Israeli 'miracle cure' rabbi charged with fraud

Jerusalem (AFP) –


An 82-year-old Israeli rabbi, head of an ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect, was charged Sunday with incitement to violence and fraud over alleged miracle cures.

Eliezer Berland, head of the Shouvou Banim sect within the Breslov Hasidic community, was arrested on February 9.

He is accused of "taking advantage of his status to extract money from people in distress, knowing full well that he could not help them", the court indictment said.

"The accused is the head of a community of millions of worshippers for whom he has supreme authority," it added.

He was accused of pretending to have special powers to heal the sick over many years, demanding large sums of money in exchange.

In a video shown on Israeli television in November, Berland promises to cure a child suffering from cancer, giving him medicine and demands 5,000 shekels ($1,400).

The medication was just sweets, the charges allege.

In another case, he is accused of having taken 10,000 shekels to treat a woman suffering from lung cancer.

The woman died and her daughter filed a complaint.

In 2016, he was jailed for 18 months after sexually assaulting three women.

The Breslov Hasidic community respects ancient Jewish laws in everyday life. Many of Berland's supporters remain convinced of his innocence.

When he was arrested in February, some of his disciples attacked police, injuring two, according to Israeli authorities.

Berland rose to prominence in the 1980s for organising clandestine pilgrimages to the tomb of his movement's founder in Ukraine.

The pilgrimage has become popular since the fall of the communist regime.