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

Kfar Shaul – Jerusalem’s new cultural village

Kvar Shaul where the festival will take place
Performances last year in the historic courtyards of Kfar Shaul, photo: Yonatan Tadhar

Two weeks ago I received a call from one of the most innovative and creative men I have met in my life and I have met many. Adam Yakin, the founder, and director of the Dancing Ram theater, which just won theater show of the year in the Akko festival, is known all over Jerusalem and dare I say all over the country for his shows and puppetry.  Adam’s giant puppets, created by him and his staff, have entertained audiences in Jerusalem East and West and all over the country bringing joy and laughter to so many of all ages. Adam wanted my help to recruit musicians for his unique cultural event that he was planning for August 1-3 at the Kfar Shaul mental hospital in the heart of Jerusalem.

Knowing Adam I was not surprised by his new endeavor which actually began a year ago on a smaller scale at none other than the Mental facility of Kfar Shaul.  It all started years ago when Adam was visiting a friend who like many had an emotional breakdown and was hospitalized in Kfar Shaul. Being, like me, the human doing that he is, Adam spent his visit telling her about his newest project and asking for her input. She in essence reconnected to her professional and creative side and for an hour suspended her emotional breakdown.

While there Adam began to discover that many artists, actors, and musicians had been hospitalized in this hospital most eventually returning to society and creating Art for all of our benefit.

Adam shares “Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting and befriending several men and women who live at Kfar Shaul. Among them are performing artists, scientists, musicians, poets, and teachers. Some of these people need treatment for a few weeks, months, or years. Others will probably remain in Kfar Shaul until the end of their lives, not because they have no talents or novel ideas, but because they lack the possibility to adapt to the demands of society as we, inhabitants of the Western world, have established them.”

“Why should people, who happen to suffer from depression or anxiety spend their days in isolation from art, music, theatre, and the community?”  Adam asks. “Why should those people who are sometimes blessed by flares of imagination and genius, not take part in cultural life as a whole?”

Adam continues “Since they cannot or are not allowed to leave the premises, it’s up to us to come to them so that we can inspire each other. Together we will fill three evenings with contemporary artistic events. The public, staff, and patients will stroll along the paths of ancient and picturesque Kfar Shaul and energize each other with unexpected musical and theatrical creations.  This is going to be an amazing inspiring festival!”

For those of you not familiar with Kfar Shaul, it is located on the grounds of the Arab Village Dir Yassin which has a sadly sordid history with conflicting stories about what actually happened there. Kfar Shaul was originally used over fifty years ago as a hospital for Holocaust survivors due to the sensitive feelings about the location where Arab residents were driven out in 1948.  Four years later it was converted into a mental institution using the entire grounds of this picturesque village as a safe ground for those suffering from this challenging and prevalent disease.

As a counselor dealing with young addicts, I have spent many an afternoon visiting psychiatric patients in Kfar Shaul. Though the hospital went through tremendous upgrades in its conditions over the past few years, this did not affect the ability of the patients to feel less alienated from society, many not receiving visits from anyone on the outside. The lack of interaction from loved ones makes it much harder for patients to recover feeling isolated and uncared for.  Though Mental Illness is as prevalent as the flu these days there is still an extreme stigma toward those who suffer from the disease and the idea of having a loved one hospitalized is as traumatic as ever.

So what is this event we are speaking about?  A three-day celebration of the Arts in an incredibly unique and beautiful setting that most of us have never seen or even known about.  Every time I visited Kfar Shaul I dreamt of giving the residents the opportunity to play music and engage in the Arts. So naturally when Adam approached me about being involved I was thrilled.  I found that every musical group or musician that I approached was honored to be a part of the fest including a few of my teen bands and musicians.  Adam’s vision is to open up the Kfar to residents outside of the hospital giving them the opportunity to interact with the patients who are healthy enough to walk the grounds and to begin to erase the negative stigma mental illness has developed.

