Menachem Elon

Menachem Elon

Former Deputy President Supreme Court of Israel
Native name מנחם אלון
Born (1923-11-01)November 1, 1923
Düsseldorf, Germany
Died February 6, 2013(2013-02-06) (aged 89)
Jerusalem, Israel
Nationality Israeli
Alma mater
Occupation Jurist
Religion Judaism
Spouse(s) Ruth Elon (Buchsbaum)

Menachem Elon (Hebrew:  מנחם אלון ) (November 1, 1923 – February 6, 2013) was an Israeli jurist and Professor of Law specializing in Mishpat Ivri, an Orthodox rabbi, and a prolific author on traditional Jewish law (halakha). He was the head of the Jewish Law Institute of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Elon served as a justice on the Israeli Supreme Court from 1977–1993 and as its Deputy President from 1988–1993. In 1983 he was a candidate for the President of the State of Israel.

Candidates for President of Israel in 1983: Prof. Menachem Elon (coalition) and MK Chaim Herzog (opposition) in Beit HaNassi in Jerusalem
Menachem Elon (sitting third from left) With Supreme Court Justices on the roof of the old Israeli Supreme Court building in the Russian Compound in Jerusalem (1992)
Professor Menachem Elon, Lecturing in the New York University
Judge Elon and Judge Shamgar
"Jerusalem Covenant" written by Elon in 1992


Menachem Fetter (later Elon) was born in Düsseldorf, Germany[1] into a religious Jewish family from Hasidic backgrounds. Elon's family fled to the Netherlands a year before Nazism's ascent in Germany. In 1935 Elon's family immigrated to Palestine. In 1938 he studied Halakha (traditional Jewish law) in the Hebron Yeshiva, and was ordained as a rabbi by chief rabbis Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel and Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog. He was among the founders of a yeshiva high school Midrashiat Noam in Pardes Hanna and served for two years as a teacher there, and became one of the founders of the religious Kibbutz Tirat Zvi in the Beit She'an Valley.[2]

The Elon family, a member of the religious Zionist elite, is entrenched in the world of law, politics, Literature and halakha (Jewish religious law). In 1949 Menachem Elon married Ruth Buchsbaum, the daughter of Dr. Mordechai Buchsbaum, an Orthodox Jewish attorney and a former deputy mayor of Jerusalem. Amongst Elon's five children are Rabbi Binyamin Elon (married to writer Emuna Elon), a former member of Knesset and cabinet minister (Minister of Tourism, 2001–2004), Rabbi Mordechai Elon, the former head of Yeshivat HaKotel, Joseph ("Sefi") Elon, a district judge in Be'er Sheva and temporary judge of the Supreme Court of Israel (2007–2009), and Ari Elon, who is secular and a lecturer on the Bible.

Academic career

Elon earned his diploma from the Tel Aviv School of Law and Economics in 1948. In the early 1950s he worked as an attorney in private practice while at the same time completing an MA in Talmud, Jewish history, and philosophy at Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1962 he received his doctorate. In 1955 he began a parallel career as a lecturer in Hebrew law at Hebrew University, and was subsequently appointed teaching associate, senior lecturer, associate professor, and, in 1972, Professor of Jewish Law. He also served as a guest lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Oxford University, University College of London, McGill University, and University of Pennsylvania and as a visiting professor at Harvard University School of Law and at New York University School of Law.

In 1963 Elon was appointed head of the Institute for Research in Jewish Law at the Hebrew University where he edited 10 volumes of The Annual of the Institute for Research in Jewish Law as well as a digest of the response of the medieval authorities. From 1968 to 1971 he served as editor of the Division of Jewish Law of the Encyclopedia Judaica and served as the editor of the Encyclopaedia Hebraica.

He played a pivotal role in the Mishpat Ivri (Hebrew Law) movement. Among his many works, he authored the foundational Jewish Law : History, Sources, Principles[3] – a monumental, three-volume book on Hebrew law for academic use and the training of Israeli law students.[4] In 1955, he was appointed senior assistant to the Attorney General of Israel Haim Cohn and from 1959 to 1966 Elon served as adviser on Jewish Law to the Israel Ministry of Justice, a job which included writing legal opinions based on Jewish law regarding every law proposed in Knesset. He was a member of numerous Israeli Public Inquiry committees and he served on committees to prepare legal proposals in various fields of civil law.

In 1979, Elon was awarded the Israel Prize for Hebrew law.[5]

Supreme Court of Israel

In 1977 he was appointed to the Israeli Supreme Court. Elon's rulings often drew upon the principles of Jewish law; he sought to incorporate traditional halakha into the corpus of Israeli civil law.[6] Elon emerged as a prominent critic of former president of the Supreme Court Aharon Barak's judicial activism.

Elon was involved in a number of important verdicts, including the acquittal of Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk.

Among Elon's prominent decisions were a ruling prohibiting registering the character of non-Orthodox conversions on Israeli identity cards, one ordering the return of a girl who had been transferred for adoption without her parent's consent, and the decision to order a local religious service committee to accept Leah Shakdiel as its first female member.[7] In 1988 he ruled that active euthanasia ('mercy killing') was illegal, because it negated the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish state (Yael Shefer v. The State of Israel).

In 1988 he was promoted to the position of deputy president of the Supreme Court, under Meir Shamgar. He served in this position until his retirement in 1993 after 16 years as a justice; he was succeeded as deputy president by Aharon Barak.

Presidential nomination

Supported by Menachem Begin and the coalition (Likud party), Elon was nearly selected as President of the State of Israel, losing in a close vote (61–57) to his childhood friend Chaim Herzog in 1983.

Resumption of academic career

After retiring from the Supreme Court in 1993, he was elected President of the World Union of Jewish Studies and served in that capacity until 2005.[8] In 1995 he founded and became the founding dean of Sha'arei Mishpat College for the first eight years of its existence.[9] Elon headed a number of non-profit organizations and sat on the boards of others. He also continued to write and teach at universities around the world. In 1992, Elon wrote the "Jerusalem Covenant" – a mosaic dealing with the centrality of Jerusalem in Jewish life – signed on the 25th Jerusalem Day.

Menachem Elon died in Jerusalem in February 6, 2013 and was buried in Har HaMenuchot (Jerusalem). He was 89.

Awards and honors

Published works

Selected works in English

Original writings (Hebrew)

Edited books

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Menachem Elon.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Menachem Elon
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 8/23/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.