Bypassing restrictions, convicted sex offender lights Lag B’Omer holiday torch in northern Israel

Despite government pledges to bar him, cult leader Eliezer Berland uses loophole to light bonfire at massive Lag B’Omer gathering in northern Israel.

By World Israel News Staff

A convicted cult leader who was barred from taking part in Lag B’Omer festivities at Meron in northern Israel Monday evening managed to evade the restrictions through a loophole, Israel National News reported Tuesday.

Eliezer Berland, leader of the Shuvu Banim movement, had been banned from lighting Lag B’Omer bonfires at Meron due to his multiple criminal convictions.

According to the report, however, Berland used a loophole in the prohibition, lighting the torch used to set the bonfire ablaze and using a third party to spark the bonfire itself.

A day earlier, Minister for Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage Rabbi Amichai Eliyahu (Otzma Yehudit) vowed that Berland would not be permitted to taking part in the lighting ceremony.

“If Eliezer Berland lights a bonfire in Meron, it will be a shameful event like nothing else,” he said.

The Ministry added that should Berland light a bonfire, Shuvu Banim would be fined and their right to light a bonfire in Meron would be nullified for future years.

Berland fled Israel in 2013 after he was accused of sexually assaulting multiple female followers. After evading efforts at extradition for three years, hewas returned to Israel in 2016 and convicted in a plea bargain according to which he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

After being released, Berland was investigated and convicted of fraud, having taken millions of shekels from followers in exchange for “miracle cures” for serious illnesses, including cancer. Investigators found the cures were in some cases nothing more than candies and mints.

The disgraced Shuvu Banim leader has subsequently been investigated for a possible role in the murder of a yeshiva student decades ago.