Benny Elon .
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Former tourism minister Benny Elon died after a long battle with cancer Friday and was buried in Jerusalem’s Har Hamenuhot Cemetery.
Elon, 62, served in prime minister Ariel Sharon’s government, but was fired due to his opposition to the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. He headed the right-wing Moledet Party that was part of the National Union, serving in the Knesset from 1996 to 2009. He served as tourism minister from 2001 to 2004.
Elon was the son of the late Supreme Court judge Menahem Elon and the brother of controversial religious Zionist Rabbi Moti Elon. His wife, Emuna, is a respected author and journalist. He died of throat cancer, though he never smoked and strongly opposed smoking.
President Reuven Rivlin said Elon “had a big heart” and devoted his life to public service.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who was a political ally, called Elon “a man of principles and values, a true friend, who loved the people of Israel and the land and worried about them.”
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich said she respected Elon for preferring his ideology to his own political advancement.
Former minister Gideon Sa’ar called Elon “a man of faith and vision” who build up key relations with Christian communities around the world, teaching about the ties between the Jewish people and their land.
Elon traveled the world as head of the Knesset’s Christian Allies Caucus and the Israel Allies Foundation. The caucus’s director, Josh Reinstein, said he would be mourned by millions of Christians and Jews around the world.
“He was the grandfather of faith-based diplomacy,” Reinstein said. “He was a Torah giant and one of Israel’s most courageous leaders. The legacy he leaves behind will impact the State of Israel for generations.”
Esther Deri, the mother of Interior Minister Arye Deri (Shas), also died and was buried on Friday.