Israel is both a consumer and net importer of drugs, as well as a transit state, particularly for drugs imported from Jordan, that are transferred to Egypt, where they are traded for Cannabis intended for the Israeli market. The entry and exit routes of the drugs are primarily at the land borders with Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, but drugs also arrive from overseas. The Israeli prisons are impacted by the Israeli drugs market. The drugs find their way into the incarceration centers and serve as a central catalyst for in-prison crime. There is a direct and distinct linkage between the drug trade in the State of Israel and local and global terrorism.
The demand for drugs exists in all sectors, ethnic groups and genders in Israel. Drugs are in demand by the young and by the old, by women and by men, by secular and religious, by Jews and by non-Jews. Drug offenders from the Arab sector are more likely to import drugs from countries bordering Israel, by exploiting their identity (nationality) and family connections, tan drug offenders from the non-Arab sectors. On the other hand, Israeli criminals control drug importation from overseas. The Israeli drugs market has a wide-ranging supply and demand for a wide variety of
drugs: Marijuana and Hashish (both extracted from the Cannabis plant), Heroin (extracted from poppies), Cocaine (extracted from the Coca plant), Amphetamines and methamphetamines, ecstasy and LSD (Synthetically produced) and more. This article deals with the smuggling routes of drugs, the international drugs trade in the Israeli context, as well as the most common drugs on the market and their origin, the Israeli drugs market and its characteristics, the characteristics of the drugs trade, and drugs use within the Israeli prison system.
The following list details the most common drugs consumed in the State of Israel and
in the Israeli prison system.
A depressant, this opiate family drug is considered to be an extremely addictive substance. Additional drugs from this family include Opium and Morphine (The medicinal form of the drug). The source of this drug is the opium poppy flower. The
population which consumes it is characterized by physical and psychological
addiction. A survey performed in the prisoner department of the Israeli Prison Service has
shown that around 50% of the criminal prisoner population consumes Heroin or
Heroin substitutes or both as part as a rehabilitation process.
Cocaine is a stimulant drug. Over the past two decades Cocaine distribution through
clubs and street dealers has spread in Israel, and it is extremely common in the entertainment world (actors, models, and other celebrities). Over the past few years, Cocaine consumption in the State of Israel has increased.
Marijuana and Hashish
These drugs are Hallucinogenic. Both of these drugs are extracted from the cannabis plant, but each is extracted via a different process. These drugs are the most commonly used drugs in Israel, particularly amongst Israeli youth, and are mistakenly considered to be light drugs. Over the past few years the demand for Hashish has grown at the expense of Marijuana. A variant of Hashish and Marijuana is the “hydro” version. The hydro refers to hydroponics, a way of growing plants (Cannabis in this case) in water, without soil, which has become extremely popular amongst youths and drug dealers who grow Cannabis near their youthful market. The active component of Marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is usually present at a concentration of 20%-30% in Marijuana and 40% in Hashish. In Hydro Marijuana the concentration of the active substance is usually much higher
Amphetamines and Methamphetamines
These synthetic drugs are stimulants. Ecstasy has entered the Israel market in significant amounts only over the last decade. It is produced in a laboratory process and is most common in the clubgoers crowd in within clubs. It is generally distributed in the form of tablets with various marks. Other stimulant drugs are distributed as fluids. In the market they are called ICE, G and Yak Ba. They are derived from various medications which have undergone a change in dosage and configuration in order to create a stimulatory effect on the user. LSD is a synthetic Hallucinogen which is known for its powerful influence on users, and its flashback effect. The drug is soaked into small carton cubes (stamps) or else sold in tiny bottles in fluid form. The drug is extremely powerful and very dangerous due to its side effects which are well known in the medical world.
The primary smuggling routes into Israel are from Jordan, Egypt, Asia, South America and Europe. The Jordanian – Israeli border has been used over the past few years primarily as a smuggling route for Heroin, Cocaine, and Hashish. Sometimes, drugs from Latin America are smuggled into Jordan and from there are ferried into Israel. The smuggling takes place along the Dead Sea border as well as through the border crossings. The Lebanese border: the Lebanese border is primarily use for the smuggling of Heroin, Cocaine and Hashish into Israel. The smuggling primarily takes place through the Village of Ghajar, and in various points along the border fence. The Egyptian border: a central source for the smuggling of Marijuana and Hashish into Israel is the Egyptian border. Additional drugs, such as Heroin and Cocaine, are also inserted through this border but at lower quantities. The Egyptian border is a strategic location for drug smugglers due to its length and the fact that it is mostly open[i]
Asia, South America and Europe: Heroin and Cocaine arrive in Israel primarily directly from the countries in which they are produced – South America and Asia. Afghanistan, which produces around 80% of the global Heroine supply, has also become a major source of Heroine in Israel over the past decade. Most of the Cocaine consumed in the world market, as well as Israel, is produced in Columbia, Peru and Bolivia. Morocco, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the primary producers of the Cannabis drugs. Sometimes drugs are smuggled into Israel through the European States and over the land borders of Jordan and Egypt. Amphetamines are smuggled directly from the countries where they are produced, primarily from Europe, and more specifically Belgium and the Netherlands.
