The Israeli Opportunity

Summer 1994 Vol. 05, No. 1 Politics and Protocols: In Search of a Balance

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While in Israel attending my cousin’s wedding this June, I arranged a meeting with the Chief Scientist of the Israeli Ministry of Health, Dr. Michael Silbermann. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the likelihood of MDMA research being legally approved in Israel, perhaps for use in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or in helping reduce pain and distress in terminal cancer patients. To my delight, Dr. Michael Silbermann indicated that the essential elements in the decision to permit MDMA research in Israel would be the safety of the human subjects and the scientific rigor of the protocol design.

My main question for Dr. Silbermann concerned the possible existence of any overriding political concerns that might prevent medical research. In particular, we discussed the fact that the use of MDMA in all-night raves in the Jerusalem hills had been reported in the Jerusalem Post, and that the practice was looked on with disfavor by the police. Dr Silvermann indicated that such non-medical uses were no secret, but that research into the medical use of MDMA would be considered on its own merits.

We then discussed the possibility that MAPS might help arrange a two-day scientific seminar in Israel with scientists from the United States coming to Israel to lecture on the topic of medical research with MDMA, ibogaine, DMT and psilocybin, marijuana, and drug policy. Dr. Silbermann thought the idea had promise and suggested that it might be possible for an organization on whose Board of Directors he serves, the American- Israeli BiNational Science Foundation, to sponsor the meeting. The key to such a sponsorship is finding an Israeli scientist to co-sponsor the meeting.

Fortunately, I have been keeping in contact over the years with Dr. Joseph Zohar, an Israeli research psychiatrist who focuses on OCD research. Dr. Zohar is interested in MDMA’s potential in treating patients with OCD who do not respond to other treatments. He is considering helping to plan the seminar, and said he would contact a few other scientists in Israel who might be interested in the topics.

I am now in the process of drafting a proposal for the meeting, to send back to Dr. Silbermann for submission to the American-Israeli BiNational Science Foundation. If this seminar actually gets arranged, it will probably take place sometime in middle or late 1995.