April 06, 2020
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Restoration, A La Balance

Israelis set up a Mediterranean retreat to 'rescue' their addicted youth

Restoration, A La Balance
Nearly four years ago, Israeli authorities responsible for the fight against drugs met to discuss a growing problem. More and more Israelis travelling to India, Thailand and South America were coming back home with a drug dependence. Dealing with it required a new approach, Haim Messing, chairman of the Israeli Authority Against Drugs, was quite clear.

After much deliberation, a Kfar Izun ('Balance' Village) was set up at Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast and readied to accept the first batch of youngsters who had to be "rescued" after their travels in the East. Izun, meaning balance, was to rehabilitate victims of drug addiction and help youngsters who were returning home as psychological and emotional wrecks.

"We are a small country and have a sizeable number of young people going to India and returning with a drug problem. So we had to do something," Messing told Outlook from Israel. Omri Frish, a reserve lieutenant colonel in the Israeli army who helped set up Izun, agrees: "According to the Israeli Drug Authority, of the 40,000 backpackers who travel, nearly 90 per cent use drugs. The drug-fighting authority estimates the range of psychologically injured at about 2,000 a year. It may not sound much to Indians, but in a country such as ours, it is tantamount to an epidemic."

And not only is the Israeli government worried about its young returning home with drug addiction, they are also bringing drugs into the country. "The average backpacker is away for six months to a year. Drugs are one component of the experience, though not the only one," Frish told Outlook. He even travelled to India several times, sometimes as part of official delegations, to study the crisis as well as identify areas most frequented by his young countrymen.

And though with limited funds at hand, Izun cannot help everyone, it marks a beginning. "We use a number of conventional and unconventional methods," says Messing. Stay here includes active participation in discussions, gardening and other stress-free activities. "The approach is holistic," says Frish. "We combine psychological treatment with spiritual therapy, for a short period of four months. A lot of the therapeutic principles for trauma victims have been put into use and incorporated into the mode of treatment in the village."
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