Rabbi Benny Elon
Educator, former minister, a man of vision and deed who continues to strengthen Jewish settlement in and around united Jerusalem, and a trailblazer in garnering international diplomatic support for IsraelRabbi Benny Elon is a public leader whose unique vision and inspiration have had an important influence on the national camp in recent decades. He renewed and bolstered Jewish settlement in various parts of eastern Jerusalem and the area around Rachel’s Tomb; galvanized the national camp into a united political force; advanced an alternative political plan to the Oslo accords; and established a network of parliamentary lobby groups that brings together pro-Israel parliamentarians worldwide.
Rabbi Elon is among the pioneers who understood just how critical renewing Jewish settlement in eastern Jerusalem is for the unity of the entire capital. He initiated a response to this historic challenge by establishing Yeshivat Beit Orot on Mt. Scopus, served as its head, fought to close the Palestinian Orient House, and labored tirelessly to resume and to strenghten the Jewish presence in the neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem, emphasizing the renewal of the Jewish community in the Shimon Hatzaddik neighborhood, in eastern Musrara and elsewhere. Similarly, Rabbi Elon presented a vision for ringing the Old City with green parks (including Emek Tzurim, where this year’s award ceremony is being held), to halt illegal Arab construction. As a Knesset member and as tourism minister, he helped direct government budgets to developing eastern Jerusalem and to vital projects across Judea and Samaria, as well as in the Galilee, on the coastal plain and in the Negev.
From the day he was elected to the Knesset, Rabbi Elon strove to emphasize what is common to and unites the various parts of the national camp. He chose to join a party that espoused cooperation between religious and secular, was the guiding force behind unifying the original National Union parties, led the historic unification of the National Religious Party and the National Union, and the creation of an infrastructure for cooperation, which continues to this day within the context of the Jewish Home Party.
Another of Benny Elon’s significant contributions to Zionism is his diplomatic activity. Rabbi Elon formulated and promoted a political plan to achieve real peace in the Middle East by realizing the Jordanian option and solving the refugee problem. He was among the first to present a genuine and realistic political alternative, and did not suffice with simply opposing the Left’s peace plans.
Rabbi Elon possesses a rare understanding of the manner in which Israel can and must reach out to its friends abroad for help. He headed the Knesset lobby for advancing Israel’s relations with Christian communities of Israel supporters around the world, and he founded the Israel Allies Foundation (IAF), which unites parliamentarians and leaders in various countries for joint political activity on behalf of the State of Israel. As tourism minister, during the difficult period of terrorist attacks in the second intifada, Rabbi Elon succeeded in reaching out to Christian evangelist communities, who continued, thanks to their dedication to the Holy Land and to the Bible, to visit Israel, despite the tough security situation at the time. This policy by Tourism Minister Benny Elon saved Israel’s tourism industry in those years, when it was experiencing a period of real distress.
After leaving government and the Knesset, Rabbi Elon became president of the IAF, which is active among lawmakers in the US Congress and in 30 other parliaments worldwide. The organization leads pro-Israel bills and parliamentary initiatives, and holds annual international conferences in Israel and abroad.