Yishai Visits Safe House From Drugs in Goa

Goa, India - Trade and Industry Minister, Eli Yishai of Shas, intends to increase the budget of the Safe Home (Bayit Ham) project in Goa. The safe house for Israelis who have run into serious trouble with drugs in India is a cross between an Internet cafe and a drug rehabilitation center.

Yesterday Yishai met with dozens of young Israelis in the Safe Home. They told him that they had fled from the pressures of Israel; the terrorist attacks, army service, and the need to enter the rat-race of making a living. "In Goa I am finding my soul," explained one of the young women.

The Safe Home project is sponsored by the Israel Anti-Drug Authority (IADA) and the Israel Anti-Drug Abuse Foundation (IADAF). It helps support Israelis suffering from drug abuse and its after-effects, and provides information about drugs, opportunities to connect with other Israelis, help and counseling, and in the most extreme cases professional care. The center also provides legal, criminal, diplomatic and therapeutic help, and arranges transit back to Israel.

The Safe Home project, of which there are now two in India, is budgeted at $80,000 a year.

"This evening I will speak about it with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and update him on the developments. The people here are doing blessed work," said Yishai.

Some 35,000 Israelis visit India at any given time, 15,000 of whom are in Goa.

"Most of them use drugs as a way of life," explained Haim Messing, head of the IADA. "Over the past three years we have identified a problem of over 1,000 [people] injured on various levels by using drugs [in Goa]. In about 400 cases the damage requires immediate treatment here and continued treatment in Israel," added Messing.

"They use everything - existing drugs and new ones that they are willing to try. They can even be poisonous. Whatever the market produces," said Haya Shmeltz, who arrived in Goa in April to run the Safe Home along with her husband and daughter.

Last year, the project treated 250 cases which required intervention to calm the suffering and arrange their return to Israel.

After one of the participants asked Yishai if he had thought about why so many Israelis fled Israel for Goa; he answered that there was a need to examine Israeli education, and that there was a need to provide more values and Judaism into the curiculum.