JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli rabbi who has been on the run for years to avoid sex abuse charges in Israel was extradited from South Africa and arrested after he landed at Ben Gurion Airport.
About 300 supporters of Rabbi Eliezer Berland were waiting for the 79-year-old Breslover Hasid at the Tel Aviv-area airport, where he was immediately taken away by police, according to reports. Several supporters reportedly also accompanied Berland on the plane from South Africa, where he has been hiding out for the past year with several of his followers.
Berland is accused of sexually assaulting several of his female followers; he has denied the allegations. He fought his extradition from the Netherlands last summer on the grounds that the alleged assaults happened in the West Bank and Israel does not have jurisdiction there. He later fled the Netherlands to avoid extradition.
Since the accusations in 2012, Berland has also hidden in Morocco, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe. He was arrested in April in Johannesburg.
Berland founded the Shuvu Bonim religious seminary in Israel.