Up in Smoke with the Boom Shiva Hippies -- With the apple-market slump causing rising local unemployment in recent years, the appeal of marijuana, Himachal Pradesh's naturally occurring crop, has become all too obvious. High on the knowledge of the availability of cheap and easy-to-come-by dope, backpackers and hippies have flocked to the region for decades. But over the last 8 years, some pockets of Himachal (such as Old Manali, Kasol, and Dharamsala) have become flooded with Israeli tourists, 20-somethings cutting loose after completing their mandatory 3-year stint in the army. The attraction here is of course drugs, with about 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) of Himachal reportedly under cannabis cultivation. The arrival of so many young Israelis has changed the tourism industry as well, with restaurants now serving falafel, baba ghanouj, and laban (yogurt), and a surprising number of signs and menus in Hebrew. There's serious smoke rising at full-moon rave parties where Boom Shiva (read: hashish) can be found in abundance and young Israelis inhale with "full power." Excessive indulgence has now motivated the Israeli government to sponsor a home in Old Manali to rescue drug-addicted youngsters, as well as Kfar Izum (Balance Village) on the Mediterranean coast to rehabilitate youth who are sending their futures up in smoke in Himachal.
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