Show of support in Migdal: We believe in Rabbi Elon
Dozens of supporters, students, and rabbis from around country flood into northern town of Migdal to show support for rabbi warned Monday by religious forum for handling sexual harassment. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu: I felt like my flesh was being cut; we must not let him be alone
"I am not mad at the rabbis of the Takana forum; these are important rabbis. But I think there is spiritual decline here," said Rabbi David Lahiani from Safed on Tuesday from the Breshit seminary presided over by Rabbi Mordechai (Motty) Elon.
Lahiani arrived on the site in order to show support for Elon, who was issued a warning by the Takana forum, the Religious Zionist organization charged with handling cases of sexual harassment among the movement's leaders.
Ever since the affair broke, dozens of supporters from around the country, including well-known rabbis and students, have been flowing into the northern town of Migdal in a show of support for Rabbi Elon. They all speak of two earth-shattering issues, "both from the perspective of Rabbi Elon, who is considered among the most important rabbis in Religious Zionism and from the perspective of the well-known rabbis who are members of the forum and signed the document."
The rabbi entered the house of study on Tuesday afternoon and was received with warm welcomes and hugs from his supporters all around.
Rabbi Elon, surrounded by his students, will give an open lesson to the media representatives later Tuesday. He will not answer journalists' questions, but is slated to present his students with his interpretation of the suspicions raised against him by the Takana forum rabbis.
Alongside him are his family members, including Rabbi Benny Elon and Rabbi Emunah Elon.
Among the rabbis who came to show their support was the son of Israel's chief rabbi. Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu said, "We are like a family that needs to be reconnected. We must not let the rabbi be alone right now. We can come out stronger, or we can be crushed. I felt last night like my flesh was being cut."
"Rabbi Motty is a rabbi full of love and warmth. Every part of him wants to give to others, and this is why the crisis is so large – from this perspective and from the perspectives of those rabbis. They are well-known rabbis and leaders for all of us," said Yerucham Shimovitz, who came all the way from Herzliya.
"From my acquaintance with the rabbi, I have no doubt that he did not do the things ascribed to him. I can say as a teacher that it is very easy to smear a teacher with having done things of a sexual nature, in all manner of contact, pats on the back. When a student has a problem, you give a fatherly hug. And this is precisely what Rabbi Elon did," his student continued.
Rabbi Elon's childhood friend who came from the Jerusalem area said with eyes red from tears that he did not sleep all night: "I am not a child. I know that life is complex; it is hard and painful. If, Heaven forbid, it is true, I say this is a disease. I very much hope that it is not true, but it is hard for me to ignore the rabbinical figures who signed the document. I am ripped apart inside. Friendship is measured at a time a difficulty, and if it is true, I will remain his friend."
Takana forum's statement
The affair broke Monday when the Takana forum issued a statement that it has been dealing for quite some time on the issue of Rabbi Elon following complaints of "acts conflicting with holy and ethical values."
"Unfortunately, these complaints were verified," the statement says, adding that the rabbi was forced to relinquish all religious leadership and seek personal counseling.
"In accordance with the halachic-moral values that guide the forum, among them the need to protect the public and the complainants while maintaining respect for the accused and his family, the forum has so far refrained from making the matter public," the statement says.
"The said balance was meant to be achieved first of all through the meticulous application of restrictions. Unfortunately, we recently learned that such restrictions were only applied partially and that protecting the public and preventing a stumbling block obligates us to bring these issues to the masses," the statement explains.