JERUSALEM (VINnews) — A probe has been initiated by Israel’s Health Ministry into 4 psychiatrists, after a Channel 12 report accused them of prescribing unnecessary medications to Yeshiva students, including minors. The medication was allegedly given to inhibit untoward desires.
In an expose aired over the weekend, Channel 12 sent two formerly ultra-Orthodox men undercover to seek care from the prominent mental health professionals — Prof. Omer Boneh, the head of the psychiatry department at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital; Prof. Abraham Weizman of Tel Aviv University; Dr. Michael Bontzel of the Maayanei Hayeshua hospital in Bnei Brak; and Dr. Tali Vishne — after allegedly receiving claims from former yeshiva students of the phenomenon, which was ostensibly sought for religious reasons, reports the Times Of Israel.
The undercover operatives, who are formerly ultra-Orthodox – primarily from Hasidic familes – allege that they were prescribed heavy anti-psychotic or antidepressant drugs after admitting to having unclean thoughts, including about other men.
The practice of supressing libido is allegeded to have been started by the Gur Chassidus in the 1990s. The practice is alleged to have spread to other Hasidic communities that also uphold strict gender separations and modesty laws.
“For three years of my life I was in yeshiva without coming out [of the closet],” Kobi Weinberg told Channel 12. “The condition was that I take the pills. From the age of 9 until 15 I took psychiatric pills that I didn’t need. I didn’t eat and I didn’t sleep, it made me depressed and it made me a shadow of my former self. I didn’t want it. They also forcibly gave it to me, a teacher grabbed my throat, put the pill in and poured water.”
Channel 12 also interviewed former Yeshiva mentors who claimed the practice was true.
Haaretz reported on Monday that the Health Ministry has demanded explanations from the 4 doctors in question, and will continue to investigate.
“The ministry will investigate the claims that arose from the investigation and if any faults in the medical treatment are found, it will act to the fullest extent of the law,” it said.
According to Haaretz, the Health Ministry does not expect any disciplinary actions to be taken as a result of the investigation, since this is not in fact a new accusation. Similar claims arose over the past decade against 3 out of the 4 doctors being investigated currently, to no avail.
Dr. Zvi Fishel of the Israel Psychiatric Association told Haaretz that the practice is “a wrongful act in any case that is not a sex offender, and we strongly oppose it.”
However Dr. Fishel warns the public to not jump to conclusions yet, since “no one knows what really happened in those meetings as part of the report.”