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Southern Religion

Allegations of sexual misconduct whipsaw Israeli religious nationalists

In Israel, a scandal has erupted over allegations of sexual abuse leveled at Orthodox Rabbi Mordechai Elon. Best known for his advocacy of the West Bank Settlement movement.

The issue is actually longstanding. Elon, 50, gave up his regular TV show and retired as head of a major yeshiva religious school in Jerusalem three years ago. Alastair Macdonald of Reuters writes:

At issue is the power of charismatic clerics over young people in their care, as well as questions about the extent to which religious communities should regulate their own affairs without involving the Jewish state’s secular authorities.

A Justice Ministry spokesman said the attorney-general had asked police to consider whether there was sufficient evidence to mount a formal criminal investigation, after the organisation Takana alleged Elon had broken a promise made to fellow rabbis some years ago to limit his contacts with young men and youths.

. . . .

Columnist Nahum Barnea of Israel’s top-selling newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said: “Every word in this story becomes an emotional atom bomb when it happens in a religious society — sex, homosexuality, charisma, minors, a rabbi’s power.

“This is not a storm in a teacup. This is a typhoon. No wonder many in the national-religious public felt this week that their world had collapsed,” Barnea wrote on Friday.

Broad, related concerns had already attracted the public interest required to provoke legislative action. Yair Ettinger, Jonathan Lis and Tomer Zarchin of Haaretz write:

The Knesset is expected next week to discuss a bill attributing criminal liability to rabbis who sexually harass persons seeking their counsel. The debate was scheduled several weeks ago, long before the accusations against Elon were made.

Elon’s case exploded into public view because his fellow rabbis called him to account. Because of their concern for the young people under his authority.

[H/T: Episcopal Cafe]

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February 20, 2010 - Posted by | children, Crime, Law, Religion | , ,

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