elon - Gil Eliahu - November 4 2011
Rabbi Elon with his supporters yesterday at a meeting in the northern town of Migdal. Photo by Gil Eliahu
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Rabbi Mordechai Elon, who was indicted earlier this week for sexual assault and indecent behavior against two minors, denied the charges yesterday, calling them gossip, slander and lies.

"The charges are based on gossip and slander. Any claim that I confessed to these acts is a blatant, heinous lie," Elon said at a meeting with some 100 supporters and students in a synagogue in the northern town Migdal.

Elon, one of the most prominent rabbis in the religious Zionist movement, was charged in a Jerusalem court with sexually assaulting two 17 year olds, one of them a student of his, in the years 2003-2005.

During these years Elon served as head of the Kotel yeshiva in Jerusalem's Old City.

Elon claimed in his hearings at the state attorney's office that he did not break the law and said his actions had been misunderstood. He said his actions were the reflection of a teacher's love for his student and in no way did they constitute sexual abuse.

"The last years have been very difficult," Elon said at the gathering yesterday. "I ask you all to grow stronger. Almost two years have passed since the allegations against me were published ... I vowed to remain silent, a move that confused many. I chose it believing that in the face of irrevocable evil there is one remedy - more love and more Torah. Now it's time to say clearly: I have never done anything, in deed or word, with any sexual intent toward any of my students or anyone who approached me."

Elon said his conduct had been misconstrued. "Since I began on my educational way I have acted in one way - loving, supporting and embracing, actually embracing, even hard, at times of joy and distress. Reports said acts intended as sexual arousal were committed on two boys. Perhaps my acts caused discomfort, or misunderstanding, or were misinterpreted. If anyone felt that way, I apologize from the bottom of my heart," he said.

Elon slammed Takana, a forum that fights sexual abuse in the Orthodox community, saying its people "helped" the youths to interpret his acts in a sexual manner.

"Since the incident with [one of the boys named in the indictment] to the affair's exposure in the media, five years passed. What led him to complain to the police so long afterward? In May 2010 he was brought to the police in the car of a Takana forum member, who also sat with him for many hours during the police interview. Every time he got confused the Takana man reminded him of the force issue. The youth kept saying the meeting [with me] was in an open room. After the first meeting he even asked for another one."

Referring to the second complainant, Elon said "his instructor was killed in an accident and I was asked to inform him of this. Seven years have passed. After the affair broke in the media he went to complain - following the abominable persuasion of the forum's director - about the length of my hug and details I'm ashamed to talk about ... the prosecution asked me to confess it was for sexual stimulation. I have been tried in a kangaroo court, put before a firing squad. This is anti-democratic, anti-Torah and inhuman."

Elon said Takana had initiated a report in [the Hebrew daily] Yedioth Ahronoth despite one youth's pleas not to and despite the police warning against subverting the course of the investigation.

Suspicions against Elon came to the attention of Takana in 2006. The forum demanded that Elon cease his educational activities, and placed various restrictions on him.

With no explanation to his students and followers, Elon, who was popular with students, left his post as head of the yeshiva in Jerusalem and moved with his family to Migdal on the Kinneret.

In 2006, Takana informed then-attorney general Menachem Mazuz of the complaints against Elon. Mazuz conveyed the information to the police, but decided not to order an investigation against Elon.