A minor article appeared a few days ago in the Jerusalem Post, in which a 16 year old Netanya girl was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning following a drinking bout at a night club in the same city. The article went on to say that the club owner was arrested and his establishment closed. While Israel has had laws for years forbidding serving alcoholic beverages to minors (under age 18), the problem of alcohol abuse by increasingly younger members of the country’s population, is no longer something to be ignored; as the problem is now reaching epidemic proportions.
The short JPost article was followed a few days later by a longer one in the rail transportation newspaper: Israeli, in which findings of long term studies of the drinking habits among the country’s youth, revealed some interesting and very startling facts. Studies made found that drinking alcohol, once something rarely done at any age, now begins with children as young as age 12! The studies found that more than 58.8% of youngsters in the 7th grade had drunk alcoholic beverages, with the biggest percentage (72.6%) being among students in 9th grade (only 2-3 years older than the younger group). Socio-economic groups as well as geographic locations, also accounted for differences in amount of alcohol consumed. Of the 9th graders interviewed in this study, it was found that nearly 35% of them drink at least 5 drinks when ‘out on the town’; and at least 25% of these said they had gotten ‘drunk’ at least once a year. Of all age groups, including high school ages, it was found that boys consume more alcohol than girls (59.1% to 41.1%) and that 61% of secular kids drank in comparison to 53.3% from religious backgrounds. Immigrant children consume much alcohol (67%) against native born ‘Sabras’ (57.8%) although it was found that a larger percentage of youngsters from Kibbutzim now drink in comparison to their parents when they were the same age. As most, if not all Kibbutzim have their own night clubs and pubs, its no wonder these kids have easy access to “the sauce”.
Many neighborhood parks and other public areas have now become meeting (and drinking) places for youngsters, with empty 1 liter vodka bottles and ‘Red Bull’ cans littered about as an indication of what went on there, often until the wee morning hours. Not only are these items found following an evenings drinking bout, but often discarded ‘bong pipes” as well; indicating that substances were smoked as well as drank during these affairs, often involving younger children. Malicious acts of vandalism, including damage to plants, automobiles, etc., are also a result of these binges, causing youngsters to become destructive as well as intoxicated.
Government officials, and educators alike seem to be unable to find any solutions for this increasing problem, now found in virtually all parts of the country. Bored children with money to spend, and liberal parents who let their kids roam free on weekends, and virtually nightly during the summer vacation, have resulted in a change in the very moral fiber of the country, and something, that if not checked in time will become very damaging to the very existence of the country itself. Already hooliganism, caused in part by alcohol consumption and drug use, has resulted in scores of murders, as well as widespread damage. Deaths and injuries from traffic accidents, caused by drinking, have increased dramatically as well.
Education and morality begins at home. And unless parents are willing to do their part, then no amount of legal actions will solve the problem, which appears to be getting worse and not better.
July 12, 2006 at 8:29 am
Are there police units in Israel who deal with kind of problem (including a division to deal with these juveniles)? Or is it simply ‘parceled out’ to whoever is available in the police units?
Maybe hard alcohol needs to be sold in “package stores” like it is in many American states, with only beer and wine avaialable in supermarkets.
That won’t solve the problem, but it might at least put some controls on it.
July 13, 2006 at 3:00 am
“Education and morality begins at home.” You are right about that. And I would just add, children learn what they live. Example must be provided.
July 13, 2006 at 5:35 am
There are active AA meetings in Israel in Hebrew, English, and Russian. Check out http://www.aa-israel.org for more information.