Almost one in three Israeli adolescents at risk, report finds

Elem support organization delivers assessment to President Rivlin showing 30% of youngsters having problems involving drugs, alcohol, sexual abuse or violence at home

Illustrative image of teenagers. (iStock)
Illustrative image of teenagers. (iStock)

Nearly one-third of Israel’s adolescents are at risk, according to a report issued Sunday by the nonprofit organization Elem, which reaches out to troubled youth.

Four out of five teenagers at risk seen by the organization reported having been subjected to sexual violence, with figures showing incidents doubled since last year, and involved mainly young girls, the report said.

One in every four youths seen by the NGO was using drugs — with users now as young as 12 — a figure that rose to one in two in less-advantaged communities on Israel’s periphery.

Based on data collected from more than 21,000 young people helped by the organization over the past year, the document — presented to President Reuven Rivlin — assessed that 70 percent of Israel’s 800,000 teens lead normal lives, suffering from problems that are typical of adolescents.

Another 15% were defined as at moderate risk. These used drugs and alcohol to cope with depression and adolescent issues.

At the more extreme end of the scale, 10% — some 80,000 teens — are estimated to be unable to function in school, felt like failures, had suicidal thoughts and suffered from serious emotional and family problems.

A further 32,000 (4%) have quit all frameworks and cut themselves off from their friends, wandered the streets and become involved in crime.

And some 8,000 teens (1.43%) were homeless, self-harming, involved in crime, addicted to drugs and alcohol and cut off from their families.

One in five of all teens who turned to Elem last year said they were subjected to nonsexual violence — in the home, in the community and on the internet. This figure rose to one in every two for adolescents at risk.

Elem has called for the creation of a national program to fight sexual violence against adolescents and young adults. It has submitted a paper to members of Knesset addressing the need for prevention, identification, enforcement and rehabilitation.

On drug use, Inbal Dor-Karbel, director-general of Elem, said, “The greater the distress, the more intensive the drug use, helping youth to escape the harsh daily reality in which they live. Particularly alarming is the phenomenon of drug abuse among younger adolescents (aged 12-16).

“This year, more than ever before, we saw how easy it is for youth to get hold of drugs via the social networks and various online applications, which make drugs accessible everywhere and at all times all over the country.

“Furthermore, the daily conversation about drug use in society as a whole has made the issue legitimate among young people as well.”

In March, police arrested 42 people connected with one of the country’s largest drug sale networks, Telegrass, which had been operating via the Telegram instant messaging app. In April, they charged 27 suspects.

On receiving the report, Rivlin said, “The boys and girls whose circumstances led them to the street, with its hardships and cruelty, are our children.

“You, at Elem, have led and continue to lead the rehabilitation and re-connection of youth at risk with great devotion and love and by talking to them respectfully, on their level,” he said. “They don’t need to find you. You find them.”

Elem’s activities, run by professionals and volunteers, include youth centers, shelters for the homeless and for young people in prostitution, night vans that meet teens wherever they are and provide counseling, treatment centers for minors who sexually abuse or are victims of sexual abuse, and programs to help adolescents integrate into the workplace.

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