JeruStock brings family-friendly Woodstock to Jerusalem

Drug-and-alcohol-free event commemorates 50th anniversary of watershed music festival

September 1, 2019 21:37
2 minute read.
A musical Kabbat Shabbat ended the JeruStock event. ( From Right to Left) Yankele Shemesh, who was a

A musical Kabbat Shabbat ended the JeruStock event. ( From Right to Left) Yankele Shemesh, who was at the original Woodstock, Kalman Flax, Maury Epstein and Daniel Levin. (photo credit: BEN BRESKY)

JeruStock, a grassroots tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock festival left everyone happy in the nation’s capital Thursday and Friday. Young Israelis mingled with gray-haired, tie-dye clothed veteran Anglo-Israelis who remember the original festival back in 1969, which attracted close to half a million music fans to rural New York.

The local incarnation was a family-friendly affair tucked behind the First Station railway tracks at the Silo cafe, a coffee shop that still has some of the infrastructure from the old Ottoman train station.

“Everyone gave their hearts and souls,” said organizer Tracey Shipley, who conceived of JerusStock along with volunteers from Hitorerut and local venues. Noting that all of the performers were volunteers and equipment was provided by the Blaze Bar and others, she added, “it was like a stone soup, everyone put in a little something and it came out delicious.”

Shipley, a counselor  for teens and addiction specialist, runs the Sobar project which hosts alcohol and drug-free events in Jerusalem.
“It was important for me to have a family-friendly atmosphere, not a drinking scene,” she explained.

Conjuring up counter-culture ideals, the coffee shop sold kosher vegan food and families camped out in tents. There was face-painting and other kids activities provided by volunteers.

Several older attendees noted the lack of artificial enhancements in contrast to the 60’s Woodstock.

One of these was Rabbi Yankele Shemesh, who attended the original festival. Shemesh performed a mix of Woodstock-era tunes and songs from Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. He also hosted a Kabbalat Shabbat sing-along Friday afternoon with Rabbi Kalman Flax of the Simcha Center.

Another veteran musician was Aryeh Naftaly of The Elevators, who hails from Moshav Mevo Modiin, the rural community founded by Carlebach. The moshav suffered a massive fire this spring and most of the homes were destroyed. However, one of the few places spared by the blaze was Naftaly’s music studio, and he performed Grateful Dead music on instruments found intact at the moshav after the blaze was extinguished.

But the real stars were the young Israelis who performed a mix of Hebrew originals and hippie-era classic. Shipley said many had never heard of the classic rock singers and had to send them YouTube videos.

One performer who covered Arlo Guthrie noted on stage, “this is my favorite musician that I just discovered a week ago.”

A 70-year-old man announced he was at the original Woodstock and had come to Israel to visit his niece. Arriving in Jerusalem and discovering a Woodstock tribute was amazing for him. After the Thursday night line-up ended, a campfire was lit and old friends and random strangers joined together to sing all night. Almost like 1969.

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