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Sex Scandal Leads To Star Israeli Rabbi's Fall

The conviction of Rabbi Motti Elon for sex offenses has generated a profound crisis of confidence from which the nationalist-religious community will find it hard to recover.
An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man stands near a display of pictures of Rabbis and religious leaders for sale outside a shop in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood June 4, 2013. Often living in de-facto ghettos of their own making, the majority of Haredi men are allowed to shun the army and dedicate their life to religious study, living off donations, state benefits and the often meagre wages of wives. In a country where most 18-year-old Jewish men and women are conscripted such treatment is causing growing res
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The Jerusalem Magistrate Court has been quite often the setting for dramatic scenes of the type seen in cinematic thrillers. A succession of “heroes” and “notables” who had gone astray and got entangled with the law has been ushered into these small courtrooms over the years. Last Wednesday, Aug. 7, the entrance to the place was jam-packed long before the proceedings began. A multitude of curious onlookers and passersby crowded the lobby, waiting tensely for the star of the great drama that was about to unfold inside.

Around 9:00 a.m., the defendant, Rabbi Mordechai "Motti" Elon, arrived at the courthouse surrounded by a large entourage of men wearing the knit skullcaps distinctive of the national-religious community. Few rabbis in Israel have reached the status of admiration and worship attained by this man. But now he looked gaunt, his beard gray, an outsized white skullcap covering his head down to the ears. I recalled how he used to look a few years ago. His skullcap was smaller then, and his body fuller. The man who, in his heyday, had swept both the religious community and the secular public off their feet looked like a shadow of his former self.

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