Fallen star's verdict reopens wound for religious Zionists

Analysis: Motti Elon incident, others possibly resulted in the religious Zionist community becoming so skeptical of its rabbis that it cannot crown a leader out of fear of disappointment.

August 7, 2013 22:48
2 minute read.
Rabbi Motti Elon.

Rabbi Moti Elon 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

There are rabbis who are respected in their own sector but not in others. There are some who can cross sectors but not appeal to the masses.

And then there was Rabbi Motti Elon.

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Rabbi Elon was the biggest of the big celebrity rabbis.

The charismatic rabbi had shows on TV and radio. His classes in Jerusalem and at Bar-Ilan University attracted huge and impressively diverse crowds. A son of a Supreme Court justice, he appealed to the secular, was respected by haredim, and was adored by religious Zionists of all ages.

That all changed seven years ago when Elon mysteriously gave up his public posts and moved to Migdal, a small northern community, and then three years later when the rabbinical star's image came crashing down amid the charges against him that were the reason for his exile.

The wound in the religious Zionist community was immeasurable. Since then, other charismatic rabbis have appeared on the scene and attracted attention, but none who unified sectors the way Elon did.

Now that wound has been reopened with the verdict that reminded religious Zionists who Elon was and what might have been. It was a coincidence that the verdict was delivered two weeks after religious Zionism lost a hard-fought battle over the Chief Rabbinate.

Elon was once seen as an obvious future chief rabbi. Had his star not fallen, he could have beaten any haredi candidate without the lavish campaign run by religious Zionist candidate Rabbi David Stav.

That race was lost in part due to a rift inside the religious Zionist camp between the so-called nationalist haredi and more moderate communities that has deepened since Israel's withdrawal from Gush Katif in the Gaza Strip. Not having one figure respected by the entire religious Zionist community has made the rift harder to overcome.

It is possible that the Elon incident and others have resulted in the religious Zionist community becoming so skeptical of its rabbis that it cannot crown a leader out of fear of disappointment.

This adds a greater burden to the shoulders of Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett, who has tried hard to unite religious Zionism, but who can himself be ousted if he fails to block his government from making territorial concessions.

Bayit Yehudi MKs were silent Wednesday following the Elon verdict. They did not answer their phones, preferring to hunker down and wait for the public to forget about Elon again.

There was even silence from the rabbis and figures in the Takana Forum that initially leveled the charges against Elon. The very fact that such a forum is needed casts a shadow on religious Zionism, not only because of allegations against rabbis that were covered up in the past, but also because a community that believes the state is holy should not need a body beyond the institutions of the state.

Nevertheless, there is a silver lining that can be agreed upon both by both those who long ago stopped admiring Elon and those who still do despite the verdict: That Takana's existence and the Elon verdict have the effect of creating deterrence among whoever might have thought they could get away with the crime for which Elon was convicted.

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