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An ounce of prevention... is worth a pound of cure

The Sobar band will be performing at the First Station on March 27,
to promote the opening of the Sobar Music Club for Youth. Photo credit: Courtesy

One of the biggest mistakes made by parents and institutions is waiting for the proverbial crisi to occur before acting.

Millions of dollars are spent on treatment and incarceration of adolescents, in lieu of preventive treatment.

This article examines problems and solutions – services provided by the government and a center being planned in downtown Jerusalem to provide a healthy alternative to the downtown bar scene.

Most parents assume that their kids are okay until it is clear that they are not. They often are unaware of red flags, which if identified can alert them to act before a crisis overtakes them. They often don’t have a prevention plan in place to avoid future crises, and don’t know who to turn to when they first become aware of the problem.

Many parents live in fear that their children will make choices that will cost them and their family their serenity.

They often feel uncomfortable speaking to their daughters about sex and pregnancy prevention, not wanting to seem as if they are giving a tacit endorsement for their girls to engage in premarital sex, and seem to be equally uncomfortable discussing condoms and other forms of prevention with their sons. Parents usually do not know much about today’s drug scene and hope that their kids will not encounter anyone who will introduce them to drugs. They usually don’t even broach the subject and assume it will be covered at school.

I worked for years in drug rehabilitation centers and in private practice with families and their young people, seeing countless families in over their heads before they even realized there was a problem. Once their eyes were opened, they had no idea where to turn; nothing prepared them for having to enter the world of treatment services and facilities. They believed that this happened to other people’s kids, not theirs. Add to this that many immigrant families are already dealing with a change of language, culture and mentality, and have no experience with the downtown life that attracts their youth.

I recently began working with a family whose child spent a year in an English-speaking private drug rehabilitation center. The social worker – whose job included exit plans to ensure a more successful transition back into society – had no idea what services were provided by the state system. The parents did not have a clue, either, until we began to meet. They were relieved to learn that there are many options available with state funding.

It is up to us as parents to provide basic information and tools to our kids. Guidance counselors can be helpful, but are generally not trained in addiction and addiction prevention; nor are doctors. It is imperative that doctors know if our child has issues with drug and alcohol abuse.

If your doctor is not well versed in what medications kids with addictions to drugs and alcohol can and cannot take, it is important to find a doctor who is. Some medications for conditions such as hyperactivity, depression and anxiety are themselves addictive and should not be given to kids with such issues.

Teenage years are very scary times. Many parents still have haunting memories of their own teen years, making it hard to deal with their teenage children without some form of transference taking place. Every generation has its challenges; it seems like those challenges grow more dangerous as the years go by.

Street drugs are more lethal. The marijuana of today is not the grass of the past. It is ten times stronger and often laced with heaven knows what. Pseudo-THC products such as Hagigat and Mr. Nice Guy have nothing to do with THC – they are made up of pure chemicals and might as well be rat poison. They are toxic for the brain; some youths never recover after their use.

LSD is rampant, as is ecstasy, and mental institutions are filled with youngsters who played Russian roulette with their minds and ended up on a bad trip – some of whom may never get back to normal.

Alcohol use is more prevalent than ever among young people. They have no idea of the dangers of alcohol to their body and brain. In some ways, alcohol abuse actually does more damage to the brain and body than drug abuse, and has caused more deaths.

As we know, knowledge is power. Parents need to know how to identify when their kids are indulging in dangerous activities. Organizations like the Jerusalem Struggle Against Drugs can provide valuable information about the warning signs and who to turn to when services are needed. Your local mental health center can be a wonderful resource for this information as well.

In addition to these services, it was obvious to parents, community members and even city officials that there was a serious need for an alternative entertainment venue for our youth. For decades, Jerusalem has seen hundreds of thousands of kids gather downtown looking for excitement and finding it on street corners and in the local bars.

Girls who look years older than their age frequent bars and are exposed to the world of adults long before they are ready. Boys and girls indulging in drugs and alcohol, often starting with cigarettes, are catapulted into what they consider adulthood without the social skills needed to deal with the situations they encounter. As I mentioned earlier, the default has been dealing with the aftermath rather than prevention.

With this in mind, I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing group of musicians, music teachers, youth workers, youth, parents and city officials and department heads to plan an alternative entertainment venue for youth in downtown Jerusalem. An alcohol- and smokefree place where kids can find entertainment that will draw them in and show them that life can be exciting without costing them their mental, emotional and physical health. A center where our kids can learn, create and play music for their peers in a youth friendly environment.

A place where they can enjoy workshops in group dynamics, communication, conflict resolution, self-empowerment, community service and life coaching. A center where parents can receive guidance on how to support and communicate with their kids so that everyone is heard and respected, where kids can perform for their parents and show them talents that most of their parents never had the opportunity to see. A center where kids will be surrounded with positive mentors and role models who have used their talents to advance themselves in healthy yet fun ways. And of course, in the present state of things, let’s get kids off the street for security reasons.

All this will happen at the Sobar Music Club in downtown Jerusalem. The Sobar will primarily serve the 15-24 age group. Activities will be formatted for different age groups. There will also be girls-only and boys-only events and workshops. Each activity will have a nominal cost. As I have learned over the years, kids appreciate things they have to work for.

With the success of our crowdfunding campaigns – our upcoming Headstart campaign for Israeli donors and our ongoing Indiegogo campaign for donors from abroad – we hope to open our doors this coming May. The Sobar is located on Shoshan Street across from City Hall.

We have two upcoming events in support of the Sobar.

The first is on Sunday, March 27, at 7 p.m. at the First Station, featuring bands from Lenagen Bekef and the Sobar band, guest-starring Libi from Libi and the Flashbacks.

The second is on Friday, April 1, from noon – a Heavy Metal Festival where we will be kicking off our Headstart campaign at the Even Juke Club.

Every contribution brings us closer to our goal. Donors will be rewarded with free memberships to the Sobar and acknowledgments on our website and Facebook page Sobarjerusalem. All donations are tax deductible, thanks to the generosity of the Ginot Ha’ir Community Center.

We are also partnering with the Musrara Community Center, which is assisting us to make the downtown area a safer place for kids.

Parents are not expected to have all of the answers, but they are expected to do their due diligence and make sure they are prepared if indeed their kids are in need of help.

Early detection can make a huge difference, and of course the best course of action is prevention. Let’s support alternative entertainment for our kids.

Most importantly we must let our kids know that, whatever the situation, they can always turn to us.


The writer is a counselor for teens and young adults, specializing in addictions, who has been working with youth and their parents for 25+ years; she is also the founder of the Sobar alcohol-free live music bar project for teens and young adults.
She can be reached at jerusalemteencounseling@gmail.com, and on her web site Jerusalem Teen Counseling.