Ex-Haredi woman dies by suicide after speaking of difficulties leaving religion

Haya Valer, 22, was recently interviewed by Channel 12 about her experiences, including being put on anti-psychotic drugs after expressing doubts

Hay Valer (Channel 12 screenshot)
Hay Valer (Channel 12 screenshot)

A 22-year-old formerly ultra-Orthodox woman died by suicide in Jerusalem Wednesday, months after saying in an interview that she was “experiencing difficult emotional processes” over her departure from her family’s religion.

Haya Valer grew up in the hard-line Satmar Hasidic sect.

Several months ago she told Channel 12 during an interview that when she expressed doubts to her mother as a teenager and after she ran away from home, she was taken to a man who gave pills she and her mother thought would make her feel better, but she became incredibly depressed. It later turned out he had given her an anti-psychotic drug to stop her from running away again.

At 18, Valer left religion and had become well known in Jerusalem’s ex-religious community.

“I’m living in a shared apartment,” she told Channel 12. “I’m going through difficult emotional processes. I’m dealing with all the trauma I went though as a child. I’m in contact with my family but mostly technically. My relations with them are not good.”

Local Jerusalem paper Kol Hair reported that Valer’s friends expressed shock and sadness on social media, while noting the painful experience of those who leave the orthodox fold.

Some 1,000 ultra-Orthodox Israelis are believed to renounce their religion every year. They risk being banished by the families and losing access to their children.

The Hillel association that supports people who leave religious communities estimates there are tens of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel who have inwardly renounced strict Haredi practices.

“The price to pay is so high” for openly rejecting Haredi life, Hillel head Yair Hass said.

AFP contributed to this report.

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