Jerusalem Rehab Center Faces Closure After 20 Years of Success

All of the 17 employees at the Lifta facility, known as Magal, a Hebrew acronym for 'Youth Detoxification Center,' have been dismissed.

The Lifta Rehabilitation Center in Jerusalem, a veteran drug rehabilitation facility considered particularly successful in treating young people, will close early next month.

The Health Ministry plans to treat all young addicts in one facility: Malkishua on Mount Gilboa. All of the 17 employees at the Lifta facility, known as Magal, a Hebrew acronym for "Youth Detoxification Center," have been dismissed.

Lifta rehab center - Emil Salman - 07112011
Emil Salman

Magal is run by the Jerusalem Anti-Drug Association, a nonprofit group controlled by the Jerusalem municipality. It has been operating for 20 years and over the past decade has focused on treating young people addicted to drugs and alcohol. About 50 percent of its hundreds of patients have reportedly remained clean - a particularly high success rate.

The Malkishua facility won a Health Ministry tender on technical grounds relating to the old building used by the Jerusalem facility in the abandoned Arab village of Lifta, adjacent to the capital's western entrance.

The Malkishua facility is only three years old and can treat seven clients at a time, while Magal, the far more veteran facility, treats 16 clients in each cycle. Magal's 16 beds will be moved to Malkishua, but no new beds will be added despite the severe shortage of such slots.

Moshe Kron, the founder and director of Magal, who is considered the local guru of youth rehab, is at a loss to understand why his life's work is facing closure.

"We know the place is small and crowded and we know we have to find a new location," Kron said Sunday. "But no one had a bad word to say about our professionalism."

The closure of Magal will also put an end to its unique approach to rehab. Unlike other facilities, Magal doesn't use punishments to keep its clients in line. Instead the center employs a more empathetic approach that focuses on dialogue.

Kron was informed of the closure in a terse email on September 21, and was originally meant to fire all the workers before Rosh Hashanah. Pressure from the Jerusalem municipality delayed the dismissals, and the center is now scheduled to close on December 1.

The Health Ministry, while praising Kron's work, said that despite repeated contacts with Magal, no steps were taken to correct the structural defects that were required by the tender."

The Jerusalem Anti-Drug Association petitioned the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday asking for an injunction against the facility's closure.