During a special Committee on the Preparations of the Education System and Special Education, MK Nitzan Horowitz , said the fact that the state is funding a pre-military academy that is headed by someone who supports conversion therapy is a real danger that may lead students to suicidality and self-infliction.
“I asked to hold this meeting not to discuss the boundaries of free speech, but to examine whether the Education Ministry provides each teenage girl and boy an environment that is safe from threats, pressures and treatments; to check if the system presents a moral stance of tolerance and love of human beings towards the students, particularly the LGBTQ students,” Horowitz said during Tuesday’s meeting.
The education coordinator of religious groups at Israel Gay Youth (IGY), a voluntary Israeli NGO for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and questioning youth, told the committee about the conversion therapy she went through:
“I grew up in a Haredi home, and after my sexual orientation became known, I was sent to conversion treatments that did not include electric shock treatment, but (I was told repeatedly) that I must change and that I am not worthy of anything if I do not change. Two years of such talk, on a weekly basis, led me to tell my therapist that I would rather die than live according to her suggestions. This is the place to say that conversion treatments do not really work.”
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz, founder and CEO of the Hashgacha Pratit organization, said that 15 years ago, as the rabbi of a community in Jerusalem, “I demanded that the Gay Pride Parade not be held in Jerusalem. In light of that demand, I was approached by a few members of the community who were still ‘in the closet,’ and following a series of meetings, I came face to face with the experience of being a religious homosexual, and I heard stories about attempts to change. Harming the other must be prohibited by law, and therefore conversion treatments should also be forbidden.”
Summing up the meeting, Committee Chairman MK Horowitz said conversion treatments are apparently more common among girls and boys than previously thought, and involve hefty payments. “This cannot continue,” he said. “The Education Ministry must act on this in a decisive manner and issue a very clear circular letter from the director general.”