Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat 521.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat sent a letter to Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov
Litzman on Sunday to plead for the continued operation of the Lifta
Detoxification Center, a Jerusalem institution for teenagers dealing with drug
and alcohol abuse in Jerusalem that is in danger of closing at the end of the
The Health Ministry has threatened to close the 20- year-old
center after finding that its physical building was in a state of
disrepair. The detox center, known by its Hebrew initials of Magal, is
tucked away in the abandoned Arab village of Lifta, among wildly-blooming cacti
and ancient stone buildings.
One of Magal’s founders, Hela Yaniv, told
The Jerusalem Post
that the Health Ministry didn’t even give the organization a
chance to try to work on issues with them.
Last week, Barkat joined TV
reality series MasterChef winner Avi Levy, a Jerusalem native who volunteers at
Magal, to cook Levy’s “meatball surprises” in an effort to draw attention to the
plight of the organization. Levy served time in jail for drugrelated charges and
has been open about his own struggles with drug abuse on the cooking show. He
serves as a mentor at the center.
Barkat praised the organization for
helping teenagers return to a “normal and balanced life” and added that what the
city needed was more beds for teenagers dealing with substance abuse, not
“In order for the organization to continue in its important and
sacred work, the municipality will do everything in its power to help the
organization stand by the defined criteria of the Health Ministry to continue
operating,” Barkat wrote in his letter.
“The deputy minister of health is
well aware of the important and blessed work of Magal,” said ministry
spokeswoman Einav Shimron- Greenboim. “The Health Ministry is well aware of the
importance of the continued operation needed for rehabilitating the
However, the physical conditions of the center were not
satisfactory, and the ministry awarded the tender for the center’s operation to
another organization that runs a smaller adolescent substance abuse treatment
agency in the center of the country, she added.
Barkat stressed in his
letter he would help the organization move to a new location if needed,
something Yaniv hopes will not happen, as the center has grown attached to its
quiet and green location.
An appeal to the ministry’s decision is
currently under consideration. If the appeal is denied, the center will close on