J’lem mayor warns kids about drugs

Letter from mayor and education authority head follows drug deaths of two youths.

Barkat big face 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Barkat big face 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In the wake of a tragic overdose that claimed the lives of two young Jerusalemites last week, Mayor Nir Barkat and the director of the Jerusalem Education Administration (MANCHI), Danny Bar-Giora, wrote an open letter to city students Monday, urging them to stay away from drugs over the long summer break.
The letter also requested that they report potential cases of depression among their friends to members of their school’s staff.
Sixteen-year-old Lee Vatkin and 21-year-old Rauf Zienelov were found lying lifeless inside a Nachlaot apartment last Monday by Vatkin’s father, who called police and Magen David Adom medics to the scene, where they were pronounced dead by an MDA doctor.
A tainted dosage of methadone – a drug often used to help recovering heroin addicts deal with their addictions – has been named by police as the drug suspected of leading to the two deaths, although the final toxicology results have yet to be released.
Nonetheless, Barkat and Bar-Giora’s letter said that although “thecause of death has not yet been definitively established... just thefact that a young girl was using drugs shook up all of us – her familyand friends as well as city employees, city council members,administrators and educational and psychological workers.”
“So much is said and written about the terrible damage that can becaused by drug use,” the letter continued. “So many publications andeducational programs through the media emphasize it, and yet again weare faced with the terrible reality of two young people who didn’tproperly gauge the potential damage that could be caused to them, andwho ultimately lost their lives.”
Mayor Barkat and Bar-Giora also urged pupils to see in their school’sstaff “a real address” and a place to turn in case of hardships,difficulties, anxiety or pain.
“In any case of trouble, we are here to listen and extend our hand,”the letter read. “Principals, teachers and the psychological servicesare the right ones to turn to and can be a source of great help intimes of difficulty.”
“This should not be thought of as tattling,” the letter read, “but a step that could help save lives.”