As always happens, the Rabbi Elon affair exploded into our lives out of nowhere. As always, it will soon disappear and a new firecracker will take its place as the latest scandal in our skies. Yet I’m interested in the story not only because of the personal tragedies inherent in it, but mostly because of what it says about us; about all of us.
Perhaps there is some wrongdoing there, and perhaps we'll be seeing fire, yet the truly important element for our long-term memory is not the gossip or the story's criminal aspect, but rather, the structural significance reflected through this affair.
My inner feeling is that Rabbi Elon is a positive man, and that whatever happened or did not happen between him and that other person, we should be listening to Elon’s explanations and in my view giving him the benefit of the doubt unless proven otherwise.
Yet as it turns out, religious Zionism has a state within a state. The Elon affair exposed the normative legal system used to run that state. Very few sectors in Israel would take the liberty to handle such volatile issue in this manner.
Certain sectors would have covered up the problem and made it disappear, threatened the complainant, pressed the abuser, and finalized everything behind closed doors. Others would have immediately rushed to inform law enforcement authorities and asked them to seek truth and justice. Yet as it turns out, the spiritual public, and political leadership of the religious Zionist camp did neither this nor that.
It has its own system. Its people looked into the affair, made the decision, and meted out a punishment – banishment! And for three long years, all parties involved cooperated with this law, which lies beyond Israeli law.
For many years now, layer upon layer, we are being exposed to the religious Zionist state. “Our” children go to “our” schools, are educated in “our” youth groups, join “our” units in the army, attend “our” universities, and marry “our” daughters. They live in the settlements, in “our” neighborhoods. And as it turns out now, some of them are also being tried by “our” legal system.
The Elon story implies that the state of Judea is not merely a vision simmering on the radical and Messianic margins of the settlers; rather, it is found at the very heart of the religious Zionist consensus and functions as a cultural and normative autonomy in every respect.
This is not necessarily wrong. A model whereby Israel will comprise various communities with each operating based on its own values may be worthy of consideration – but not like this. Not in the dark, and not as an offshoot of some affair. Not without a transparent and open public debate. Until all of this takes place, the greatest question mark hovering over this issue has to do with why Attorney General Menachem Mazuz allowed it to happen.