Haredi teen released after being forcibly hospitalized for being gay

The teen was forcibly hospitalized for allegedly posing a threat, although a court found the decision was made based on shaky evidence.

The Jerusalem Post/August 19, 2021

By Tzi Joffre

A court has ordered the release of a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) teen after he was forcibly hospitalized for being homosexual, even though a Health Ministry psychiatric committee claimed that he posed a threat to himself and others, according to N12 news.

The court found that the committee relied on "shaky evidence," mostly provided by the teenager's family, who is against his sexual orientation and tried to claim he was dangerous.

The teenager had previously been treated by a psychiatrist and other therapists, including with medication, although he said it didn't help. Apparently pressured by his family, he went to a hospital for an examination, but was released for further psychiatric follow-up when no reason was found to hospitalize him.

His family members began claiming that he was aggressive and threatening, but went back on their claims in court. An order was issued to hospitalize the teenager against his will, placing him in a psychiatric ward at a hospital, according to N12.

The boy received legal assistance from the Justice Ministry and appealed to the Tel Aviv District Court concerning the order, denying the claims that he had ever threatened his family. The court accepted the appeal and released him, writing in the decision that "There are few cases in which an appellant appears in court whose lack of dangerousness and innocence is evident. Homosexual sexual orientation and thoughts of a sexual nature do not in themselves pose a danger to themselves or others - and of course, do not constitute a justification for forcibly hospitalizing a person."

The judge ruled that the committee based its decision on a "shaky factual basis," stating: "The impression given is that the appellant's parents, to some extent through the appellant himself - an innocent young man who relied on his parents - were the ones who pushed for his hospitalization. The description of the facts gives the impression that the appellant's sexual orientation, and its conflict with his parents' world of values, played a significant part in the hospitalization."

Attorney Daniel Raz, director of the Forced Hospitalization field in the Legal Aid department of the Justice Ministry, criticized the hospital and the committee for failing to examine the facts surrounding the teenager's lack of danger.
The office of Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz told N12 in response to the report that "This is a shocking case that will be investigated immediately to make sure we do not see similar mistakes."

Netanel Shaler, director-general of the Havruta organization for LGBTQ+ religious Jewish men, stated in response that "the community that sends its sons to forced hospitalization just because of sexual orientation has a lot of forgiveness to ask for in the month of Elul.

"We mention that sexual orientation is not a sin in Judaism, but a prohibition that is actually found in the Torah is 'Cursed be he who strikes down his fellow in secret,'" added Shaler, demanding that the Health Ministry investigate the incident and ensure that other such incidents do not occur.

This isn't the first time the healthcare system in Israel has come under fire for providing inappropriate care to youth due to sexual orientation.

In 2019, an investigation by the Ulpan Shishi program of Channel 12 revealed a trend in haredi communities in which youth who use smartphones, learn physics, express sexual desires or have other behaviors seen as problematic by educators are sent to psychiatrists along with “educators” and receive medication meant for patients suffering from schizophrenia and depression.

The “educators” often describe symptoms to the psychiatrist without the student being present in the room.

The haredi youth subjected to the unnecessary psychiatric care were commonly prescribed with either Prizma or Risperdal, the latter of which is also known as Risperidone. Risperdal, which causes a suppression of sexual desire, can cause weight gain and high blood pressure. Parkinson’s Disease is a very common side effect, with one out of 10 patients being affected.

Youths with doubts about faith or sexual thoughts – or even those who just want to work – are sent to receive pills meant for schizophrenia in some haredi communities, according to the investigation. The psychiatrists involved aren’t diagnosing these youths with schizophrenia, but rather are looking for the side effects of certain drugs that cause the suppression of sexual desire.

Ulpan Shishi sent undercover former haredim with hidden cameras to psychiatrists who are popularly used by the community in these situations.

Prof. Omer Boneh, director of the psychiatry department at Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, prescribed the man undercover with an anti-anxiety medication with a side effect that lowers the “undesired things” (sexual thoughts in this case). Another doctor issued a prescription and diagnosis without the "patient" even being in the room.

“From the age of 9 until 15, I took psychiatric pills that I didn’t need,” said Kobi Winberg, a former yeshiva student whose rosh yeshiva sent him for psychiatric care to Ulpan Shishi. “I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. It made me depressed. It turned me into a shadow of myself. I didn’t want it. They gave it to me by force.”

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