Israeli education minister walks back support for conversion ‘therapy’

Education Minister Rafi Peretz speaks at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, July 4, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) 

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz condemned conversion “therapy” for gays and said claims he supports it were inaccurate.

Peretz, a rabbi, addressed the subject Tuesday in a letter to principals following an international outcry over his remarks about gays in a television interview aired on Saturday night by Channel 12.

Also Tuesday, he retracted his remark about intermarriage being “like a second Holocaust.”

Conversion sessions “are a serious and wrong thing, this is my position and it is unequivocal. I understand this is an invasive treatment that is incompatible with the human soul, causes patients more suffering than relief and can endanger lives through suicidal tendencies,” Peretz wrote.

In the television interview, journalist Dana Weiss asked Peretz: “By the way, do you support conversion therapy? Do you believe that people with such tendencies can be converted?”

Peretz replied: “I think it’s possible. I think it’s possible. I can tell you I have a profound familiarity with the subject of education and I’ve done it.”

Asked about that experience, Peretz said: “First, I hugged him. I spoke to him very warmly. I told him, ‘Let’s think, let’s learn, let’s observe.’”

Weiss asked about the purpose of the observation process.

“The purpose is firstly that he knows himself well. And then he’ll decide. I present him with the data and tell him, ‘That’s it, at this point I’m leaving you. Now you decide.”

Peretz also said he does not oppose funding IGY, a youth movement for the LGBTQ community.