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Drug Use by Young Israeli Travelers in India

November 13, 2003

"Israel's Dose of Unreality" (Nov. 10) speculated about the problem of drug use by a small minority of Israel's post-army youth when traveling in far-off, exotic places like India. It concluded: "Israel is at war with itself over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's strategy in dealing with the Palestinians" and quoted someone saying that "what the army is used for is not so clear" anymore to Israel's youth.

There is a simpler explanation. Recreational drug use, with its attendant social problems, has arrived in Israel many years after its debut in Europe and the U.S. Many Western youth went to India for drugs, meditation and a "dose" of another reality. Some Israeli youth copied them, and Israel is trying to nip the problem in the bud.

Bob Kirk

Los Angeles

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Reading your story about young Israelis seeking respite through drugs in India, I couldn't help but wonder what young Palestinians do to escape. There's a truism that addicts attempt to fill a spiritual void with the earthly experience of mind-altering substances. I think it's unfortunate that the disenchanted youth are going to India to experience drugs instead of to learn the wisdom of Gandhi.

If the Middle East spent more effort absorbing the lessons of the Mahatma instead of those of Hamas and the Likud, perhaps I would have something to look forward to reading about in the newspaper besides the ever-increasing body count. Of course, India and Pakistan seem to have also forgotten Gandhi's lesson that the ends do not justify the means. I only hope humanity learns the wisdom of peace before it is too late.

R. Lawrence Tripp

Los Angeles

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Your story suggests that the number of Israelis studying abroad has decreased since the Palestinian violence accelerated in 2000 and that Israel is at war with itself over Sharon's policies. As reported by the Institute of International Education, the number of Israeli students in the U.S. was 3,238 in 2000 and 3,521 last year.

As to the second statement, polls taken in Israel last month showed about two-thirds of Israelis supporting such actions as the bombing of the terrorist base in Syria, the targeted killings of terrorist leaders and the security fence.

Marshall Giller

Winnetka

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