Remembering Benny Elon
The Jewish people lost a great patriot, an amazing man and a special soul on Friday with the passing of Rabbi Binyamin (Benny) Elon.
Throughout his life, Rav Benny was completely devoted to making the State of Israel stronger, safer and more secure. He cared and loved the Jewish people with all of his essence and worked for the benefit of our people his whole life. The Jewish state and people are darker without the presence of Benny Elon. He was a pure, holy man.
Benny was born in 1954, a ninth-generation Jerusalemite. His late father, Menachem Elon, was a justice on the Supreme Court of Israel. Rav Benny loved to walk the streets of Jerusalem where he grew up, and loved Eretz Israel. He was a man of action. A “tachlis” person constantly focused on accomplishing, and doing.
Benny was a Knesset member for 13 years who worked tirelessly for the expansion and security of settlements, and for eastern Jerusalem, where he was active in reclamation projects. He founded Yeshivat Beit Orot, and worked tirelessly to ensure Jerusalem would remain Israel‘s undivided and eternal capital.
Benny Elon was a cabinet minister in the Ariel Sharon government until he was fired for opposing the Gaza disengagement plan in 2005. He would not bend on his principles — it simply wasn’t a thought, whether in politics or in his life. If Benny said it, he meant it and he did it.
As minister of tourism, he worked relentlessly so people would visit the Holy Land, and succeeded in this role in attracting record numbers of tourists to Israel. The man was a visionary — he was one of the first to recognize the importance of building coalitions with the Evangelical Christian community, which he knew the State of Israel could rely upon as a vital ally and friend.
After Benny left government, he worked around the clock to strengthen Israel‘s political standing throughout the world. He traveled constantly throughout the US, Europe, Asia and Latin America as chairman of the Israel Allies Foundation, which he created to mobilize political support for Israel based on Judeo-Christian values. The foundation is dedicated to the purpose of promoting communication between legislators the world over who share a belief in a strong Israel. He deeply believed that non-Jewish support was vital for Israel in a dangerous world.
Benny built real relationships in government, and in communities worldwide, and was constantly on the move getting things done. He liked it that way — rolling up his sleeves and working on concrete real things.
Benny Elon was a proud man who cherished his independence — and loved to speak his mind. No one ever seems to voluntarily leave Israeli politics — yet Rav Benny did. He tired of the in-fighting and “noise” and felt he could be more effective outside of government. And he did so without the burden of worrying about internal politics — he did it simply to help Jews. In the years after he left government, his positive energy was palpable — he enjoyed traveling without security, and driving on his own and being a real person. That was Benny Elon.
He wrote a book which he was so proud of — God’s Covenant with Israel: Establishing Biblical Boundaries in Today’s World. Benny was a practical person — he loved to accomplish and he couldn’t stop doing. He said what was on this mind and acted upon it. He worked endlessly with tremendous self-sacrifice and love for Jews.
Benny Elon and I were close friends for more than 20 years. There were so many personal experiences we shared and I feel such love and respect for the man as I sit writing this in tears. Rav Benny — who even when he was a minister in the government would come to my home on Shabbat with thoughtful gifts for my children. Who spoke so eloquently and cared so much and was a deeply sensitive and caring man.
I remember sitting outside the Lincoln Center with him and talking for hours soon after he was re-diagnosed with throat cancer. I remember him telling me that if he was not healed, he was not afraid and believed completely and fully in the G-d of Israel. He meant it and believed it and was a true believer. He was not afraid. Benny was always upbeat. That was Benny Elon.
This “right-winger” was so soft-spoken and gentle that people had to lean in to hear him. And Rav Benny was the ultimate mensch.
Through all the years I knew him, the man was always there. Benny was someone who could be counted on. He was there when it mattered and his presence was felt.
Thank you Rav Benny for all you taught me, for all the important things you did, for all the smiles and laughs, all the time we spent together.
Benny was funny, he loved to smile, he loved to laugh. He loved diet cream soda, he loved to swim, he loved walking, he cherished his independence, travel and was intellectually curious. Rav Benny loved sorbet, he enjoyed debates, philosophy and his family. He was learned, he was charismatic, he was caring, sensitive, devoted and very intelligent. He was an Orthodox Jew who loved Torah, who loved the people and Land of Israel with his entire soul.
The great Jew Hillel said: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” That was Benny Elon — who worked to ensure that Israel remains the Jewish nation and on a daily basis fought for Jewish rights. Benny acted and worked without rest for the people of Israel.
May his wife Emunah, six children, fourteen grandchildren and entire family be comforted among the mourners of Zion. The loss of Benny Elon is a loss for all of Am Israel. Benny Elon was a Jewish hero. A great great man. Thank you Benny Elon for all you did for the Jewish people. Baruch Dayan Emet. I love you and miss you.
Ronn Torossian is a New York-based entrepreneur.