Remember the scandal about Rabbi Mordechai Elon’s sexual abuse of students in Israel a few months ago? Well, apparently, even though the scandal came to light in February and he agreed to stop teaching students, videos have been released of him continuing to give lessons in Torah.
I find this whole thing to be creepy. Especially because it highlights a huge problem in the judicial system in Israel regarding the religious community— the religious Jewish population that believes that it should be subject to religious rather than civil authority. Because of this, the issue of Rabbi Elon’s potential sexual abuse was dealt with not by governmental authorities, but by Takana, a group created in 2003 to deal with sexual abuse by rabbis in religious Zionist communities in Israel. And unlike the police, Takana seems to have very little actual authority to punish Elon and prevent him from continuing to interact with students. An article in The Forward discusses this issue:
After all, if Elon in fact admitted to criminal acts in front of a group of people, shouldn’t he then be prosecuted? On the other hand, if, despite these admissions, the police are unable to prosecute, as in fact happened, for lack of sufficient evidence or because victims do not want to come forward, then what use is Takana? They have no actual power, as evidenced by their lack of impact on the police coupled by Elon’s ability to do what he wants. Yet they are busy as judge and jury, acting as if they are more skilled at dealing with sexual abuse than the entire legal system.
The problem lies in the fact that many religious Zionists feel as if they are not a part of the regular judicial system in Israel, and so will not cooperate in prosecuting Elon through that system. But clearly allowing them a separate system is not working. And although it is a tricky situation, as it is very difficult to force people to cooperate with investigations if they do not want to, these people must be incorporated into the regular judicial system. And it’s hard, especially because of the separatist attitude that is prevalent throughout many religious Jewish communities in Israel, but it must happen, both for the sake of Israeli society overall and for the sake of the people of these communities.