However satisfying the outcome, the planning are fraught with challenges, hoops and hurdles, so it's important to understand what you need to do for a successful celebration... and whether you want to take on the challenge yourself or hire a professional event planner to do the dirty work. We've invited a handful of Israeli event planners to share their thoughts on the most important things to think about before having a bar/bat mitzvah in Jerusalem or anywhere in Israel, and they have some great tidbits. If you have a specific issue you're wondering about use our handy dandy table of contents to navigate there directly:
- Choosing a venue
- Ceremony at the Kotel (Western Wall)
- Alternatives to the Kotel
- Accommodation for family & guests
- The Celebratory Meal
- Saving money through VAT refunds and exemptions
- Photography & video
- Buying tefillin
Celebrate Your Child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah With A Tour Of Israel
It’s hard to pass your Jewish heritage down to your kids if they never visit Israel. In Israel, Jewish customs, holidays, and traditions are celebrated on a national level, even if they are not observed on a personal one. Hebrew is a national language, and there is a strong national sense of pride. Asaf Peled of Shin Luxury Tours explains why your children need to experience Israel firsthand: “There are modern-day heroes and role models waiting to be discovered. Virtually everywhere you go there is rich history hiding in plain sight. Understanding it through experience will bridge the gap between past and future, and make your children proud of their Jewish identity.” A Bar/Bat Mitzvah is THE BEST reason to bring your family to Israel. Contact a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Tour Consultant to find out how simple it is to combine a family vacation with this important life event. It will result in an experience that inspires your entire family, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Using the services of a professional event planner for your special day
Celebrations in Israel - Private Events (Photo: Yuval Yosef).
If you want to make sure everything is taken care of before you land in Israel with the whole family, you can delegate the planning to a professional company whose specialty is arranging celebrations for guests from abroad. Celebrations in Israel event planning services by Pamela Azaria will make sure you'll have the perfect day for your child, according to your wishes and your families' traditions and values with excellent communications and meticulous attention to detail while sticking to your budget, she'll bring you the best vendors, gorgeous and sacred venues, a rabbi to your liking and an unforgettable experience.
With your event planned by Celebrations in Israel, you’ll have no worries because everything will be arranged to your satisfaction.
Photo: Tal Dafna
Nothing can make or break an event like the venue, whether you're talking about the ceremony or the reception. Jerusalem is so full of stunning venues that it can actually be hard to choose. Revital Azulay of Revital Events says that while the venue itself is certainly important, your personality, your child, guests and what kind of event you want to have is an equal deciding factor. "When starting to plan a bar/bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem you have to choose the right location, a place with a unique theme depending on the bar/bat Mitzvah child's interests," she says. "You also must take into account the season when the event will take place to decide whether it will be indoors or outdoors. I usually recommend to plan an event in Israel between the months of March and October.
Since you almost never have to worry about rain during this time, you can confidently celebrate outdoors and enjoy the view of the Old City of Jerusalem. "In addition, it is very important to choose a location that is unique and has a special value to it -- for example an ancient synagogue with lots history to it, an art gallery with a landscape of Jerusalem or a restaurant located in a unique area, such as Mishkenot Sha'ananim. "And when it comes to food, don't mess around. Always choose a restaurant with a professional chef to enjoy a real culinary experience in Jerusalem!"
"Celebrating their son's bar mitzvah at the Kotel is a dream come true for many parents," says Tanya Hakimian of Amazing Simchas. "The question is where do you start planning for an event such as this. "Firstly, make sure you have set a budget to help you focus on the important aspects of the day. Sit down and write a list of things you want on this special day and keep it with you at all times so that you can keep track of what you are spending. Secondly, the weather is a factor I would definitely take into account. In the summer it is really hot and in the winter it can get really cold, so come prepared. Third, make sure that everything is organized well in advance so that you don't get stressed out on the day. "Although Jerusalem is a beautiful city, it comes with challenges.
You will find that parking is a nightmare and it is best to organize busses for your guests. You should also take little children, older members of your family and friends and disabled people into consideration when deciding how to get to the Kotel. There is quite a bit of walking to be done and not all your guests will be up for the challenge. We always do our best to come up with creative solutions to these issues."
Planning for different denominations of Judaism
People from all walks of Jewish life come to Jerusalem to celebrate their bar/bat mitzvah's because "Jerusalem holds religious significance to Jewish people regardless of their level of observance," says Adena Mark of A to Z Events Israel. However, your level of observance will certainly have an impact on what type of celebration you want to have and what venues are available to you. For instance, "if the family does not want separation of men and women or wants to have the bat mitzvah girl read from the torah, then the Kotel is not for them, but this doesn't have to be a challenge," she adds. "There is something for everyone in Jerusalem, and it's simply a matter of knowing what is available and choosing the right location. Having the ceremony elsewhere can allow the family to celebrate according to their customs and observance, and yet still have the emotional and spiritual significance of Jerusalem."
