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Police say imprisoned cult leader rabbi Berland ordered 1980s murder

Rabbi Eliezer Berland arrives for a court hearing in Jerusalem, November 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Rabbi Eliezer Berland arrives for a court hearing in Jerusalem, November 2, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police say that imprisoned rabbi Eliezer Berland was involved in the kidnapping and murder of a Haredi teenager in the 1980s.

During a hearing at the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, a police representative tells the court that Berland — who is currently serving a prison sentence for fraud, and was previously convicted of sexual assault — ordered the murderers to kill 17-year-old Nissim Shitrit.

Berland, the head of the Shuvu Bonim cult, is linked to the three other suspects arrested for their involvement in the crime, which went unsolved for 35 years. Until recently, police had not definitively ruled that Shitrit was murdered, and his body was never recovered.

According to the police representative in the courtroom, one of the suspects stabbed Shitrit, one oversaw the incident and a third drove the car.

Shitrit was allegedly beaten by the sect’s “religious police” four months before he was last seen in January 1986. In a documentary released by Kan in 2020, one of Berland’s former disciples said that the religious police murdered the boy, dismembered him and buried his body in Eshtaol Forest near Beit Shemesh.

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