Morocco Expels Fugitive Israeli Rabbi

The leader of a fringe ultra-Orthodox community in Jerusalem is wanted for allegedly sexually assaulting a number of disciples.

Rabbi Eliezer Berland, a leader of an ultra-Orthodox community who fled Israel to escape charges of sexual misconduct, was expelled from Morocco where he has been living for the past seven months, the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom reported.

A detailed article published in one of Morocco's major newspapers had prompted the Moroccan monarch to order Berland, who had settled in Marrakesh after fleeing Switzerland with which Israel has extradition agreements, to pack his things and leave the country, Israel Hayom reported. Israel does not have an extradition agreement with Morocco.

Members of the community Berland heads – Shuvu Banim – said that the rabbi was leaving Morocco for reasons of security.

The story started about a year when a woman in the Shuvu Banim community, an insular group of newly religious believers belonging to the Bratslav Hasidim, charged that Berland had sex with her.

Among the hundreds of families in the community, the vast majority have remained with the rabbi and are loyal to the educational institutions of the community. Lately, however, with the growing evidence of sexual assaults - evidence that began to emerge with the filing of complaints by individual women that followed publication of an initial accusation by a disciple who claimed to have witnessed the rabbi having sex with a woman from the community - there has been a change.

Shuvu Banim, founded in the late 1970s, has a yeshiva in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. Most of the group's members live on a single street on the outskirts of Mea She'arim, or in the branch in Betar Ilit. Rabbi Berland has boasted of his relations with crime families, but over the years police and army officers have also been regular visitors to his chambers.

The community operates on the fringes of Haredi society, and many ultra-Orthodox take exception to Berland's directives to his disciples to take risks (such as driving at excessive speeds to the graves of tzadikim - holy men - or, specifically, to infiltrate Nablus in order to visit Joseph's tomb ), and to undergo purification that involves personal humiliation.