Police Say Inquiry Into Indecent-acts Charges Against Elon Will Develop Into Full Investigation

Police sources told Haaretz they believe their inquiry into indecent acts allegedly committed by Rabbi Mordechai Elon will grow into an official investigation within the next week or so. They said Elon himself, his associates and the members of the Takana rabbinical forum that revealed the allegations against him last week may be questioned.

On Thursday, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, State Prosecutor Moshe Lador, and Major General Yoav Segalovich, the chief of investigations and intelligence at the police, decided to begin a police inquiry into the allegations.

One of the national investigative teams is expected this week to collect all of the material sent from the rabbinical forum to the attorney general since 2006.

During the first phase of the inquiry, police will look into the specific offenses Elon is accused of, and determine whether any of them fall under the statute of limitations. A senior police source told Haaretz that they will meet with senior members of Takana, record their version of events and ask them to hand over documents related to the case, particularly communications between the forum and Elon concerning the allegations.

Once the information collection phase, expected to last until the end of the week, is complete, another meeting will be held with the attorney general. At that meeting, police will present the offenses Elon is alleged to have committed and how the information obtained from the forum reflects on them. It will also list the individuals it would like to speak to in relation to the investigation.

The police source told Haaretz that he thinks there will be little choice but to open an official investigation within a week to ten days.

Elon meanwhile had received the implied support of Rabbi Nir Ben-Artzi, who was himself at the center of a sex-related scandal not too long ago. Ben-Artzi's pamphlet "Tair Neri" last week featured a story about a mistaken rumor spread because of followers who had gotten out of hand. The story concludes: "And the moral is - even when you're zealous for good faith, you must check very well if it is truth or the mere appearance of truth, because the distance between truth and libel is very short."

Ben-Artzi, whose followers believe he possesses supernatural powers, returned to his community in Tlamim last year, after having gone missing for a long time. According to charges filed in the case, he was forcibly held by some of his most trusted disciples, after they accused him of various sexual offenses and forced him to sign a confession.

Dozens of brochures, with circulations in the hundreds of thousands, distributed yesterday in synagogues across the country spoke openly about the Elon affair, while others ignored it altogether. One weekly brochure, "Small World," featured Rabbi Jonah Goodman praising the rabbis of Takana for showing "leadership and courage" by exposing the allegations against a senior rabbi. "No one is free from failure and life is an ongoing test," he concluded.

Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, a member of the forum committee that investigated the complaints against Elon, ruled last week that Elon's contributions to religious Zionism should not be effected by the current scandal. In a private conversation with students in his yeshiva, which was later published on the Kippa Web site, Lichtenstein said that "a certain degree of trust has been eroded, but heavens save us from losing trust in God... Do we take his books out from the libraries? I say no. He got a bit carried away, the blood had gone up to his head ... we shouldn't totally erase everything a person has done in his life. As of now, we should remember that 'an educator should be holy.'"