Planning the ideal Bar Mitzvah in Israel

Events planner Osnat Eldar gives tips on how to organize a special celebration in Israel, whether it's a "rolling event" around the country or located in a central location.

Aliyah Latora in Massada's ancient synagogue (photo credit: Harel Rintzler)
Aliyah Latora in Massada's ancient synagogue
(photo credit: Harel Rintzler)
A Bar Mitzvah is a journey. It is a path from childhood into manhood, a time to reveal insights. Israel is the perfect location to have such a Bar Mitzvah journey - the place where old meets new, where east meets west and past, present and future are a natural combination of daily life. Jews from all over the world see this occasion as an opportunity to strengthen their family bonds with their roots, religion and orientation.
When we begin to plan a Bar Mitzvah for families coming from outside Israel, we usually ask ourselves the following questions: Where are the guests coming from? Have they been to Israel before? How many children are coming and most importantly, what our Bar Mitzvah boy is like?
We start with his name. Since most of our Bar Mitzvah grooms have names with Biblical origins, we use the origins and combine the name in the theme and content of the event. This adds on another layer of meaning. For a boy named Zohar we planned an event in the north of Israel visiting Tzfat, the Kabbala capital. For Jamie (Jacob) we planned the concept of "I have a dream" (based on Jacob ladder dream). Asher's Bar Mitzvah was inspired by the quote "I will be wherever I shall be" (Aheye Asher Aheye). The options are endless.
Inviting guests to visit Israel for the occasion needs further thought. It's important to think about whether it's their first time in Israel or not. If it is their first time, Jerusalem should be the "home base" for your journey. The reading of the Torah by the Bar Mitzvah boy can be performed at the Kotel or in the Davidson Center.
Another option is in one of the city's synagogues such as the Safaradi synagogue in Mishkenot Shaananim or the Hecht synagogue on Mount Scopus campus overlooking the old city. A guided tour in the city is a must, and if there are non-Jews among your guests it would be suitable to visit the major Christian sites as well. If there are children in the group consider having a scavenger hunt ,a cooking lesson or a chocolate workshop.
Survival night in the Judean Desert (Harel Rintzler)Survival night in the Judean Desert (Harel Rintzler)
Jerusalem is on the way to the Dead Sea and many first time visitors to Israel consider it a "must visit." If you are into the extreme side of things you can climb Massada early in the morning. For an extra treat, you can arrange a Bar Mitzvah Challenge for the younger members of the group, which is a unique extreme experience, tailored for young hearts that includes a competitive pursuit for treasures, dinner around the campfire and overnight camping.
If it's not the first time in Israel for most of your guests, you can plan your journey from Tel Aviv or from the north of Israel and have the Torah reading ceremony in an ancient synagogue. A rolling event (spending each night in a different location) is an option for groups who are not afraid of going from one point to another having "tastes" of Israel's finest highlights along the way.
As for accommodation, we highly recommend boutique hotels where you are the majority or the only guests. This way you will be able to "brand" the hotel and get special treats from the personnel.
Boutique hotel accommodation - having the whole place to the Bar Miztvah guest  (Harel Rintzler)Boutique hotel accommodation - having the whole place to the Bar Miztvah guest (Harel Rintzler)
Scheduling the date of the Bar Mitzvah is set based on the Bar Mitzvah boy's Hebrew date birthday. The Torah reading ceremony can take place on Mondays and Thursdays and on Saturdays along with the weekly Parasha. Many of our clients wish to combine the event with school vacations. It's important to book accommodations at least six months in advance. Booking the synagogue is also crucial since the popular synagogues get booked up fast. Ensure with the synagogue Gabai (synagogue administrator) that the date is free. Make sure you agree everything in writing, and payments are on time. You will need to set up a meeting with the synagogue's Rabbi who will conduct the ceremony. Some will prefer bringing the Bar Mitzvah boy's teacher or a local Rabbi who speaks the guests’ language.
It's important to remember that this is not only a journey of spiritual learning, but also a birthday celebration in a gorgeous vacation country. Leave time for fun activities for the whole family such as horseback riding, jeep tours, extreme tours and of course a beach hang out.
If you are planning to bring a large group of guests or have guests from Israel to join you, don’t forget the Bar Mitzvah party. Many boys at this stage are interested in sports, music, street art or computer gaming so it's important to create the Bar Mitzvah party to suite their preferences and that will introduce the "true them" to the guests. Professional services
Planning to celebrate this meaningful event and creating a special program and unique activities is not enough. There needs to be someone who will make sure the outcome is what you aimed for and will meet your expectations. An event planner will make sure the schedule is kept and that every detail that surrounds the visit is being taken care of. This includes all the little details such as an experienced tour guide, handling soft drinks and sunscreen, caring for special diet needs as well more serious issues such as emergency medical treatment.
Street Art themed Bar Mitzvah Party in Tel Aviv (Harel Rintzler)Street Art themed Bar Mitzvah Party in Tel Aviv (Harel Rintzler)
As well as a coordinator/event planner, we advise having a bi-lingual hospitality crew to oversee the events, who will make sure that guests are having a great time so that you do not have to worry about a thing.
Such an opportunity when all family members and friends hang out together for a few days is worth keeping. Adding stills and video photographers who accompany the journey will assure you have the best memory of the events.
Having a Bar Mitzvah event in Israel strengthens the young generation’s relationship with Israel and bringing guests adds a Zionist flare to it giving people the chance to discover the beauty of the country. Whether it is a "rolling event" or located in central location, whether you are a small or a large group, it will be a journey you will remember and treasure your entire life.Osnat Eldar is an event planner with over 18 years of experience with many successful Bar Mitzvah events for clients from all over the world. More about our Bar Miztvah events in