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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Although new immigrants have significantly higher rates of drug use, Knesset members acknowledged that they were consistently underfunding anti-drug programs during a meeting Monday of the Knesset's Immigration Committee.
In a study conducted by Dr. Rachel Bar-Hamburger, chief scientist of the Anti-Drug Authority of Israel, immigrant communities that were monitored from 1989 to the present day only began to show higher rates of drug use in 1995.
"The data suggests that it was not simply the immigration process that caused drug use. Something changed, something in their actual absorption here, that has created this trend," said Bar-Hamburger.
While only the Russian and Ethiopian immigrant communities were discussed during the committee meeting, officials said the problem was persistent in most immigrant communities.
"One of the main problems is that we are not coming to them in their own language," said Naama Tzvaig, who works with the Ministry of Education in Or Akiva.
She explained that all of the materials handed out in schools were written in Hebrew, and all of the employees of the office spoke only Hebrew.
"We simply don't have the funds to speak to them in a culturally sensitive way, or even in their own language," she said.
While representatives at the committee argued that developing programs that were culturally sensitive and that could be used to approach families as well as teens could be effective, the funds do not exist to sponsor the programs already in use.
"In 1998, the prime minister started the war against drugs, but we have walked away from this war; we have cut funding to the point where most of the programs cannot be effective," said MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud).
While Israel devoted NIS 40 million to its anti-drug programs in 1998, Rivlin said that in 2006 that sum had dropped down to NIS 15 million.
For the past several months, MKs have been holding debates on the 2007 budget in the Knesset Finance Committee. The budget and the Economic Arrangements Bill are set to pass by the end of December, with many MKs arguing that more funds should be devoted to the Ministry of Education for anti-drug programs.
While representatives from the Education Ministry said they would need at least NIS 10m. to begin to be effective, Israel Beiteinu is arguing for exactly that sum through its representatives in the Finance Committee.
According to an Israel Beiteinu spokeswoman, the party is demanding that the committee allocate the funds in exchange for the party's vote in the second and third reading of the budget.