Gay Israeli support group promotes 'conversion therapy'

Jewish Weekly/March 3, 2011

An online support group for ultra-Orthodox gays and lesbians in Israel is now offering psychological "conversion therapies" to those who want to go straight.

The association even plans to subsidize these treatments for its disadvantaged members who cannot afford to pay for them.

The move, is expected to reignite the dispute over these treatments' efficiency and mental risks.

Kamoha, which means "like you" in Hebrew, is the first pro-gay group that also does not rule out the notion that a gay person can become straight. The association is now setting up a charity to fund "conversion therapy" for religious men aged 18 to 25 who are attracted to people of their own sex.

The organization's manifesto states that "it is the right of people interested in psychological treatment for their sexual inclination to implement this method of therapy, while acknowledging that this does not guarantee change and that the results and success rate of this process have not been proven sufficiently."

In a letter to potential donors, Kamoha director Amit (not his real name), who is gay, says that most of those who wish to undergo therapy cannot afford to pay for it. They are usually people in their early 20s, who are in the army, in high school or university, or studying Torah.

"What all these situations have in common is that these are young men and women who are not free to work for their living and depend on their parents' money, and due to the sensitive issue cannot ask them for money for therapy," Amit adds.

"Many rabbis support this initiative and think it's an important enterprise which could save lives."

In a recent interview with Ha'aretz, Amit admitted to having undergone conversion therapy that did not work, but said that he saw no reason why others could not benefit from it.

Explaining his surprising stance, Amit says that "there is no clear ruling in the world of research that one can change or cannot change, and history proves that there are those who tried and succeeded and those who tried and failed.

"In any event, as religious-faithful people, it is of crucial importance to get psychological therapy in order to try to change, or to look into the possibility of such a change."

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