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The Photo Issue 2007

Holy Heroin

There are about 6,000 junkies living in East Jerusalem, the area Israel captured (or recaptured) from Jordan during the Six-Day War. Unlike the rest of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has no control over the region, which has resulted in more...
TH
Κείμενο Tanya Habjouqa
1.7.07

here are about 6,000 junkies living in East Jerusalem, the area Israel captured (or recaptured) from Jordan during the Six-Day War. Unlike the rest of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has no control over the region, which has resulted in more or less a complete vacuum of Arab social and legal infrastructure. And with the Israeli police trying to keep the area’s refugee camps and contentious Jewish settlements from boiling over into full-on civil war, looking after a bunch of Palestinian heroin addicts isn’t too high on anybody’s list of priorities.

The better part of East Jerusalem’s junkies is concentrated in the Old City—the single square kilometer of land into which the Wailing Wall, the death sites of Jesus and Mohammed, and about 35,000 Jews and Arabs are all crammed. This is where Hassan here has spent his last 17 years freebasing.

Omar and his buddy waiting for their fix in a heroin den outside the Shuafat refugee camp, a five-minute walk from the Israeli checkpoint into West Jerusalem. At any given moment there are about 50 guys of various ages crowded into this old blasted-out building smoking or shooting up.

This dad lives with his wife and five children in a one-room apartment with a combined kitchen-bathroom-closet in the Old City. He told me he always shuts himself in the closet to shoot up so his kids don’t see, and seemed to be a pretty good father, considering.

And here’s Omar finally shooting up. The den is another five minutes’ walk from one of the region’s other rehabs, the Noor Center, but with no police forcing him to clean up and no jobs around the camp to take on even if he did, the odds of him taking that stroll anytime soon are a good infinity to zero.

There are three Palestinian drug-rehab centers in East Jerusalem, none with much more than tattered old copies of NA books and coffee as far as facilities go. This one is the Tahara Center, which was supposedly built on the site of Moses’s grave.