Thousands of LGBTQ+ Israelis receive messages saying they 'deserve death'

Thousands of LGBTQ+ Israelis received text messages saying they "deserve severe punishment, death and deportation."

LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
LGBT flag on Jerusalem's King George Street, July 31, 2018
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Thousands of LGBTQ+ Israelis received text messages saying they "deserve severe punishment, death and deportation" and calling on them to "repent" on Monday, according to the Agudah - The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel.

"You are LGBT and an apostate. You deserve severe punishment, death and deportation from Israel. Come to Yeshiva Ohr Elhanan in order to repent. We would be glad if you undergo conversion to faith," read the message sent to thousands of LGBTQ+ Israelis.

The message included a phone number and a Telegram account to contact and stated that it was sent by Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Hadash, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Elhanan. The rabbi has denied that he has any connection to the message, telling KAN news that he has never talked about the issue and the issue is not addressed in his yeshiva.

Hadash called on police to investigate who sent the messages.

The Agudah and the Havruta organization for LGBTQ+ religious Jewish men called in a letter for Hadash to publish a public condemnation of the messages sent in his name and to "prevent the further great desecration of God that has already been done."

The two organizations also invited Hadash to a dialogue with the LGBTQ+ religious Jewish community.

It is as of yet unclear if the person who sent the messages used information leaked by the Black Shadow hacker group after a ransomware attack against the Atraf dating website in October.

The director-general of the Israel Internet Association, Yoram Hacohen, called for police to investigate whether the person who sent the text used data from the Black Shadow attack, adding that "Since these are text messages, it is possible to find out their source and take criminal action against the perpetrators."

"These are, on the face of it, elements who have grossly violated the Privacy Protection Law - I call on Israel Police to act immediately to locate the perpetrators. They have the tools to do that," said Hacohen.

Israel Police opened an investigation into the messages on Monday afternoon, saying it would work to unveil and locate the suspects involved in the case.

The Agudah called on people who received the text message to report the incident here or to file a complaint directly with Israel Police.

Those who need a listening ear can contact the Agudah's hotline "There is always someone to talk to" by dialing *2982 or on WhatsApp at 058-6205591.

The hotline operates Sunday through Thursday and on Saturday night from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

The incident comes just days after a seminar hosted by the 105 hotline for the protection of children online concerning harm against LGBTQ+ youth online.

Research presented during the seminary found that in discussions including harmful content against LGBTQ+ youth, 41% involved derogatory names without any specific context, including curses and slander.

23% of the examined discussions involved religion. Most of the discussions were started by religious LGBTQ+ youth looking for advice on how to live with their religious and sexual identities. Most of these cases involved references to conversion therapy, unacceptance, delegitimization and exclusion.

22% of the harmful discussions involved a lack of acceptance, while 10% involved threats of harm.

Over the course of a year, the researchers examined over 6,000 discussions involving participants between the ages of 12 to 18 on online forums, focusing on 115 discussions in specific.