What Really Unites Israel’s Right, Left and Center

Marijuana is as common among West Bank settlers as it is among Tel Aviv doctors and lawyers.

Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher
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A young man smoking marijuana during "Marijuana Day" in Haifa in April, 2015. Credit: Rami Shllush
Rogel Alpher
Rogel Alpher

Israelis are a nation of stoners. It’s actually evidence of their integration into the Arab world and the Middle East, with the hookahs and tea, kicking back, relaxing, and the Bedouin-like relation to time and life’s pressures. Conquering East Jerusalem in 1967 made hashish much more available to Jews, as did the Israeli presence in Lebanon beginning in the early 1980’s. Sinai instilled the fun of getting stoned into generations of Israelis. We lost Sharm el-Sheikh after the peace agreement with Egypt, but we kept getting stoned.

Alcohol is actually foreign to local relaxation culture. It’s legal, marketed and advertised, sold in nightclubs, but it’s meant for northern, cold countries. In the Israeli heat, young people prefer the levelheaded high from smoking. Alcoholism isn’t a significant problem in Israel. Short-term memory is much more problematic.

A love of pot smoking is shared among all populations in Israelis. Hilltop settler youth and Tel Aviv radicals, young and old, Knesset members and simple folk, city and country people, religious and secular, everyone loves pot. Marijuana and hashish are the largest common denominator in Israeli society. Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s plan to allow for the sale of medical marijuana is praiseworthy, like any other move that will lead to legalization, but in actuality, pot has been legal in Israel for many years.

Israel is a small country. It’s hard to imagine that a sick person in need of marijuana doesn’t know someone who knows someone who can get him a dimebag. And the police are right in their assumption that a fair amount of people using medical marijuana are doing so for reasons other than medical. Sometimes the leftover supply belonging to people that succumbed to cancer is used to pass the time during the shiva.

In many Israeli households, pot is an acceptable accessory. It’s not a Tel Aviv phenomenon. Older people light up at dinner parties, people who have children, people who work as lawyers, doctors, architects and teachers. Everywhere in Israel. In Tel Aviv, people smoke joints out in the open at cafes, on the sidewalk.

The laws on the books do not reflect the de facto situation. Israel is full of good pot. Some of it is medical marijuana. Those who claim otherwise are just playing dumb. Judging by the amount of medical marijuana in circulation, a staggering percentage of the Israeli population is suffering from unbearable back pain.

Any police enforcement against marijuana is a gross misuse of public resources, and incredible ineffective. Among people ages 50 and under, marijuana use is the norm. Those who refrain completely are considered silly and self-righteous.

The biggest fault with marijuana lies in the fact that despite the common ideals held by hippies, in Israel it turns out that one can be a religious fanatic, a human rights-trampling racist, or a warmongering militarist, and still be incredibly good at rolling joints. No problem. Pot couldn’t be any more common in Israel. There aren’t enough lungs. It’s already perfectly clear that it won’t enhance the quality of life here.

Legalization won’t contribute anything to promises of a better, occupation-less future for our children. The popularity of marijuana has nothing to do with the left-wing agenda.

Marijuana is common along Route 60 in Samaria, it is the backbone of the colonialist settler enterprise, no less than it was for San Francisco in the 1960’s. When the apocalypse comes, we’ll all go up in smoke with Habayit Hayehudi MK Yinon Magal.

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