Problems of Drug Addiction in Israel


Since the beginning of recorded history the territory which is now Israel served as a transit route and point of contact between the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The geographical fact of-life survived the many empires and cultures that superseded each other in the interim centuries. Indeed, at times during the course of history, Israel was not merely a bridge but the central point for intercourse between the civilizations of the Near East.


Author: David Ginsburg, J. L. Kaufman
Pages: 17 to 19
Creation Date: 1955/01/01

Problems of Drug Addiction in Israel

David Ginsburg Professor of Chemistry, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, and
J. L. Kaufman First Inspector, C.I.D., Israel Police Headquarters, Tel Aviv

Since the beginning of recorded history the territory which is now Israel served as a transit route and point of contact between the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The geographical fact of-life survived the many empires and cultures that superseded each other in the interim centuries. Indeed, at times during the course of history, Israel was not merely a bridge but the central point for intercourse between the civilizations of the Near East.

The purpose of this article is to give an account of the current problems of illegal narcotics traffic into and through Israel. It will be shown that the political situation has made the lot of persons smuggling narcotics through Israel more difficult. Yet often the geographical factor still predominates, and seizures are made in Israel of illegal narcotics en route from one of the neighbouring Arab States to another.

The chief seizures made are those of hashish. The source is Egypt's sister countries. The major markets consist of the various Arab States. Since much of Israel's recent immigration consists of Jews from the Arab States, the use of hashish is now known among a growing number of Jews in Israel itself. This problem will be discussed below. Fortunately, it has not reached alarming proportions.

In this article the factual data regarding control of illegal narcotics in Israel during the period 1952-53 will be given. The section in the Israel Police Force dealing with this problem was expanded during this period. Also during this period liaison was established between the United States Commissioner of Narcotics and Israel. One of the authors of this article (J.L.K.) was appointed the Israel Liaison Officer. Furthermore, during this time, the C.I.D. of the Israel Police Force began transmittal of copies of its narcotics seizure reports to the Secretary-General of the International Criminal Police Commission in Paris. The following quotation [(1)] 1 from a report by an Egyptian government official to his superior illuminates the present situation in this field.

"It has been lately noticed in a remarkable manner that supply via the Mediterranean Sea has become more active than it is across the Eastern Frontiers owing to the reopening of the sea-route and to the present circumstances in Palestine. With the exception of the Aqaba-route adopted by certain smugglers for the smuggling of narcotics to Aqaba and thence through paths lying south-west to the Suez Gulf, it became extremely difficult for smugglers to make use of the Egypt-Palestine frontiers as they have previously done.... In most cases .... the source of origin of hashish is Syria and Lebanon.


Numbers in parentheses refer to the references on page 19.

. . . "In spite of the fact that the preventive forces exert the utmost efforts for combating the smuggling of narcotics, they, of course, cannot seize all that is smuggled into the interior of the country. I believe that the best remedy for the problem of black narcotics is that the Egyptian Government should approach the Governments of the Sister Countries with a view to taking stringent measures so as to ensure the prevention of hashish cultivation absolutely and to put an end to the smuggling of opium and other drugs across the frontiers."

The Egyptian quotation used above shows that even before this period, namely in 1950, the effects of efficient anti-smuggling measures taken by the Israel Police Force were being felt in Egypt. The authors feel, however, that the period 1952-53 is a logical starting point for their report on these measures in Israel.

The data on seizures of narcotics and narcotics discovered "without owners" during 1952 53 are tabulated in Table I.

Table I





41 kg.
Opium .
4.5 kg.
71.5 kg.
1 g.
90 g.
7.5 g.
101 70
Discovered "without owners"
2.5 kg.
58 5 kg.
27 kg.
25 kg.
5 7

The numbers of persons involved in illegal traffic of narcotics during the same period are summarized in Table II.

Table II





63 26
137 96

aOf this number, three were women. Two women were arrested for possession of large quantities of hashish; one woman, 60 years of age, was arrested while smoking hashish

Table III summarizes the data on minors involved in illegal narcotics activities.

Table III




4 6
7 6

Table IV breaks down the number of Jews involved in illegal narcotics activities into two classes: persons present in Israel on 15 May 1948 (the day of the establishment of the State of Israel), and new immigrants, who for the purposes of these statistics are defined as those who immigrated to Israel subsequent to that date.

Table IV




Residents before 15 May 1948
29 16
New immigrants
40 54
69 70

Ninety-six per cent of the new immigrants involved in illegal narcotics activities immigrated from the Arab States and from Iran, Turkey and Morocco. It can be seen from Tables II to IV, however, that the use of narcotics among the population of Israel, both Jewish and Arab, is far from having reached alarming proportions. Although the Israel Police Force is constantly on the alert for these illegal activities, the problem is not a serious one from the viewpoint of the national health and welfare.

The problem of Israel territory or territorial water being used as routes for smuggling narcotics from one Arab State to another Arab State is, however, a serious one. Crossing of the borders is illegal both for residents of Israel and of the neighbouring countries. Extraordinary difficulties exist for obtaining information about illegal trade in dangerous drugs and their transport, because of lack of contact and co-operation due to the involved political situation.

