LGBTQ+ Israelis have been receiving a text message telling them they should be killed or deported unless they “repent” of their sin.
Thousands of them received the message Monday, Agudah: The Association for LGBTQ Equality in Israel confirmed to The Jerusalem Post.
“You are LGBT and an apostate,” the message reads. “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.”
Yeshiva Ohr Elhanan is an Orthodox Jewish religious school in Jerusalem. Orthodox Judaism is not accepting of LGBTQ+ identity, unlike the Conservative and Reform branches of the faith.
The message said it was sent by Rabbi Chaim Aryeh Hadash, head of the school, and included a phone number and a Telegram account to contact. Hadash denied that he had any connection to the message and said neither he nor the yeshiva had addressed LGBTQ+ issues. He urged police to investigate.
Agudah and another LGBTQ+ organization, Havruta, called on Hadash to publicly denounce the message and to “prevent the further great desecration of God that has already been done,” the Post reports. They also offered Hadash the opportunity for a dialogue with religious LGBTQ+ Jews.
Yoram Hacohen, director-general of the Israel Internet Association, raised the possibility that whoever sent the message used data collected in a ransomware attack by a hacker group called Black Shadow. The group attacked a dating website, Atraf, in October.
“Since these are text messages, it is possible to find out their source and take criminal action against the perpetrators,” he said.
Police have opened an investigation. Agudah encouraged anyone who had received the message to report it at the group’s website or directly to police.