I’m thrilled to announce our newest chapter in Israel! SSDP now has a presence in 26 countries, with Israel being the first chapter in the MENA region. I spoke with chapter leader Yahav Erez about their work so far and their plans for the future: How did you hear about SSDP?
My professor at my graduate program (STS- Science, Technology & Society @ Bar Ilan University) came back from Psychedelic Science 2017 and told me he met SSDP activists there, realized there wasn’t an Israeli chapter, and brought up the idea of me opening one. Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter?
I believe that the war on drugs and the way most of our society thinks of psychedelics is wrong, and it creates harm in places where healing could be taking place. Our society and the way it’s built brings so much pain to individuals, and this directly influences drug abuse, drug policy, education, and media coverage. It’s all so wrong and there are many ways and directions in which we could work to improve things. This is one of them, and it relates to many other struggles as well in my eyes. Plus, my thesis will be about Harm Reduction initiatives in Isreal and I feel an obligation to spread the word about Harm Reduction and its power to make a change. What has the reception been like on campus? From students, teachers, administration, etc.
As I live in Beer Sheva, a 3-minute walk from the BGU campus, most of the new chapter members are BGU students. However, I go to Bar Ilan University, which is far away and I’m not very involved there. This, together with our vision of becoming a sustainable chapter with long-term participants, is part of why we decided to open the chapter as a general Israel chapter. Plus, there are many non-students who are interested in joining, and Israel is such a small country that it would be a little counter-productive to be “bound” by one Institute and its rules and regulations. We aim to reach as many people as possible, including students, policy-makers, academics, and any individual who is interested. Therefore, we haven’t been in touch with the University yet- though we do want to collaborate and organize activities in there as well. What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester?
We would like to open a drug testing kit sale as a booth in the university in the beginning of the school year to raise awareness about harm reduction and raise money for the chapter. We also want to get many more activists involved in the chapter and start a “coming out of the psychedelic closet” campaign on social media. What is the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
We haven’t organized an activity yet, but once we do I foresee challenges regarding people’s biased towards the subject at hand, and general conservative thought trying to stop us from dealing with this subject in an open and honest manner. What is the most rewarding part?
I feel the most rewarding part is the ability to be a home for people who are made to feel like their drug use is wrong, immoral, criminal behavior. As Graham Hancock said: “There’s a war on consciousness in our society and if we as adults are not allowed to make sovereign decisions about what to experience with our own consciousness without doing no harm to others, including the decision to use responsibly ancient and sacred visionary plants, then we cannot claim to be free in any way”. What are you most excited about for your chapter/school/state/region/ssdp/drug policy right now?
It’s always exciting to see something new being born and taking its first steps. In addition, There are many amazing individuals in Israel who believe in this cause, and I believe our new chapter will provide them a home and a platform. What is your vision for SSDP Israel? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years?
My vision is for the Israel SSDP chapter to change the way the public in Israel relates to psychedelics and other substances like Cannabis, to the point where drug testing at festivals won’t jeopardize the event’s permits, Harm Reduction initiatives are widespread and legitimized, and in the far future- decriminalization of AA drug use. This last part might be far fetched, but we need to start somewhere.