Drugs in incarceration facilities
The jailed criminal population that is associated with the drug trade and their use is divided into three primary classifications: dealers, couriers and users. Drug dealers: prisoners who finance the acquisition of drugs and who supply them to addict prisoners through couriers. Drug dealers in prisons are further subdivided into two primary subtypes: dealers who entered the prison on charges of drug dealing, and prisoners who discovered during their imprisonment that drug dealing is a way to acquire statues and funds during the period of imprisonment. Some of the dealers are also users, but others abstain. Drug couriers: prisoners whose job is to distribute the drugs amongst the addict prisoners and sometimes repurpose their own bodies as drug storage facilities. Drug traders recruit into the courier group prisoners who are entitled to vacations outside the prison, and who use these vacations to acquire the drugs. Drug users/ addicts : these are the customers of the drug dealers in the prisons. This population is further divided into three subtypes : prisoners who were addicted to drugs before they were imprisoned, prisoners with a background of drug use who became addicts during their imprisonment, and prisoners who did not consume drugs prior to their imprisonment, but who became drug users, and even addicts, during their time in prison.
Reasons for the drug trade in the prison system
Traffic in drugs inside incarceration facilities has many diverse reasons, but the leading ones are raising capital and winning greater statues in prison. The drug trade constitutes an economic leverage for the drug dealers in the prisons. Supposedly one cannot possess cash within the incarceration facility, but one can still derive considerable financial gain from drug trafficking by depositing funds in external bank accounts. This can be achieved by involving a third party who perform the actual deposit. A large population of drug addicts exists in incarceration facilities, and the drug dealer ensures that drugs are always available for them within the prison walls. There are many threats and violent rivalries within the walls of the prison, as many of the criminals are immersed in long running feuds. A drug dealer who can maintain a routine of trade within the prison can “buy soldiers” for a cut of the profits or the drugs. These soldiers can be employed to injure rivals or the prison staff, in fights, by threatening debtors outside the prison, pressuring prisoners to smuggle drugs into the prison when they return from vacations and so forth.
Economic estimate of the scale of the drug trade inside the prisons
It is not possible to estimate how many drugs are smuggled every year into the incarceration facilities of the Israeli prison system. The available data can only provide an estimation of the economic volume and worth of the drug related activity inside the prisons. The primary trade in the prison revolves around Heroin, but there are also other available drugs such as Hashish, Ecstasy, Marijuana and “trips”. A gram of Heroin sold in the drug trading stations in the center of the country will cost around 300 NIS and will contain three doses, each of which containing 0.3 grams. Since the prisons suffer from a relative scarcity and there is a strict inspection system which makes smuggling difficult, each gram is split into seven to a dozen doses. If the inspections uncover 100 grams of heroin on a given day that number should be multiplied by seven for 700 doses at least entering the prison wings. The base cost of a dose of heroin inside the prison is 50 NIS. If we multiply the 700 doses by 50 NIS, then we can estimate the value of the drugs inside the prison at 35,000 NIS.
Smuggling routes into the incarceration facilities
In order to smuggle drugs into the prisons the dealers and the couriers will undertake almost any risk, including risking their own lives. Prisoners will swallow drugs and shove them into their bodily orifices in order to pass the prison entry inspections without arousing suspicions. Drugs are hidden away within baggage, in clothing and in any type of equipment the prisoners might be permitted to bring into prison in creative ways that defy imagination. The drug dealers locate couriers who will try to smuggle drugs in during visits, and there are also attempts at drug smuggling by tossing packages over the walls of the prisons. Prisoners leaving the prison for court deliberations or medical examinations use the opportunity to smuggle drugs into the prison, whether within their own bodies, or in packages given to them by others. To summarize, there is a direct linkage between developments in the international drug market and the Israeli market in general and drug trafficking within the prison system in particular. The Israeli prison Service is uncompromising in its struggle against drug smuggling into the incarceration facilities and the drug trade that occurs within them. The realization that drugs are a central trigger for criminal activity and that they inflame the criminal transgressions that occur within prisons have led to synchronized activation of field units, special units and advanced technology to locate felons and identify drug dealing activities
[i] This article was written in 2011, prior to the construction of a border fence on most of the IsraelEgypt border. Since its construction drug trafficking across the border has dropped, and the prices of Cannabis derived drugs in Israel has correspondingly risen.
Colonel (Ret.) Natan Paz