Former Israeli Minister and Rightist MK Benny Elon Dies at 62

A leader of the religious Zionist movement, Elon replaced Rehavam Ze’evi as tourism minister after Ze’evi was murdered

Former Israeli minister and rightist MK Benny Elon
Eyal Warshavsky

Benny Elon, a leader of the religious Zionist movement and former Knesset member and cabinet minister, died on Friday at the age of 62, of cancer. He was buried later on Friday at Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot cemetery.

“It was hard for us to see your suffering, but you accepted the agony with love and tranquility. You were hurt by the damage the disease wreaked to your worship of God, your vital work for the nation of Israel. But you were at peace with the suffering, at peace with yourself,” Elon’s wife, the author Emuna Elon, said at his funeral in her eulogy. In keeping with the wishes of the deceased, only his wife and children spoke at the funeral.

In a statement issued on Friday, President Reuven Rivlin described Elon as “a great man with an enormous heart, who dedicated himself entirely to public and educational activity” and whose “commitment to Israeli society and the state was deeply rooted and uncompromising.”

National Union Chairman and Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel said in a statement that he mourned the passing of Elon, “a man of Torah, of building the land and of love of Israel.”

Elon was born in Jerusalem to the former Ruth Buchsbaum and to Israeli Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon. Benny Elon was ordained as a rabbi after his military service, and in the 1990s he became a leader of the opposition to the Oslo Accords.

Elon served in the Knesset uninterrupted from June 1996 through February 2009 representing Moledet, on its own and after the party’s absorption into National Union. Elon retired from politics in 2009, some time after being diagnosed with cancer.

After Rehavam Ze’evi was murdered, in October 2001, Elon was appointed to replace him as minister of tourism. He continued in that position after the 2003 election, under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who fired him in June 2004 for opposing Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

After retiring from politics, Elon founded the Israel Allies Foundation, which according to its website “works with Congress and parliaments around the world to mobilize political support for Israel based on Judeo-Christian values.” Elon brought visiting delegations of foreign legislators and heads of pro-Israel organizations to the country.