(JTA) — Rabbi Benny Elon, who served as the head of a number of religious Zionist yeshivas in Israel and was a Knesset member from 1996 to 2009, has died.
Elon died Friday at 62; the cause was cancer, Arutz Sheva reported.
A member of the right-wing Moledet and National Union parties, Elon was removed from the Cabinet of then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004 when he refused to vote for Sharon’s plan to evacuate some 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip.
“Rabbi Benny Elon was a big-hearted man who dedicated himself entirely for the sake of education and the public,” Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, said in a statement Friday. “As a minister, as a member of parliament, and as a man of action, vision, and of spirit, Rabbi Benny Elon was one of the great fighters and doers for the sake of the Land of Israel, for its residents, and its children.”
The Jerusalem-born Elon lived in Beit El, a West Bank settlement that has served as an incubator for religious Zionists committed to Jewish sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, as Jewish residents there call the West Bank. He served as the chief rabbi of Kibbutz Shluchot and the rosh yeshiva, or dean, of Beit Orot Hesder, the eastern Jerusalem yeshiva he founded in 1990 with Hanan Porat, another key figure in the growth of religious Zionism as a political movement.
Elon also was the rabbi at the hesder yeshiva of Maale Adumim, Machon Meir and Ateret Cohanim in the Old City of Jerusalem.
In 2016, he was awarded the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism, established by the late Irving Moskowitz, an American philanthropist best known for his support of the settlement movement and shoring up the Jewish presence in largely Arab eastern Jerusalem. The prize committee said Elon “renewed and bolstered Jewish settlement in various parts of eastern Jerusalem and the area around Rachel’s Tomb; galvanized the national camp into a united political force; advanced an alternative political plan to the Oslo accords; and established a network of parliamentary lobby groups that brings together pro-Israel parliamentarians worldwide.”
Elon is a son of the late Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon. His brother, Rabbi Mordechai Elon, was convicted in 2013 on charges of sexually assaulting a minor.
Benny Elon’s funeral was scheduled to take place Friday at the Har Hamenuchot cemetery in Jerusalem.