The Rabbi Elon case: Sexual abuse in the Zionist Orthodox community
Allegations of abuse against Rabbi Moti Elon emerged more than five years ago via Takana – an organization that deals with sexual harassment in the religious Zionist community.
The affair began five years ago, when suspicions arose at a religious forum called Takana, set up to deal with allegations of sexual harassment in the religious Zionist community, that Rabbi Moti Elon had committed sexual offenses.
Takana had received multiple complaints that Elon, one of the most prominent rabbis in the religious Zionist community, had allegedly maintained sexual relations with minors. As a result of the complaints,
Takana forbade Elon to continue educational activities, and imposed various restrictions on him. He withdrew from his role as the head of Yeshiva Hakotel and moved away from Jerusalem with his family. He did all this, without providing any explanation.
Then Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, and current Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein were each involved in the case over the years – each during his own term. In February 2010, Weinstein instructed Israel Police to conduct a preliminary investigation into the publications and complaints that were emerging from the forum regarding Elon’s alleged sexual crimes.
The work of the police force included locating complainants that were allegedly abused by Elon, partly through Takana. The police managed to locate one complainant that agreed to provide detailed evidence of sexual exploitation that he claimed Elon carried out on him while he was a minor, in 2005 and 2006.
After viewing the investigation’s findings, Weinstein, together with Israeli Police, decided to carry out a deep investigation of the complaints. That investigation included witnesses from various sources that came in contact with the complainant a short time after the indecent acts were carried out, and strengthened the complaint’s authenticity. Shortly after investigations were found to back the complainant’s evidence, Weinstein decided to open a criminal investigation against Elon, who was investigated on suspicion of sexual offenses.
During the investigation, an additional complainant approached the police with complaints against Elon.
In February this year, the State Attorney announced that it had decided to put Elon on trial, subject to a hearing. Over the past few months Elon has undergone a series of hearings at the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office. During that time, Elon’s lawyer Yair Golan was in contact with the prosecution to arrange a plea bargain. The prosecution recommended Elon admit to lesser crimes and avoid imprisonment, but Elon refused vehemently, saying he would not admit to crimes he did not commit.
A religious crisis
With Elon’s indictment on Wednesday, Takana can breathe a sigh of relief, but only a shallow sigh. For the community has yet to close the door on the implications of this case.
Takana suffered much criticism over the years, including that of Elon’s followers, who accused the forum of trying to bring the Zionist rabbi down.
The forum is now keeping silent on the indictment, and many of its rabbis are – justifiably – refusing to talk to the media. One of the reasons may be that the volume of charges initially claimed against Elon has reduced significantly. His indictment is based on the claims of the only two people who agreed to testify against him. These cases are relatively minor compared to those Takana initially spoke of.
One of Elon’s acquaintances said Wednesday that “a mountain has been made of a molehill,” and that most of the claims against him can be considered a “cultural misunderstanding” that caused the rabbi’s students to misinterpret his actions, which may have included hugs and kisses – even those on the neck.
But even if the indictments had have been worse, it is still quite possible that Takana would prefer to remain quiet. The forum has reached this moment in a bruised and confused state, with its credit among the religious community under question.
The religious community is still accusing Takana of using aggressive conduct during the Elon affair, and some rabbis have said Takana’s clarification procedures and the investigation itself were not conducted according to Torah law or Israeli law. For many in the Orthodox community, Elon’s defeat is a crisis, no matter how you look at it
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