Rabbi Mordechai Elon - Olivier Fitoussi
Rabbi Mordechai Elon outside Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court before his trial in December last year. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Prominent Rabbi Mordechai Elon went on trial in the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court yesterday on charges of forcible sexual assault against two students who had sought his emotional support.

Elon's lawyer, Jacob Rubin, told the trial's opening session yesterday that Elon would admit to some of the facts in the indictment, but only those that in and of themselves do not constitute an acknowledgment of having committed a crime. Rubin said his client would deny carrying out any kind of indecent sexual acts on his students.

Elon, who until recently was considered one of the spiritual leaders of religious Zionism, is the former head of Yeshivat HaKotel in Jerusalem.

The first incident in the indictment relates to a 17-year-old male student who came to Elon's office at Yeshivat HaKotel in 2003, after the death of someone close to him. On the pretext of comforting the student, who has only been publicly identified as B., Elon hugged and stroked him and kissed him on the neck, while encouraging him to discuss the pain he was feeling, the indictment said.

After B. left the office, Elon sought him out and invited the student to his home, the indictment said. B. accepted the invitation, and that night, he was subjected to similar acts for about a quarter of an hour.

Several weeks later, another similar incident occurred when B. came to Elon for a private conversation, the indictment continued.

Two years later, Elon committed indecent acts against another 17-year-old male, identified as A., the indictment said. A. was not one of Elon's students, but had sought the rabbi out at a time of personal distress at the suggestion of a friend. A. allegedly had a more sexually explicit encounter with Elon about two months later.

Elon was accompanied in court yesterday by his wife, seven of his children, and other relatives.