SSDP Israel Hosts Its First Support Don’t Punish Global Day of Action

SSDP Israel Hosts Its First Support Don’t Punish Global Day of Action

SSDP Israel members Yahav and Amit standing in front of a Support Don't Punish poster.
By Yahav Erez, chapter leader of SSDP Israel The ‘Smoke of Time’ pub in the old city of Be’er Sheva was packed with curious pairs of eyes and ears on the evening of June 24th, when we held the first-ever #SupportDon’tPunish Global Day of Action event in Israel. The stone walls, tall ceiling and the remains of the Ottoman empire were the perfect setting for our topic of choice: drugs. How fitting to talk about one of the most ancient parts of human culture in a building that feels so old. However, we focused on something a bit newer: harm reduction.  Three speakers gave a 30-minute talk about different harm reduction initiatives they run in Israel, and what can be done next. Evyatar Cohen, founder of Anashim Tovim (Hebrew for Good People) talked about the first psychedelic harm reduction in Israel, and Aviv Fuchs of the Izhar Project spoke about the national needle exchange program that runs in five major cities and helps hundreds of people who use drugs.  The crowd was comprised of students, social workers, lawyers and young adults who wanted to learn more about harm reduction. After some Q&A, local musician Mike-a-la-Mike got up to play and end the evening on a festive note.  As the organizers of this event, adv. Amit Deutscher and I were excited and so happy to see the enthusiastic turnout. As the evening ended, people came up to us and told us about the new things they had learned, which was an even sweeter feeling of success than the turnout. We hope this event is the first of a series of events across Israel meant to raise as much awareness as possible of the different approaches that can provide support for drug users instead of punishing them for their use. Here are some of the participants at the event who summed up what they learned from it and what #SupportDon’tPunish means to them:  

Alon

“I learned how determined harm reduction organizations are, and how important it is. I also didn’t know how many addicts there were in Israel and how amazing it is that there are people that help them, and it’s a shame that these things aren’t talked about more often in the public sphere.

#SupportDontPunish in my eyes means the new awareness that is rising about drugs as something that is inseparable from human life on earth.”

Raquel from SSDP Israel standing in front of a Support Don't Punish poster. Raquel

“I learned about the “good people” project, they create safe zones at festivals to guide young people towards safe drug use and avoid abuse or accidents.

#SupportDontPunish means to me that there is a huge difference between drug “use” and “abuse”. Support and information can guarantee safe experiences and even save lives.”

Effie from SSDP Israel standing in front of a Support Don't Punish poster.

Effie

“I learned that incarceration doesn’t solve the problem of drug abuse by people, mainly from the weakened parts of society. And that just relating to them as humans with their own choices and own needs can bring much better and healthy outcomes. 

#SupportDontPunish to me means that change needs to come from within the community. We can’t ignore the problem. and we need to suggest our own alternatives to the current situation.” 

Dovrat from SSDP Israel standing in front of a Support Don't Punish poster.

Dovrat

“What I learned is that there really are good formats and programs that know how to support people in their use and don’t try to fight it. This is totally new to me. We can help people understand how to use drugs in a safer way and not just scare them. 

#SupportDontPunish to me is about government organizations that are beginning to help people and understand the real root of the problem. That really moved me.”

Michael from SSDP Israel standing in front of a Support Don't Punish poster.Michael

“I learned that there are five cities in Israel that have needle exchange programs, and I think that’s amazing that it is funded by the ministry of health. It really made me happy to hear this. 

#SupportDontPunish for me is a model for hope. Because I think that there are lots of people that get to a point where they break the law and get punished, and they are in a place of weakness and I don’t think people should be punished for being weak. We need to help them get up instead.”

Amit from SSDP Israel standing in front of a Support Don't Punish poster.  

Amit

“#SupportDontPunish to me means advocacy instead of incarceration.”

      Dor from SSDP Israel standing in front of a Support Don't Punish poster.  

Dor

“We’re far from having a healthy relationship with drugs as a society. But at this point prohibition doesn’t help to get to a solution.”