Israeli Education Minister Admits He Sometimes Takes Ritalin

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Shay Piron, left, and his party's leader, Yair Lapid.Credit: Nir Kafri

Education Minister Shay Piron has said that on “very special days” he takes Ritalin, a drug for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He made clear he did not take it daily.

“I’m not ashamed to admit that if I have to take Ritalin or whatever kind of pill on very special days, I’m personally not ashamed to use it,” he said.

Piron was speaking on the children’s program “Tiru Oti” (“Look At Me”) on the state-owned educational television channel. On the show, public figures discuss a childhood difficulty they overcame.

Piron described how he once took Ritalin before a three-hour, Polish-language memorial ceremony at the site of the Nazis’ Sobibor extermination camp. The issue came up when Piron was asked how he coped during his school years.

Piron described himself as “energetic” in those days, but he was never diagnosed with any kind of attention-deficit disorder, a subject not well known at the time. Piron, a member of Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s centrist Yesh Atid party, declined to comment for this article.

“Recently I flew with Avri [Gilad, the program’s host] to Poland, where we attended a very, very important ceremony at the Sobibor camp,” Piron said on the program. Gilad then interrupted to add: “And very, very boring.”

Piron repeated Gilad’s phrase and carried on: “Very boring. I didn’t know how I would sit for three hours in the bitter cold listening to a ceremony in a language I didn’t understand — Polish — and as a government minister, I had to sit in the front row.”

Piron added that he did not take Ritalin regularly. “I don’t use it daily. I function very energetically and satisfactorily — less tired than most people .... But there are days when I’m aware of the difficulty.” It was not clear whether Piron had a prescription for Ritalin or took it “through my children and through my family,” as he put.

Piron told the children that people must recognize their weaknesses.

“I think that when you’re aware of your difficulty you can also see the good side of being very, very energetic,” he said. “And you also know how to deal with moments of weakness. Then you can experience yourself in a much more whole way.”

According to Piron, “Being a whole person means recognizing the fact that you also have weaknesses, and knowing how to use the help you need in those moments.”

The program, hosted by Gilad and a zebra puppet played by actor Eran Ben Zvi, was rerun several times last week. On the program, Gilad and the zebra host four children and public figures who discuss their childhood difficulty.

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