel affiliated with Hadassah hospital in Ein Karem, which is where Litzman and Porush visited him.

Rabbi Berland supporters outside the court, 25 July 2016
Moti Milrod

"The minister visited Rabbi Berland after the rabbi served his sentence and paid his debt to society," Litzman's office stated. "Criminals also have rights and the two discussed issues of Torah."