The Jerusalem School of Rock

Sobar is a drug- and alcohol-free safe musical haven for youth who wanted to jam with their friends, hear music and socialize.

The Sobar band playing at the Blaze Bar in Jerusalem (photo credit: GREG TEPPER)
The Sobar band playing at the Blaze Bar in Jerusalem
(photo credit: GREG TEPPER)
I have lived on and off in Jerusalem since 1984 and was fortunate enough to raise my three children here for many of those years. As a mother of teens in Jerusalem and as both an addictions counselor and creative therapist, I have had many ideas about how to help our kids grow up in a safer Jerusalem. One of them was to open a drug- and alcohol-free entertainment center.
I realized this dream a couple of years ago by opening Sobar, a drug- and alcohol-free safe musical haven for youth who wanted to jam with their friends, hear music and socialize. Apparently it was not the right time for such an endeavor, though six months of welcoming in dozens of Jerusalem’s teens and young adults proved to many of us the need for such a place.
So here we are, two years later and still such a safe entertainment venue is yet to exist. Yes there are amazing teen drop-in centers for at-risk youth in the city center but our youth are not necessarily considered at risk, though in my opinion every teen and young adult in Jerusalem is at risk. Why? This is the only city in Israel where the downtown bar area is all concentrated together. Within minutes you can find dozens of bars drawing in kids of all ages, both teens and young adults. The appeal of eating pizza, going to a movie or bowling can only go so far. Alternatively, the appeal of thousands of teens and young adults hanging out together finding excitement in all of the wrong places – well, that is something to be a part of, especially for kids coming from overseas who have never experienced such a thing. These kids are particularly drawn to this scene. I know mine were.
So on to Plan B. The precursor of a center such as Sobar will be the formation of Jerusalem’s first School of Rock (JSOR), an exciting, innovative project that will involve both teens and young adult musicians as students, teachers and performers. We will train young singers and musicians with advanced talents to reach a higher potential. We will prepare them to work with musicians to form bands while showing them how to perform on stage and draw in their audience. The teachers and mentors will be young adult musicians and other young professionals in the field who will be trained to work with youth of all backgrounds. These mentors will be encouraged to excite the young participants through their personal stories of music as their natural high. Once the participants are prepared, we will provide them with performance venues. They will be able to invite their friends and audiences of all ages. Similar to the Sobar events, the performances will be alcohol and smoke-free while maintaining the atmosphere of an exciting concert.
Through the Sobar project we experienced the excitement of musicians of all ages getting together to meet each other, jam together and be an audience with the utmost respect toward the musicians. Role models appeared out of nowhere, some younger than those they influenced. Sobar established a musical community of both performers and audiences. The bonds created during the three-year preparation that led up to its opening continue till today. Young musicians whose first performances on stage through the Sobar project made up some of their best memories.
The Jerusalem School of Rock (JSOR) will create the finished products around which the Sobar nights will happen. After each concert, the stage will open for a jam session where the audience can participate in the excitement of the evening. We hope to host weekly events but who knows what the future will bring?
Decades after Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Nick Drake, Janis Joplin, David Bowie and more recently Amy Weinhouse, along with so many others, learned the hard way that drugs and alcohol do not improve their performance nor their lives, we have the opportunity to help this generation of Jerusalem’s young people to get it right the first time. The JSOR will give the participants reasons to stay clean of drugs and alcohol for the sake of their art! Visiting the psychiatric wards at Kfar Shaul, Eitanim and Herzog over the years has opened my eyes to so many talented musicians who believed that drugs would enhance their creativity. Many had their wake-up call in Germany – a haven for Israel’s young up-and-coming musicians; many more had their wake-up call right here at home. Some never woke up and found themselves forever plagued by mental health issues brought on by drug and alcohol abuse.
Can we control our youth? Absolutely not! Can we contribute to their well-being by helping our city to create alternative “hangouts” and learning programs? Absolutely! Will a program such as this help our youth gain the self-confidence they need to succeed as healthy young musicians? I say yes! Can we contribute to youth experiencing culture in a safe yet exciting environment? I say yes! What do you say?
You can find out more on our Sobar Jerusalem Facebook page. We are starting smaller this time but, as we all know, the longest journey begins with one step forward. If you want to help make this happen, we welcome you!
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor in Jerusalem whose articles appear on her website,