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  • Israel's Education Minister Rafi Peretz at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 24, 2019

    Israel's Education Minister Rafi Peretz at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 24, 2019 | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 July 2019

Peretz, Israel's education minister and an Orthodox rabbi says he believes in gay 'conversion therapy' because he has “done this.”

 

Israel's education minister says gay "conversion therapy" works because he has conducted it on students. 

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Rafael Peretz, an Orthodox rabbi and head of the ultranationalist United Right party who assumed the role as the education leader within Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet last month, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV he believes in conversion therapy because he has “done this.”

"I have a very deep familiarity with the issue of education, and I have also done this," he said in an interview with a Channel 12 reporter.

The minister gave an example of a gay person he tended to: “First of all, I embraced him. I said very warm things to him. I told him, 'Let's think. Let's study. And let's contemplate.' The objective is first of all for him to know himself well ... and then he will decide," explained the official about his methods to convert the young man away from being gay.

Conversion therapy, an attempt to alter one's sexual orientation or gender identity through psychological, spiritual or even physical means, has been widely discredited by scientists and health professionals and associations. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says the therapy “lacks credibility and clinical utility,” adding it “should not be part of any behavioral health treatment of children and adolescents." 

The minister's remarks enraged many Israelis, particularly those in the center-left opposition. Ahead of fresh September elections called because Netanyahu couldn't garner a government, the opposition says the primier is empowering right-wing Orthodox in a territory where the majority of Jews identify as secular, or are hardly religiously observant.

Israel's LGBT Task Force advocacy group is demanding Peretz be fired, saying in a statement his views were "benighted." Nitzan Horowitz who leads to left-wing Meretz political party, called the therapy “a dangerous practice which causes extremely severe circumstances for youths, including suicide." At least seven U.S. states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have laws against the application of the so-called therapy, according to Human Rights Watch.

Shortly after the interview Netanyahu said he spoke to Peretz for "clarification".

"The education minister's remarks regarding the pride community are unacceptable to me and do not reflect the position of the government that I head," the prime minister said in a statement.

Just this week, Peretz reportedly told other ministers that the intermarriage of Jews and non-Jews is equal to a "second Holocaust".

During the Saturday interview, Peretz described himself as striving to balance respect for others, no matter their sexual orientation, with his duties as a religious leader.

"I honor everyone as people. I admit that I, personally - I am a rabbi of Israel. Our Torah tells us other things. But that does not mean that I look about now and give them grades," he said.

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