Dutch Court to Decide on Fate of Fugitive Orthodox Rabbi Wanted for Sex Crimes

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Rabbi Eliezer Berland. Suspected of committing sexual offenses, he’s currently in South Africa.Credit: Hadar Cohen

A Dutch court is to decide on the possible remand of an elderly Orthodox Jewish rabbi, until a decision is made on an extradition request by Israel on Monday, Dutch news site De Telegraaf reported.

Fugitive ultra-Orthodox rabbi Eliezer Berland, 77, was arrested in at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam in September, almost two years after he fled Israel to avoid arrest for sex crimes. However, he was released from custody the next day, according to Dutchnews.nl.

Berland, a Breslov rabbi, then went to the northern Dutch island of Texel, joined by 300 followers from all over the world. The Jewish-owned camping site's capacity is 30, so the municipality ordered the eviction of 270 of his followers from the site. The visitors came from various countries to spend the holiday with Berland, who was arrested in the Netherlands last month.

Founder of the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary, Berland fled Israel to Morocco and from there to South Africa last year amid allegations that he molested two female followers, including a minor.

Out of consideration for the religious sentiment of the campers, Mayor Francine Giskes gave the owners, Avraham and Rivka Pranger, until Sunday for their site to adhere once more to its legal capacity, the Noordhollands Dagblad daily reported. She consulted several mayors in the region on how to approach the matter.

Avraham Pranger told the daily he and his wife did not know 300 people would descend on their small business and that the guests kept multiplying despite the couple’s request that they find an alternative arrangement.

“It all began with a reservation by a rabbi from Amsterdam and 30 of his followers,” he told the daily before Yom Kippur. “We are totally overrun but these are fellow Jews and I can’t just chase them away. I think it’s through social media; The message spread.”

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