Discussing Conversion ‘Therapy’ in Israel: What’s the Role of the State?

LISTEN: Columnist Don Futterman, educator Noah Efron and Times of Israel Ops & Blogs Editor Miriam Herschlag, three hetero cisgender Israelis, mull over “conversion therapy” being offered in Israel by ultra-Orthodox therapists for men who wish to stop being attracted to other men.

In an article on Ynet last week an investigative journalist named Adir Yanko described an undercover visit he paid to ultra orthodox psychotherapist Ilan Karten who runs a conversion ‘therapy,’ or ‘repressive therapy’ clinic.

Karten, a Haredi immigrant from the U.S. councils gay Haredi men on how to fight their attraction to men. “Even though there is an attraction, it doesn’t mean that you have to give in to it,” he says to them.

He compares homosexuality to cocaine: “it can feel natural but it doesn’t mean that it’s good and natural to you.”

Karten showed the journalist a binder of letters from his satisfied patients, and one said ‘next Wednesday I’ll start dating for the first time, G-d willing. I know that the tendency isn’t gone and I’m dealing with it, but I know that I have the tools to do so. It’s clear to me that the level of attraction has gone down significantly.’

Karten is one of around 70 or 80 people who offer conversion therapies, 20-30 of them are licensed psychologists or social workers. In her opening of the discussion, Miriam Herschlag mentioned JONAH, who was banned in the U.S. but arose in Israel.

Does Israel have a special situation in which legislating the ban on conversion ‘therapy’ given that we have a Haredi community and other communities with very strongly different values? Listen to the discussion in the podcast