Israel To Investigate Sex Abuse Allegations Against Religious-Zionist Rabbi Mordechai Elon

By Tomer Zarchin, Yair Ettinger (Haaretz) and Jonathan Lis

Published February 19, 2010.
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The attorney general yesterday instructed police to examine the sexual abuse allegations raised earlier this week against the prominent religious-Zionist Rabbi Mordechai Elon.

The Knesset is expected next week to discuss a bill attributing criminal liability to rabbis who sexually harass persons seeking their counsel. The debate was scheduled several weeks ago, long before the accusations against Elon were made.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein yesterday met State Prosecutor Moshe Lador and the head of the police investigation unit Yoav Segalovich, and decided to look into the allegations before opening an official investigation. The police cannot open an official investigation as no complaints against Rabbi Menachem Elon have yet been filed.

A senior forum of rabbis shook up the religious community earlier this week when it accused Elon, one of the most distinguished rabbis in Israel, of sexually deviant acts, including sexual abuse of young boys. One of the rabbis in the forum said it published the statement “to protect people over whom Rabbi Elon has authority.” The forum, Takana, devotes itself to preventing sexual harassment by authority figures.

No criminal charges have been brought against Elon, who at the time of his retirement some three years ago was considered a front-runner for a senior rabbinic post in the religious-Zionist political leadership.

The forum, whose members are senior rabbinic and other Orthodox public figures, said a team of its members had been dealing with Elon’s case “following complaints the forum received of actions that violated moral standards, which to our great sorrow have been found to have grounds.”

A forum spokesman said after the complaints that the rabbis demanded Elon cease all educational activities and prohibited him from counseling privately. He then retired from his position as head of Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem, and moved with his family to the town of Migdal near the Kinneret.

The forum wrote it had “recently become aware that the restrictions (imposed on Elon) were only partially applied,” and they therefore felt obliged to go public.

Elon has called the matter a “terrible blood libel, a groundless complaint,” by a “person of doubtful stability.”

Elon yesterday refused to comment on Weinstein’s decision to examine the allegations against him.

The Takana forum has dealt with 15 cases of sexual harassment in the religious community in recent years. In one case the forum imposed sanctions on a woman who had been accused of sexually molesting teenage girls. She was forbidden to work as a spiritual mentor overseas.

Migdal residents said yesterday that over the past years they had seen various rabbis around the town, but only now realized they were Takana members checking up on Elon and making sure he was adhering to the restrictions imposed on him.

Elon, 50, is the son of former Supreme Court vice-president Prof. Menachem Elon, the brother of former MK Benny Elon and of Be’er Sheva District Court Judge Joseph Elon, and once hosted a weekly television program on the Torah portion.

Sources close to Elon said no such complaints or rumors had ever been circulated and his students were shocked. His closest associates said he left public life due to health problems.

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