Haredi Man Was Forcibly Hospitalized in Psych Ward Because He's Gay, Israeli Court Rules

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A bed at Geha Psychiatric Hospital, Petah Tikva.
A bed at Geha Psychiatric Hospital, Petah Tikva.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

A gay ultra-Orthodox man was forcibly and unjustifiably committed to a psychiatric ward because his "sexual orientation clashed with his parents’ values," an Israeli court has determined.   

The yeshiva student was hospitalized after a psychiatric committee, relying on the testimony of the man’s family and a counselor in his yeshiva, decided that he was a danger to himself and others.

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The young man appealed the decision in Tel Aviv District Court and the court granted his appeal, ordering his release.

"There are very few cases in which a person appears in court to appeal a committee’s decision and his lack of dangerousness is so evident," Tel Aviv District Court Judge Yaron Levy wrote in his ruling. Furthermore, he said, being gay and having "thoughts of a sexual nature do not constitute a danger to himself or others, and obviously do not constitute a justification for forcibly committing someone."

The young man, a yeshiva student, was previously treated by a psychiatrist, including with medication, at his parents’ recommendation. In the 24 hours before his hospitalization, he  came twice to the emergency room accompanied by the counselor of the yeshiva where he lives. In medical documents, he described his attraction to men and his parents’ attempts to try various “corrections.”

The first time he came to the emergency room, he was deemed not dangerous and was not admitted. Not long afterward, he came back to the emergency room. This time, the yeshiva counselor and his mother both attested to him having angry outbursts that included shouting and threats to kill his mother. The mother later recanted the claims of threats.

As a result of the claims by the counselor and mother, an admission order was issued and the man was forcibly committed. The official reason given for his hospitalization was what was termed an impression of a manic psychotic state with disturbances in the organization of thought, and evidence of uncontrolled behavior that endangered himself and others.

Two days later, he was brought before a psychiatric committee, as required, to consider his continued hospitalization or release. The committee chairwoman, who was in the minority, thought there was no justification for keeping him hospitalized. Consequently, the young man filed an appeal through the Justice Ministry’s Tel Aviv legal aid office. In it, the young man denied that he threatened his family, and the appeal was accepted.

Judge Levy wrote in his ruling: “The committee appears to have based its decision on a flimsy evidentiary basis. It appears that the appellant’s parents, to a certain extent via the appellant himself – an innocent young man who relied on his parents – are the ones who pushed for his hospitalization. From the factual description before the court, and the parents’ absence from the sessions today as well as from the committee hearing, the impression is that the appellant’s sexual orientation and its clash with his parents’ value system played a significant part in his hospitalization.”

Attorney Daniel Raz, head of the legal aid department that deals with forced hospitalizations, was critical of the psychiatric committee members, saying they did not thoroughly examine the facts and that the only reason he was hospitalized, "as the court noted," was that he was gay. 

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