wrong number

Thousands of queer Israelis texted to “repent” or face “punishment, death and deportation”

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Thousands of LGBTQ Israelis have received an anonymous text message warning them to “repent” for their lifestyles.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the message went out on December 20 without explanation.

“You are LGBT and an apostate,” the message read. “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.”

The message also included a telegram and phone number for Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Hadash, the rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ohr Elhanan. Ironically, it was Hadash himself who first notified police of the message. He denies any connection to it.

Related: Gay couple beaten by mob in Israeli city of Jaffa; hundreds stand and watch

Meanwhile, the director-general of the Israel Internet Association, Yoram Hacohen, has called on the Israeli government to investigate the message. He suspects that it could be linked to a terrorist attack by hacker group Black Shadow, which leaked private information from an Israeli dating website in October.

“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,” Hacohen said in a statement.

LGBTQ rights groups have also called on Rabbi Hadash to publicly condemn the attack to “prevent the further great desecration of God that has already been done.”

Though Israel is considered a bastion of LGBTQ equality within the Middle East, queer people there still face a good deal of social stigma. 2019 saw a 54% rise in homophobic incidents as well as a public denunciation of queer people by Shlomo Amar, the Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.