Jerusalem School of Rock - a safe hang out for Israel's teens

Offering a positive option for youth to entertain themselves

YOUNG MEN perform on a street in the center of Jerusalem.  (photo credit: SARA KLATT/FLASH90)
YOUNG MEN perform on a street in the center of Jerusalem.
(photo credit: SARA KLATT/FLASH90)
Over the past 16 years since landing back in Israel with my then three teens, I have seen matters go from bad to worse in downtown Jerusalem. Hundreds of teens roam the streets looking for fun in all of the wrong places. There are no safe place for kids to go, outside of a few centers for at-risk teens that cannot possibly provide an answer for all of Jerusalem’s teens and young adults in need of alternative ways to find excitement.
As an addictions counselor and creative therapist, I have seen the value of music in steering kids clear of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The issue has always been finding an entertaining place downtown devoid of the lure of the bars, which often don’t care about the age of their patrons.
For decades the Youth Department of the City of Jerusalem has faced this dilemma yet has come up with no answers. Six years ago I went out on an extreme limb and opened a safe yet exciting music club for teens where drugs, alcohol and cigarettes were left outside the door, and only music and community were celebrated. Many of the teens were what we call yeladim tovim Yerushalayim, the good kids who have not yet embarked on the dubious path that so many of their peers have. I call every teen in Jerusalem – and elsewhere for that matter – “at risk” due to the dangers of peer pressure pulling them into situations most cannot say no to, fearing losing their standing with their friends.
Two months ago I opened The Jerusalem School of Rock, where talented teens in love with rock music gathered to form rock bands, thanks to the generous contribution of The Pundak Club where our rehearsals took place. After only a month, our bands had the opportunity to perform alongside other well-known bands at two festivals: a downtown concert supported by the city, and on the main stage of the First Station.
Our final event was something far more significant. We organized a Music Jam for youth at a local club called the Besarabia, where no alcohol was served, no cigarette was lit and no drugs were passed around. Twenty kids from every background gathered, corona style, played for and with each other, and had the most wonderful time with no pressure to delve into unhealthy and often dangerous encounters with drugs and alcohol.
The Jerusalem School of Rock (JSOR) Jams are our answer for safe alternatives to the many bars and musical jams around our city that lure our kids into unsafe surroundings. Kids who have been training for years to play alone or with friends will now have a safe outlet where they can perform for and with their peers without being surrounded by drugs and alcohol. So whether a musician, singer or music-lover, the JSOR project has a place for you, your teen and your young adult. Thanks to the Besarabia and, we hope soon, the Pundak Club, evenings will abound with safe and exciting entertainment on a weekly basis for teens of all ages.
The writer is a family and youth addictions counselor; creative therapist, columnist for parenting articles and founder of The Jerusalem School of Rock