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

The Grateful Dead, The Beatles and Kfar Shaul Mental Hospital

Flier for Dead Fest- Image free for use

“Tracey, I’m so excited!  You told us that there would be a music festival at the hospital and it’s really happening!!! Will people come? Can I perform? Will the staff let us stay until the end? “Can I do the rap song that I just wrote? It’s in Arabic, is that ok?”  “Yes Farid”, I responded.  “As promised, we will all gather in the center of the Kfar on the grass and listen to the best of the Beatles. You may not be familiar with them, but you will love their music!”

And so it happened. They came in droves! The largest group of festival attendees I had ever had coming to a show in the most unexpected of places. Over 250 Beatles lovers came to a Mental Health facility abound with patients struggling with their ability to function in the world that we live in. They came to hear the best of the Beatles performed by over 10 bands from all over the country and who knows, maybe even to experience a little of what it was like to be confined to hospital grounds for months and sometimes years. For those who came only seeking a fun musical experience, they were in for much more than that.

The Market Hedgehogs performing the best of the Beatles at the first festival at Kfar Shaul-  Photo by Tracey Shipley As everyone gathered on the grass sitting on mats or on the many plastic chairs, there was a sense of excitement in the air. This had never been done before.  A music festival in a place where for over 70 years, since its opening shortly after the establishment of the State of Israel, no one could enter unless they had due cause such as visiting a patient or volunteering to bring a bit of joy to their everyday lives.  Except for two or three patients dressed in pajamas, it was hard to differentiate between them and the audience.  Everyone sat together awaiting the first performance.

Farid approached me with a female patient and shared that his mother, the only woman wearing a Hijab in the audience, had come to watch him perform.  “Tracey, I am going to say my rap in Arabic and Yehudit will say a shorter one that I wrote in Hebrew.”  Sure I told him, you will go up first.  And he did. Farid rapped his feelings in Arabic followed by Yehudit sharing his heartfelt piece about how he loves people, all people and is grateful for his mother and father.  A tremendous round of applause came from the audience and a smile on Farid’s face like I had never seen before.  After the first singer finished his last song I was again approached by another patient. “I am Yakov Mordechai Singer” he said and I want to sing.” At the time I didn’t know if his name ended with singer but soon found out that not only did he sing, he sang beautifully, unfettered by the hundreds of onlookers.  He sang religious tunes in his black and white religious clothing as Halleluiah, the A Capella group prepared for their set.  The audience was again so responsive; we all knew Yakov would never forget this moment.  Lastly came Elias. Formerly a professional performer from Tel Aviv, life choices landed him in Kfar Shaul. He quickly gathered a few musicians who were awaiting their turn to perform and simply rocked with his impromptu performance of song and excited moves on the stage.  The audience lapped it up!  Wow! What a surprise.

More than 250 onlookers at our Beatles Festival – photo by Tracey Shipley
The Elevators performing – Photo by Orit Sasson

The rest of the evening continued with fantastic bands playing the best of the Beatles to the great excitement and cheer of the concertgoers.  The Beatlemaniacs, The Band Called Eggman, The Market Hedgehogs, Daniella Goldfine, The Fridge Magnets, and more were all incredible, each one bringing a different feel of this amazing band to the stage.  Was the rest of the evening a typical festival? Not at all.  One of the patients decided he needed to be onstage with the performers.  Adorned in his PJs he kept standing in the middle of the bands, often in front of a microphone pretending to sing.  I had to gently lead him off the stage by inviting him to dance with me as he shared that he was close to my age and had an apartment.  A kind of proposal I believe.  He endeared the entire audience to him awaiting his next entrance on the stage.  The other character bringing spice to the evening was an American religious patient with a fantastic sense of humor.  The other musicians called him the star of the evening as he MCed a lot of the shows while twirling the strings of his Tsitsit to the beat. At one point, he took a plastic chair, put it in front of the stage and jumped over it.  Quietly, he put it back in its place and continued to sing along.

Well, if you missed this incredible experience, do not fret. The next one is coming up!  Thursday, June 27th we will be holding a Grateful Dead festival featuring The Elevators, and  Uncle Jon’s Band on the hospital grounds.  The song by the Dead Truckin’ with its most famous line: “What a Long Strange Trip it’s Been”, is so very Apropos for this upcoming experience.  All of us have had our own interesting trips, some natural and some drug-induced, but all I believe being exactly what we needed to be the humans that we are today.  LSD, was so prevalent in the 1960s when the Dead began their long strange trip it landed many an indulger in a mental hospital due to a bad trip.  Thankfully, most recovered though sadly many did not and landed themselves in psychiatric wards.  How ironic to bring a band known for its many audiences of trippers to Kfar Shaul.  The Grateful Dead, well known for its jam effect playing their songs in a different way at each performance, looked at their audiences as a part of the performance.  The Dead and their audiences morphed into one.  The music of the Grateful Dead creates an ambiance where you can simply sit and move to their music or dance for hours.  This is what has attracted “DeadHeads” over the years who left their everyday lives sometimes for years to follow the band around and continue the Dead experience of “Truckin” along on their long strange trip.

So, pack up your picnics (no glass or alcohol please for the safety of the patients) and join us for another “Woodstock-like” experience on the lawn of one of the most picturesque places in Jerusalem between Har Nof and Givat Shaul.  We will even have pizza and other treats available for purchase- Kosher of course.  I promise this will be an evening you will never forget.  Thank you to the Jerusalem Foundation and the Dancing Ram Theater for initiating and supporting this wonderful endeavor! The cost is only 40 shekels in advance and 45 shekels at the door. For more information and advance tickets contact me at 0548108918. See you there!!! Fb link:


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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