REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM — Israeli authorities said Wednesday they have indicted a prominent Orthodox rabbi on five counts of sexual assault and abuse of authority, including two counts involving a minor student. The indictment accuses Rabbi Mordechai Elon, 51, a popular spiritual figure from a well-known family, of assaulting an unidentified student, then 17, after the teenager had sought Elon’s support during an emotional crisis. Additional acts took place in 2003 and 2005 involving other male students, prosecutors said. “These acts were perpetrated for the sole purpose of the defendant’s sexual gratification,” the prosecution stated, according to Israel’s Ynet news site. Elon has denied the allegations.
The case, which came to light in early 2010, has rattled the foundations of Israel’s Orthodox community by casting a public spotlight on homosexuality among religious leaders. The first allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct involving Elon were made more than five years ago by Takana, a forum of rabbis and others from diverse parts of the Orthodox Jewish community. Critics have accused Israel’s attorney general of moving too slowly to prosecute the case.
Elon’s father was a Supreme Court vice president, and his brother served in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Some observers believe that similar allegations against a secular high school teacher would have been handled more aggressively.