Helping our son


The question I put before you is very difficult. Last week, my 20-year-old son, who is completing his first year in a fighting unit in the Israel Defense Forces, came to my husband and me and told us he is gay. We were in shock. Maybe we have been blind to some behaviors, but for the most part it was not at all expected. We are devastated and are not ready to accept this. We asked him to give up all his gay behaviors, such as looking on the Internet to meet with other gay men and try to be straight.

We said that if he were a drug addict, he would try to get clean and that the mind controls the body. We even offered to arrange for him to be with a girl to help him see the beauty of a woman. We told him being gay is a hard life, and that even though he loves children, he will not be able to have a family. Life is not easy when you travel the regular path, so how much harder it will be to go on the unbeaten road. He is a very good boy who always tries to please. But he is very confused and suffering from emotional pain. Is there any way we can help him to make a positive change and lead a straight life? We feel there might be a way to help him lead a proper life the way that God made men and women. – T.M., Ariel
Dr. Ronny Shtarkshall, senior lecturer in health behavior, sexuality and reproductive health at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, replies:
My heart goes out to you. It is extremely hard to raise children without having to cope with something that is against your beliefs and principles. I would like to assure you that God made homosexual people the way they are. As far as human knowledge goes, there is no way to change what God made. There are some fundamentalist Christians who claim they can do this, but all the evidence points to the fact that this is wishful thinking. Much damage has been done to people who have gone to these so-called “change clinics” or camps.
Your son is struggling with a difficult situation and needs a lot of support and help. The fact that he came to you should be a sign of how much he loves, needs, respects and trusts you not to let him down. I hope you will not do so. The comparison to drug use is a problematic analogy because this is a dependence of externally administered chemicals; as far as we know, homosexuality comes from our own central nervous system.
For such a man, there are just two alternatives. He could lead a gay life with a partner and either adopt children (which is difficult for gay couples) or have children by a host mother. This is a difficult decision for a gay religious man, but you should know that there are Orthodox Jewish gay communities in Israel. The second is even more difficult. If he can tolerate marrying a woman and having a sexual relationship with her without disclosing to her his sexual orientation – which will not change – he will live a life of lies and fear all his life.
You and he face many difficulties in your extended family and religious community. But it is much better for you to face reality together with your son, supporting each other and finding solace in the love you have for each other, than in, God forbid, losing him.
I love doing barbecues on our balcony at home at least once a week during the warmer months and enjoy meat, but I know that health experts recommend against this because of the toxins created when meat is exposed to high temperatures. Is there any way to reduce the formation of this toxins and still enjoy frequent barbecues? – F.B., Haifa.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich comments:
Indeed, experts say that heterocyclic amines, which are produced during barbecuing meat and poultry, have been connected to some cancers and should be avoided whenever possible. A recent issue of the Journal of Food Science reported that marinating them in liquid with the herb rosemary before barbecuing, frying or broiling can lower the risk by reducing the formation of these toxins.
Rosemary contains several antioxidants – rosmarinic acid, carnosic acid and carnosol – that reduce the formation of oxygen free radicals that cause cells in the body to change and break down, which with continued exposure can lead to cancer. According to the article, if you don’t like rosemary, using marinades with onion, garlic and lemon juice could also help reduce the toxins. But in general, it’s best to minimize consumption of meat exposed to high temperatures.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to