“I see our innovative concept being supported by the Jerusalem Foundation, the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Center, The Ministry of Culture, and the Jerusalem Municipality, as validated and acknowledged for its tremendous potential of the tremendous creative power found there integrating into the cultural scene.” Adam Yakin, the promoter of the festival and its director, explains. “There are countless examples of great artists who have experienced mental crises. This innovative concept means that this does not require their separation from the community and the community from them.”  “Beyond that, Kfar Shaul itself is the ideal place to begin this perceptual change, since it is located in a beautiful village that invites you to an enveloping artistic experience.”  Together with Adam’s co-producer Michal Shukrun, the Dancing Ram theatre will be remembered not only as an outstanding theater project but as a major part of the movement to change attitudes about Mental Illness through the Arts.

Among the shows that will take place on T”u Be’av in Jerusalem’s Cultural Village will be Yonatan Razel and his band in a moonlight show, on the grand piano with a new album.

Yonatan Razel  photo: Ariel Zandberg

“Girls in the Tower”: a new theatrical tour that will take place among the centuries-old buildings of the village. “Psifasso”, a professional theater group of ultra-Orthodox actresses from the Bocharim neighborhood (Mea Shearim), in a show specially built for the courtyards of the ancient village. A new play about the Jerusalem Syndrome will be played by a psychiatric nurse and a medical clown who work in Kfar Shaul. Between the buildings, there will also be a theater and music performance from Baghdad under the musical direction of Yair Dalal. Among the musicians who will make the atmosphere jump is the drummer Raz Eitan, star of “Wedding at first sight”.

“The story of Omar, my teammate from the army who was war shocked, will be played by an actor who himself was also the commander of our personal team at Tzuk Eitan.” Director Gilad Chen explains and invites to his presentation “Reboot” – a play that travels through the village of Tu Bav talking about relationships when one of the spouses is hospitalized. The poet Nahir Levi: “On the evening of Tu Bav I will appear near the closed ward where my partner gave me an engagement ring when I was hospitalized there.” Shir Aloni: “My mother was hospitalized in Kfar Shaul, I did not agree to be hospitalized”, actress Abigail FRI: “I created a play based on my intimate stories and how I came out strong from a difficult childhood.” Director Adam Yakin: “There is so much drama and truth in this place. I chose the general psychiatric nurse and the hospital’s medical clown, who will lead us in a show more fantastic than any fantasy.”

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

Dozens of shows for the general public with free admission including shows for the whole family: The circus show Romeo the Fireman,  The Best Collection a show by the Train Theater, Control Freak, an innovative technological show, and among others, a show in English ”I am an emotional creature” with the Dancing Ram Theatre. Some of the puppets were actually created by patients working with the Dancing Ram artist Shelly Fridland.

Music:  A Bouncy groove show by a pipe band, The Allegro klezmer band, Jenny’s Fault band’s acoustic music featuring an electric cello, Yusef Wilde’s soft music experience, Spare Parts rock band, The Downhill rock band, Ahmed Zmero Opera singer with accompaniment, Nostalgia Yerushalmi, an Arabic Hafla with songs from Egyptian cinema, Libby Kaner a Broadway-style singer and entertainer, and music in the alleys from the Jerusalem School of Rock bands and more!  Also included will be the dance “Tarab” accompanied by musicians from the School of Eastern Music Center. Finally an art exhibition by the Shananot Collective of artists in ancient spaces, including “The Stable”, an ancient building that is about 750 years old. We are also in the process of engaging  Albi Lichy, a Turkish-born Jew who recently made Aliyah and plans on turning Kfar Shaul into a psychedelic wonderland with his light show.

I was also excited to find out that Omri De La Rotem was chosen as the technical organizer of the festival arranging all of our technical needs.  For those of you unfamiliar with Omri, he was one of the founders of the Poundak Project, the innovative artist’s hub in the center of town, opened for the purpose of housing and supporting creative endeavors of every type including music, theater, art and more.  He is the perfect choice to make this festival as magical as Adam ever envisioned!

360° Maalot festival at Kfar Shaul


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

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

Michal Shukron, festival producer 052-3128080

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. 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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