(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 May 5 at 62; the cause was cancer. 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. “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 was the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Menachem Elon. He 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.