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Kfar Shaul - Jerusalem's new cultural village

 The general public

360° Maalot festival for theater in the region

  1-3/8/2023 the festival program

Initiated by a resident of Jerusalem and with the support of: The Jerusalem Foundation, the Jerusalem Municipality, the Ministry of Culture and Kvar Shaul Mental Hospital


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 Yahin, 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 Kvar Shaul mental hospital in the heart of Jerusalem.


Knowing Adam I was not surprised over his new endeavor which actually began a year ago on a smaller scale at no other than the Mental facility of Kvar Shaul.  It all started years ago when Adam was visiting a friend who like many had an emotional breakdown and was hospitalized in Kvar 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. Suddenly to everyone’s dismay, her condition began to improve. She in essence reconnected to her professional and creative side and little by little began her journey into wellness.


While there Adam began to discover that many artists, actors and musicians had been hospitalized in this hospital most eventually returning to society and to 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 Kvar 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, among them great artists who happen to suffer from depression or anxiety, have to spend their days in isolation from art, music and other expressions of culture, when art, fantasy and "make-believe" are alive and kicking all over Jerusalem?” Adam asks. “Why should those artists who live in Kfar Shaul, and who are sometimes blessed by flares of imagination and genius, not take part in our festival or cultural life as a whole?”

Adam continues “Since the artists of Kfar Shaul cannot or are not allowed to leave the premises, it's time for us, who consider ourselves "healthy", to come to them so that we can inspire each other. Together we are going to fill three evenings with contemporary artistic outbursts. The staff, patients and public will stroll along the mysterious paths of ancient and picturesque Kfar Shaul and energize each other with unexpected musical and theatrical creations.  This is going to be an amazing festival!” 


For those of you not familiar with Kvar 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. Kvar 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.  Years later it was converted into a mental institution using the entire grounds of this picturesque village as a safe ground for those suffering this challenging and prevalent disease. 


As a counselor dealing with young addicts I have spent many an afternoon visiting psychiatric patients in Kvar 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 a 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 Kvar 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 Kvar 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 Yachin, 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 Shukron 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 Tu Bab in Jerusalem's Cultural Village

Yonatan Razel and the band in a moonlight show, with a grand piano with a new album under their belt.

"Girls in the tower": a new theatrical tour that will take place among the centuries-old buildings of the village. "Mossipso", 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 brother and a medical clown 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 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 a reboot - a play that travels through the village of Tu Bav talking about relationships when one of the spouses is hospitalized. The poet Nahir Livi: "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 late 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 Yachin: "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. 


Dozens of shows for the general public with free admission including  shows for the whole family: The circus show Romeo the hot fireman, a show by the Train Theater - the best collection, Controlol Freak, an innovative technological show, and among others, a show from the poetic play "The Journey" which was inspired by observations on the spot, the children will be accompanied by giant puppet shows and field figures of the dancing ram. Some of the giant puppets were actually created by patients working with the Dancing Ram artists.

Shows for adults with free admission: The Jerusalem Syndrome, We're Going to Die, I'm We, Mentally Insane.

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 band, an Arabic Hafla with songs from Egyptian cinema and music in the alleys from the Jerusalem School of Rock bands.  Also included will be dance accompanied by musicians from the "Tarab" Eastern Music Center in the ancient setting of the village and a video performance "I am an emotional creature" on the walls of the ancient buildings. Finally an art exhibition by the Shanan Collective 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 Kvar 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 Kvar 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


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