Israel Homosexuality Protest
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish demonstrators hold a sign as they protest against a gay pride parade passing nearby in Jerusalem July 29, 2010. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

The mental health curriculum of a number of Israeli academic institutions has stirred up a controversy by retaining a portion in a textbook which states that homosexuality is a disorder that should be treated to aid normal sexual development.

Psychiatry experts, educators and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) activists have severely criticized the portion about homosexuality in the most recent edition of Prakim nivharim b'psichiatria (Select Chapters in Psychiatry) written by Prof. Shmuel Tiano, former director of the Geha Psychiatric Hospital in Petah Tikva, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

The textbook describes the most accepted approach today regarding homosexuality and transgender identity among children as a disorder that can be cured through therapy, citing the theory of noted American psychiatrist Charles Socarides, who believed that homosexuality can be altered.

The gay community has circulated an online petition demanding the removal of the controversial portion from the curriculum, which has collected above 500 signatures within a day.

The section, which has been in the curriculum for the past eight years, became a target of gay community criticism after Gidi Rubinstein, a psychotherapist who has gay and bisexual clients, wrote a column in a magazine Hazman Havarod criticizing the inclusion of the section in a 2010 reprint, without alteration.

In its current edition, the chapter on homosexuality not only constitutes a declaration of homophobia, but it educates future therapists and educators to be homophobic, Rubinstein told Haaretz.

The author of the section, Tiano justified it saying that it was a historical survey, but admitted that there is a word or two that needs to be proofread.

In advance of the next edition of the book, I commit to carry out additional proofreading and to change the two or three words that have to be changed in the chapter, Tiano said.