Recent Boys Town Jerusalem High School graduate Yosef Ben-Shabbat’s life changed with the beat of a drum. Last year, within the framework of the school’s community service project, Yosef began volunteering with special-needs children. His assignment: to teach four groups of boys, grades 2 – 9, to play the darbuka, an ancient Mid-Eastern goblet drum.

Although he’d never taught darbuka or worked with handicapped kids, Yosef’s winning smile and musical talent kicked right in. In no time, his students were happily beating their drums to the tempo.

Throughout the year, Yosef witnessed the power of music for his “special” kids.

“One very shy little boy with serious emotional problems gradually came to life,” he reports. “I watched him develop as he played the darbuka and began to socialize and enjoy. That’s what I came here to do, and now I know where my future lies.”

Yosef will now be enlisting in a 5-year IDF program to combine his combat service with a B.Ed degree – and certification in Music Therapy.

In this new endeavor, as from his first moments in life, Yosef will be joined by his twin brother Yakov. Yosef and Yakov just became the fifth and sixth Ben-Shabbat brothers to graduate from Boys Town, with brother #7 set to enter the school in September. (Their three other siblings are sisters.)

Parents Shimon and Alice Ben-Shabbat both immigrated to Israel from Morocco. Shimon works in maintenance, and Alice runs a small home nursery.

As fifth graders, Yosef and Yakov gained nationwide fame as contestants on the renowned “Music School” TV talent show. At BTJ, the two joined the extracurricular school choir where they starred in numerous video clips and travelled to London for special BTJ Choir performances.

Yosef, who majored in electronics and computer studies, credits BTJ Music Director Nir Cohen with teaching him far more than music. “Nir taught us life lessons through the soul of music. His example is what taught me to teach.”

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