Elon, Binyamin

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ELON, BINYAMIN (Benny ; 1954– ), Israeli rabbi and politician, member of Knesset since the Fourteenth Knesset. Born in Jerusalem, the son of former Supreme Court justice Menachem *Elon, he studied at Yeshivat Merkaz ha-Rav in Jerusalem and the Idra Kolel in the Golan Heights. He served in the IDF in the artillery corps. He was ordained as a rabbi in 1978. In 1979–82 Elon served as rabbi in Kibbutz Sheluhot in the Beit She'an Valley. In 1983–85 he was an emissary of the Jewish Agency to the Jewish students organizations in the United States, and after his return taught at the Makhon Meir and Atteret Kohanim yeshivot in Jerusalem. He settled with his family in Bet-El near Ramallah in 1982 and in 1987 founded there, together with his wife, Emuna, the Sifriyat Bet-El publishing house, and the Tov Ro'i Institute, where he published Abraham Isaac *Kook's talmudic commentaries. In 1990 he established the Bet Orot Yeshivah, heading it until 1996, when he was elected to the Knesset.

Elon was an active opponent of the Oslo Accords and consequently founded the Emunim Movement, which fought against the establishment of a Palestinian authority, which he viewed from the start as a terrorist entity. He maintained that it was legitimate to discuss a transfer of the Palestinian population to a Jordanian-Palestinian state in Transjordan, and argued that the refugee camps should be dismantled, and the refugees resettled.

Elon entered the Fourteenth Knesset on the list of Rehavam *Ze'evi's Moledet party, and despite the extreme views that he represented soon came to be known for his mild manner. He promoted the unification of the various rightwing parties in the Knesset and ran in the elections to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Knessets on the National Union list. Following the assassination of Ze'evi in October 2001, Elon was appointed minister of tourism, but resigned from Ariel *Sharon's government in March 2002 because of Sharon's agreement that the assassins of Ze'evi be held in prison in Jericho instead of being turned over to Israel. He was again appointed minister of tourism in the government formed by Sharon after the elections to the Sixteenth Knesset. During both his terms in the Ministry of Tourism he contended with the drop in tourism to Israel due to the second Intifada, by encouraging Christian tourism to the Holy Land and the development of tourist sites in Judea and Samaria. The National Union objected fundamentally to Sharon's disengagement plan, and the removal of Jewish settlements from parts of Erez Israel, and as a result its ministers were dismissed by Ariel Sharon from the government in June 2004, before the government voted on the issue.

Since his dismissal from the government Elon has been an active member in the Finance Committee.

From 1990 Elon was active in establishing various associations engaged in the purchase of property and buildings in East Jerusalem and the renewal of Jewish settlement in them. He was also active in renewing Jewish settlement in Bethlehem, in the vicinity of Rachel's tomb. He maintained close ties with Jewish communities abroad and communities of Christians who support Israel throughout the world.

His wife, emuna, an educator and writer, served as the prime minister's adviser on women in 1996–97, and in this capacity led the establishment of the National Authority for the Advancement of Women. She has written numerous children's books.

[Susan Hattis Rolef (2nd ed.)]