How does a Jew from another part of the world who genuinely wants to pass their Jewish heritage along to their children, book a trip to Israel that will leave a lasting impression?
Most Bar Mitzvah trips to Israel all claim to be unique, with “memories that will last a lifetime."
But, when you Google a few companies and tour guides, you’ll notice that all of the itineraries of these “unique” trips are exactly the same!
First up are the sites: The Old City, The Western Wall, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Carmel, Masada, etc. These are the places you want, and should go to!
But that’s not unique. So it’s onto the attractions.
Float in the Dead Sea and rub some mud on your face. Fly in a helicopter or a hot air balloon! Drive around in a Jeep, or an ATV… the list goes on and on, but they’re all the same.
Again, this is nothing unique.
So, I asked myself, is this what Israel has become? Should we conclude that what makes a bar mitzvah trip to The Holy Land memorable are jeeps, helicopters, and hot air balloons?
When rumors about a different kind of roots trip started flooding the system, I went out to see for myself if we finally had something new.
I met with Asaf, owner of Shin Luxury Tours, at a small cafe in Tel Aviv. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. He greeted me with a warm handshake and, as the interview progressed, it was revealed that he was a modest, kind, salt-of-the-earth man. Asaf is connected to his roots and is called to help Jews from around the world reach their own roots.
What was meant to be a 20 minute interview turned into over an hour long conversation. What follows are the highlights from our meeting.
Q: Asaf, I’m noticing this trend, that over the past years more Americans are choosing to come to Israel for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah trip. How do you explain this?
Asaf: Many American Jews feel like their lives are quickly passing them by. We get so busy working, that when the kids start becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah we realize a lot of significant opportunities to connect with our family and children have passed us by.
So, bringing the family to see the sights, landscape, and culture of the Holy Land seems natural.
But in talking with parents, we’ve uncovered a deeper motive: the desire to experience something meaningful together as a family. Something that will leave a lasting impact. That’s why they really come.
Q: Of course, and that seems to be what most companies offer, right? I don’t see any differences. Why do all these itineraries look the same?
Asaf: I’ve asked myself the same question. If you Google “8 day trip to Israel” the same itineraries seem to repeat themselves.
Israel is very small, so naturally there will be overlap in the places guides bring you. And, there are some common sites I suggest all Jews visit. But your experience at those sites should be unique and personalized to you.
That’s what a lot of people don’t realize.
Q: What do you mean the experience should be unique and personalized?
Families are made up of people, and people have different interests. As a guide, you have to craft experiences that fit into the personalities of the people you are touring.
If you try to cram people into a cookie-cutter experience, it may work for some people, but for most it will feel a little bit dry, and it won’t be that memorable for their kids.
Q: How do you craft an experience around a person’s personality?
Asaf: Simply by asking different questions and listening to the answers.
We find out each family member’s likes, dislikes, hobbies and interests. That allows us to develop a very interesting and unique experience while visiting the sites people wanted to go to.
Of course, you can't just turn a family member’s personality into the thing that everyone experiences. It takes a bit more work, but the results are incredible.
Q: You’ve lost me, what do you mean?
Take the Western Wall - the place where the Israeli army liberated the city of Jerusalem in 1967, during the Six-Day War.
In short, weeks before the Bar Mitzvah boy gets on a plane, we walk him through a series of videos to familiarize him with the Six-Day War. He sees the war through the eyes of an Israeli soldier named Yoram Zamus, a captain who liberated the Western Wall.
At the peak of the 10-day Bar Mitzvah tour, after having a traditional Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall, the kid gives a presentation to friends and family that he put together.
The boy has added a piece of himself into the group’s experience!
That sounds incredible!
Asaf: It is, but that’s just the beginning. At the end of the presentation we really surprise him when Yoram - the soldier he just gave a presentation about - walks out and introduces himself to the young man.
Yoram speaks, building on top of the Bar Mitzvah boy’s story about him. In that moment, you can watch the past and present meet.
Yoram represents the past. The boy represents the present. They are connected by the Western Wall, a place that existed in both times. When you mix it all together the Bar Mitzvah boy is able to get a clearer view of his future.
He will finally connect the Jewish heritage he was born into to his personal modern day identity, making him proud of who he is.
Q: Asaf, wow! Listen, I’m pleasantly surprised! It seems like you’ve really done something different here. Why aren’t more companies doing this?
Asaf: Because they can’t! It’s the personal connection we have with Yoram that allows us to do this. But it doesn’t stop there. We’ve used our personal connections to create experiences like this all over the country and we’re always looking for ways to add more.
Q: You seem to want to really shake up the industry!
Asaf: [Laughing a bit] No, that’s never been my goal. I simply wish to give people experiences they deserve, ones that inspire them.
Q: How about one last closing thought to summarize?
Asaf: Coming to Israel for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the best way to connect your child to their Jewish identity - but only if you hire a guide who creates a custom experience for you. If you get the same experience as everyone else, it might not create the memories and inspiration you’re looking for.
I’d like to thank Asaf Peled from Shin Luxury Tours for being so generous with his time in giving me this interview.
Your Shin Tours Travel Consultant will listen carefully and will suggest a tailor-made itinerary for the experience you’re looking for.
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