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Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist/band organizer and manager/event producer/writer

An Exciting Event at an Unexpected Location

A-new-play-about-the-Jerusalem-syndrome-will-be-played-by-actors-who-are-also-a-psychiatric-brother-and-a-medical-clown photo credit , photo: Ariel Zandberg
One of the shows performed by a medical clown and main nurse of Kfar Shaul photo: Ariel Zandberg
Kfar Shaul where the festival will take place photo by Ariel Zanberg

Last week I visited Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center for those suffering with mental illness in Givat Shaul for a very different reason than I have visited before.  Someone very close to me had been hospitalized there over 40 times for psychosis due to drug use. Walking through the gates of Kfar Shaul I was overwhelmed by memories of literally hundreds of visits to this beautiful yet very sad place. For those of you unfamiliar with Kfar Shaul, it is located in what was once called Dir Yassin, an Arab village with a controversial background due to what transpired there before it was abandoned by its Arab population.  Years later realizing the value of this picturesque village located in the heart of Jerusalem in Givat Shaul Israel transformed it into a home for Holocaust survivors believing that this was the only population that could be housed in such a controversial location.  Years after that, it was transformed into the hospital where the entire grounds of the village are being used to facilitate patients of all backgrounds suffering from every type of mental illness imaginable.  Many are considered Dual Diagnosis meaning they have two main issues, mostly addiction and mental illness.

During my visits to Kfar Shaul I encountered many young people who had done too much experimenting with drugs and found themselves in psychosis.  Even marijuana can cause psychosis in some people. It has happened to friends of mine over the age of 60.

There are very few facilities for Dual Diagnosis patients in Israel as I found out the hard way searching out alternatives for my loved one and clients of mine who were also struggling with this condition. Be it hospitals specializing in this area or hostels, there are not nearly enough facilities to assist those in need.  Kfar Shaul is one of the few hospitals in the country specializing in this condition.  As a counselor and creative therapist running music programs for young people, I have seen way too many kids experimenting with things that end up overcoming them causing them to spiral down to a place where it seems impossible to help them out of.  Classic for addicts is to keep using more and more trying to get the same high as the first time never realizing that that high will never come again.

So why am I sharing this now?  A close friend of mine, Adam Yahin, founder and director of the Dancing Ram Theater, approached me with a novel idea.  “Tracey, are you familiar with Kfar Shaul?” “Too much so” I answered.  “What do you think about the idea of joining us in creating a three-day cultural wonderland on the hospital grounds?”  This brought me back to my last visit to the hospital where I saw a number of young people who were both musicians and singers and I dreamed of creating jam sessions for them on the rooftop patio of the brand-new building housing the most vulnerable of patients.  I was beyond excited to help Adam make my dream come true. Who would have believed that Kfar Shaul would allow such an event to happen? And thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation, the Ministry of Culture and the City of Jerusalem there were funds provided to support such an incredible endeavor!

“Over 60 theater productions will take place on these very grounds” Adam explained pointing out the various places they will take place.  “Now I need you to bring in the music”.  So I began calling all of the musicians and bands I have been working with over the past seven years, bands that have performed at my many Woodstock festivals, events at the Stay Inn Modular Club, at the sadly defunct Poundak Club, and The Besarabia  Bar. Thanks to Yehi Zaken, the founder of Blaze Rock bar. the father of Rock and Metal music in Jerusalem I was introduced to almost every band that I recruited into this festival. He also gave me a home away from home! Yay Yehi!!!  Each musician/band I approached excitedly said it was an honor to be a part of such an endeavor.

One of the bands performing at the festival

The Spare Parts band performing at Blaze Bar
photo by Tracey Shipley

I explained to them that not only would they be performing for the patients of the hospital, but hundreds of Jerusalem residents would also be visiting the hospital grounds most for the first time to familiarize themselves with one of the most beautiful spaces in the city populated with residents suffering an illness as prevalent as the flu these days.  Mental disorders and related alcohol and substance abuse are among the biggest issues affecting young Israelis.  Close to 50% of Israelis are dealing with disorders including anxiety, Neurasthenia; characterized by physical and mental exhaustion and associated with depression and emotional stress at a rate higher than in most countries. Should we be surprised?  We live in a country where we must send our kids to the army, many having to deal with serving in dangerous areas at the age of 18.  What they encounter is far from normal for an 18-year-old or even a thirty-year-old.  Terrorist attacks lately almost weekly and the lure of drugs and alcohol as a great escape from it all, if only for a few hours.

Adam’s vision is to take away the stigma of mental illness and of these hospital grounds that service this population where there is almost no family in Israel that has not been affected by some sort of trauma.  And of course, the best way to lure people into uncharted and stigmatized grounds is through the Arts.  Adam’s vision goes even further.  When one visits Kfar Shaul they are asked who are they there to see.  They cannot simply go to walk around.  Their bags are checked for sharp and glass objects, anything that can be used for self-harm, not unheard of with this population.  Adam knows that many of the patients are hospitalized for extended periods of time, unable to go out of the hospital grounds, some for weeks, some for months, some for years, and some for the rest of their lives.  They cannot take part in the Arts beyond the occasional visit to the occupational therapy room. With this in mind, Adam dreamed of bringing the Arts to them.

August first through third from five in the evening Jerusalem residents of all ages are invited to take part in an unprecedented endeavor.  Giant puppets, some created in collaboration with some of the hospital’s patients will be populating the alleyways, theatrical shows for children and adults alike will take place through the evening and nighttime, and in between musical performances of all types will turn the Kfar into a Cultural Hub.  Patients will be invited to join the jams, my teen bands from my Jerusalem School of Rock proudly adopted by the Music Department of the City will be performing alongside well-known bands such as Nostalgia Yerushalmi, Atlantica, Downhill, Spare Parts, Point.2, Jenny’s Fault, and more. In addition to Rock music, there will be Klezmer musicians and soft sounding performances by Yosef Wildes and band. Musical sounds will abound around every corner of the hospital grounds.

Our hope is that this will open to door to many more creative endeavors at Kfar Shaul in the future drawing the population at large back for visits to interact with the patients through creative endeavors or simply to chat.  We speak so much lately about Ahavat Hinam. Yeah Adam for embracing that concept in very real terms and with a population that needs it more than any.

360° Maalot festival at Kfar Shaul

1-3/8/2023 www.360jlm.co.il

For details and coordinating interviews with the creators at the festival:

Adam Yachin, the dancing ram theatre, the festival’s initiator, creator of the festival and its artistic director 054-6104911

Michal Shukron, festival producer 052-3128080 dancingramtheatre@gmail.com

About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Methadone Clinic, Established a program for Ethiopian Teens educating them about their culture and opened the Jerusalem School of Rock program which helps to create teen rock bands and established monthly teen music events at downtown venues where teens perform for their friends in a teen friendly exciting atmosphere. https://www.facebook.com/jerusalemshoolofrock. In addtion to her projects Tracey was the English Speaking Volunteer Coordinator for Emunah Jerusalem succeeding in bringing in more funds and volunteers than ever before. Tracey organizes monthly Rock Festivals and manages rock bands young and old. Tracey also writes for Times of Israel and the Jerusalem Post.
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