Rabbi Mordechai Elon conceded Sunday that he might have indeed kissed and hugged two of his students - both of them minors - but denied doing so for sexual pleasure, but rather as a way to console and encourage the students.

Lawyers for Elon, one of the leaders of religious Zionism, told the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court that it was his habit to hug his students, as part of his educational methods. Elon was not present at court.

Elon is charged with sexually abusing two students. A 17-year-old student at the time claimed that during a private consultation Elon put his foot between the student's legs, seated him on his knees, hugged him, patted his stomach and knees and kissed his face. The student claimed Elon repeated the actions twice, after summoning the student.

Another student, also aged 17 at the time, complained that on two different occasions Elon hugged him, made him lie face-down, caressed and kissed him. Both students claimed that Elon recited the Priestly Blessing after his acts.

Elon admitted meeting the first student, but said he did not recall kissing him. Still, if he did - it was not for sexual pleasure. As for the second student, Elon does not recall meeting him but admits that if there was such a meeting, it might have included a hug and a kiss.

Elon denied other details in the indictment including acts of explicit sexual nature. "Rabbi Elon admits to some of the facts in the indictment, especially concerning his meetings with students, but denies that there was anything sexual about them. Rabbi Elon ... will prove his innocence in court," said his lawyer, Baruch Rubin.

The proceedings, including witnesses' testimonies, are expected to resume in early March.