By Jeremy Sharon (Jerusalem Post)
November 22, 2016
Rabbi pleads guilty on two counts, apologizes to his victims. The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court approved the plea bargain agreed by the State Attorney's Jerusalem branch and Rabbi Eliezer Berland, in which the rabbi pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault.
Berland was sentenced to 18 months incarceration for his sexual attacks on two women, as well as his instructions to assault the husband of one of the women he sexually assaulted.
Following his sentencing, the rabbi apologized in court for his actions.
"For my deeds in the days of the Bible I would have been stoned and burned, but today laws are different - there are leniencies," said Berland.
"I regret from the depths of my heart any harm of mine against a man or woman, that was caused directly or indirectly."
Berland was also given a suspended sentence of 14 months and will have to pay two of his victims NIS 25,000 each and NIS 5,000 to the husband of the complainant who he ordered to be beaten by his followers.
Channel 2 online has subsequently revealed the witness testimony of other alleged victims of Berland, for which the rabbi was not convicted in the plea bargain.
One such testimony was of a witness referred to only as M., who was 14 years old when she was allegedly first sexually abused by Berland at his home in Beitar Illit after she was taken to him for "guidance," which she said was a great and exciting honor for her.
"He grabbed me strongly and embraced me and began to kiss me on the mouth and face," M., now 19, said in her witness statement. "He touched me, brought his hands in and put a prayer shawl over me and said the tikun klali [prayer for rectification of sins]."
According to the documents seen by Channel 2, M. was taken to Berland's house almost every night during the course of a year and would wait to be called into his office where he would allegedly commit indecent assaults against her.
"I see dozens of women going in and out of there and it was clear to everyone what was happening inside the room. I see how he assaulted little girls," she said.
Berland was originally indicted on charges of indecent assault and sexual harassment against four women, including a minor.
However, in the plea bargain that was reached Berland, admitted only to the less severe charges.
The rabbi admitted that one occasion he grabbed one woman's breasts and kissed her on her neck while drawing himself close to her.
On another occasion, Berland admitted that he had embraced a different woman while groping her breasts and kissing her using his tongue.
When his abuse was exposed by the husband of one of the women he assaulted, Berland instructed two of his devotees to physically assault him.
In 2013, Berland fled Israel after claims of sexual abuse were made against him by several women.
He traveled across three continents over a period of three years seeking to evade law enforcement authorities and extradition to Israel, including stops in Florida, Switzerland, Morocco, Holland, and Zimbabwe, accompanied by a band of devoted followers during this time.
He was arrested in South Africa earlier this year and extradited to Israel in July.