The Israel Police Force, in common with other police forces, must make use of informers as one of the means by which to combat illicit traffic in dangerous drugs. Reports submitted by plainclothes policemen and detectives are another way to obtain information through which ambushes and seizures may be carried out.

The Israel Police Force has not yet come across cases in which airplanes, radio and other modern means of communication have been used by smugglers. Smuggling by sea in small fishing boats is continually taking place.

In the experience of the Israel Police Force, the best means for accomplishing successful seizures is to place an under-cover agent in the circles of smugglers, traders or pedlars under the pretence that he too is a trader or pedlar. After such an agent has obtained the required information, he passes it on to the Narcotics. Section of the Israel Police Force and suitable action is then taken.

The Israel Police Force has trained an Alsatian dog for the detection of hashish, and hashish only. This dog has worked successfully during the past three years. and has detected hashish hidden under soiled washing, inside walls and buried underground. Naturally, this dog cannot be used for any other trail work.

Some case-histories may be of interest and are cited below:

During 1953, a policeman in civilian clothes contacted several professional smugglers of hashish on the pretence that he was a drug trader. Date and place of delivery were fixed and the "trader" arrived in a taxi. The smugglers loaded the hashish into the taxi and travelled with the "trader" to a nearby point where the actual purchaser was allegedly waiting in order to receive the drug and pay for it. A prearranged police road-check patrol stopped the taxi and ordered the occupants to alight. All the passengers carried out the order with the exception of the driver (policeman} who made good his escape together with the car. The police opened fire upon the car - taking care not to hit it - arrested the drug owners, and confiscated the hashish.

Some time ago a police agent, after establishing contact with two drug traders, arrived at an agreement with them to receive a shipment of drugs in his car "somewhere" in northern Israel. In order to enable the shadowing policeman to know the place where the delivery was to be made a traffic policeman stopped the car in which the agent and the traders were travelling. He pretended to make out a speed violation report against the driver-agent. The traffic policeman asked about the destination and the driver, who had been told in the meantime where delivery would be made, told the traffic policeman "We travel to...". This information was passed on to the covering party, following in another car at some distance behind. They arrived in good time to arrest the suspect and to seize the drugs.

In the past, Haifa was favoured as a transit port for narcotics smugglers from Syria and Lebanon. The overall situation of the drug traffic from these countries has greatly improved due to strict border patrols by the Israel Police Force. In view of the large uninhabited desert tracts still present in the Negev, the southern part of the country, narcotic smugglers are able to exploit their knowledge of the terrain to hide out on their way from Jordan to Egypt, despite frequent Israel patrols in the area. In one case a caravan from Jordan to Egypt was intercepted in August 1952. The camel riders managed to escape, leaving behind 24.5 kg of opium. Various quantities of illegal drugs were confiscated by the Israel police but their owners could not be traced. In several cases the drugs were left behind by persons, who, after having crossed into Israel territory, were challenged by the police but managed to get away in the darkness, in spite of casualties inflicted. A total quantity of 2.5 kg. of hashish and 26 kg. of raw opium was thus confiscated in 1952.

As mentioned before, the task of the Israel Police Force is particularly difficult because of the lack of mutual assistance between the respective police forces. The Inspector-General of the Israel Police Force repeated his earlier offers of co-operation with all police forces and particularly with those of the neighbouring States during the twentieth general assembly of the I.C.P.C. at Lisbon in 1951.

Nevertheless, the Israel Police Force informed the Egyptian police through a cable [(2)] to the International Criminal Police Commission in Paris, that it had information regarding a Lebanese fishing boat carrying a load of illegal drugs and proceeding in the direction of Gaza. The result of any action which may have been taken by the Egyptian authorities in this case is not known to the Israel Police Force.

Another more recent example of narcotics smuggling by sea came to light in the afternoon of 24 January 1954, when a Lebanese fishing boat capsized off the coast of Maagin Michael. One fisherman drowned and the three who survived were arrested. They had in their possession 1,000 Egyptian pounds and close to the broken-up boat was an inner tube of an automobile tire which contained 10.5 kg. of hashish. Cross-examination revealed that these men were on their way to Egypt with their hashish cargo tucked safely behind them. It should be noted that this means of transportation permits the smugglers to cut the rope which attaches their illegal cargo to their boat, in cases when they meet unexpected police patrol boats. The evidence thus conveniently floats away.

We have in this article given an account of the use of Israeli territory and territorial waters as transit areas for smuggling narcotics between the various Arab States. We have also discussed the consumption of illegal narcotics in Israel. Although it is clear that no police force .is able to stamp out alt such illegal practice, the problem is confined to consumers who became addicts to these drugs in their native countries. Comparatively few people of Israel descent have become addicts. As education in Israel progresses it is hoped that this problem will decrease. When peace comes to the troubled Near East, one corollary to be hoped for is stamping out the use of illegal narcotics by inhabitants of this area. In this respect, as well as in others, we believe that Israel can make a contribution to a peaceful community of nations in the Near East.



Annual Report for the year 1950 of the Anti-Narcotics Administration of the Egyptian Government , page VIII, Government Press, Cairo, 1952


Cable No. P.44, 4 September 1952.