Authorities Coping with Rise in Drug Abuse; Old Jerusalem Main Center

Israeli authorities are grappling with a problem they believed to be foreign to their soil and to Jewish society generally–the alarming increase in the use of narcotics. According to an inquiry currently underway by the Criminological Institute of Tel Aviv University, narcotics use jumped sharply during 1970 compared to the preceding three year period. Police opened 373 prosecution files and brought charges against 405 individuals on narcotics counts during the first half of this year alone, the inquiry disclosed. They confiscated 3179 kilograms of hashish and 812 kilograms of opium. Major quantities were seized at Haifa port and Lydda Airport. Authorities tend to blame the rising use of drugs here on the influx of visitors, especially youths, from Western countries in recent years and the closer contacts with Arabs since the Six-Day War. The Old City of Jerusalem has been pin-pointed as the main center of the wholesale drug trade. Most of the recent narcotics cases originated in Israel’s southern district which includes Jerusalem and the Negev. Last year 345 tourists were arrested in Israel on charges of illegal possession of drugs. About 200 of them came from the United States or Canada. According to authorities, they included “quite a few Jews and non-Jews” who came to Israel to buy narcotics intending to smuggle it into their own countries.

Cases of narcotics use have cropped up in kibbutzim and at ulpanim where tourists and new immigrants study Hebrew. Among the users arrested were students, volunteer youths and Orthodox yeshiva students. In many cases fines imposed by the courts were paid on the spot by the kibbutzim concerned. Authorities say the influx of foreign dope smugglers this year stems from the low price of drugs on the Israeli market. The price of hashish in Israel was $160 per kilogram compared to $2500 per kilogram in North America. Israeli police are said to have information that organized narcotics gangs in North America are in regular contact with dealers in Old Jerusalem. They have passed on their information to narcotics authorities in the U.S. and Canada. Drug traffic is not new to the Middle East. But the narcotics smugglers who once used ships passing through the Suez Canal now route the drugs through Israel. According to Dr. Louis Miller, director of mental health services at the Health Ministry, the problem would not have assumed serious proportions were it not for visiting foreign youths whom he described as “drifters” rather than bona fide tourists. He said that they and some foreign students at Israeli universities were introducing a drug culture to hitherto untouched Israeli youths. Dr. Miller noted that among Israeli drug offenders there has been a significant shift to the higher social and economic levels of the population. According to statistics, in 1966 one in ten offenders was a juvenile; in 1970, one in three was under 18 years of age.

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