For families that either can't or don't want to celebrate at the Kotel, Adena is a big fan of the Davidson Center because of its stunning grounds, accommodations for progressive services, historical significance and proximity to the Kotel. And if you can't take advantage of the spirituality that the Kotel adds to a ceremony, she suggests choosing a location with a view of the Kotel and/or a theme that adds significance. If you plan on having an Orthodox ceremony and are looking for another historically significant venue, check out the Hurva Synagogue.
Photo: Davidson Archeological Center
"Very often, the families ask me to assist them to find a theme for the party relating to a significant cause or activity to which the family relates," she says. " Some examples of what we have done with clients include a volunteer project or donation to organizations in Israel - care packages to IDF soldiers, donation of musical instruments or sports equipment to a school or organization, food packages to the needy, a donation to a playground or park, or clothing donations to an orphanage, to name a few. Revital suggests also suggests a number of alternative locations around the city, such as:
- Hotel Yehuda in South Jerusalem
- David's Harp Gallery in the Old City
All of which have areas that can be transformed into synagogues with stunning views. In addition, Yad Vashem can be particularly moving and significant. If you're not married to the idea of Jerusalem, think about some of these alternative locations around the country:
- Desert -- Start off morning prayers at an ancient synagogue in Masada then hike Masada, followed by a dinner party by the Dead Sea as we set it up with tables, chairs, lighting and an orchestra.
- Seaside -- Start the day in Old Jaffa and celebrate the festival in the evening in Caesarea by the water with lighting, an orchestra and gourmet food.
- True Kindness -- Celebrate in a school for disabled children or children coming from difficult homes who wouldn't necessarily celebrate a party of their own.
Finding accommodation for a bar/bat mitzvah means not only finding it for your family but often also for your guests, so it typically pays to go with a hotel that is used to hosting large groups.
Photo: Bell Hotel (Pa'amonim Aparthotel)
Another highly recommended hotel is Bell Hotel. Located in the center of Jerusalem and nearby the Old City, this hotel is perfect for family accommodation and ideal for hosting private events of up to 100 guests. This hotel allows you to celebrate your Bar Mitzva event in a beautifully designed venue with all of the equipment and amenities that you might need. You'll find a brand-new sound system, a microphone, screening equipment, and more. The hotel serves Mehadrin food approved by Badatz Jerusalem. The staff is very attentive and will take care of any special requests you may have.
Photo: Prima Royale Hotel
If you enjoy your intimacy, we highly recommend checking Prima Royale Hotel. Inspired by the art and culture of Jerusalem, this hotel is located on a quiet street right at the City Center. You will enjoy easy and comfortable access to the light rail and the Old City. If you’re planning on hosting an event, you will also find 133 rooms with spacious suites to accommodate the whole family. In addition, the hotel offers a beautiful event venue for up to 170 guests, with a projector, a large screen, and an advanced sound system.
Photo courtesy of the Eldan Hotel
Eldan is a boutique hotel located on King David Street, within a walking distance of the Old City and the Western Wall, hence this is the perfect spot for any kind of event, especially a bar mitzvah in the most upscale style. Eldan Hotel specializes in organizing bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah events, providing accommodation solutions for a vast variety of guests who can stay in the hotel's 75 rooms.
The hotel's proximity to the Old City is highly comfortable for celebrating a bar mitzvah, including having a ceremonial procession to the Western Wall. A synagogue is nearby, so families and hosts have plenty of options for a having festive bar mitzvah celebration. Even if you just beginning to plan your event - you can always contact the staff for a consult and early booking. The team is at your service for anything you may need, from complimentary bar mitzvah content to costumes for the staff - anything to make your special day memorable.
Address: King David Street 24, Jerusalem.
Photo: Alegra Hotel
Looking to host the whole family in a perfect luxurious hotel before or after the ceremony? Alegra Boutique Hotel is located in the picturesque Ein Karem neighborhood offering a family-friendly hosting experience with a variety of rooms and suites in one of Jerusalem's most beautiful locations. Hotel Alegra is perfect for families that prefer rural accommodation and are looking to enjoy some peace and quiet, far from the city noise. The hotel hosts private events of up to 80 guests and kosher catering services can be ordered through a third party. You could also use the hotel's staff to help you book the Ein Karem synagogue.
Photo by Leonardo Plaza Hotel
Leonardo Plaza Hotel of the Fattal chain is located next to Mamilla Boulevard and Jaffa Gate, hence it is perfect for Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations. The spacious hotel is great for accommodating whole families, while the proximity of the Western Wall makes it the best choice for the ocassion. The hotel offers strictly Kosher culinary experience and numerous facilities that will make your stay extra pleasant while providing various options for the event:
- Six different spaces (restaurants, event halls, and a balcony) suitable for up to 800 guests
- A marvelous terrace overlooking the views of Jerusalem
- Advanced audio-visual equipment of the highest standards
Address: Harav Avida 1, Jerusalem More hotels for Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem >>
Enjoy the Culinarium experience on Chabad Street and dine as if you’re living in Biblical times! With the Culinarium, you can enhance the experience of visiting Jerusalem or the Bar Mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall and combine your event with an unforgettable feast and impressive production. The culinary team will accompany the Bar Mitzvah boy throughout the day – including taking photos or videos, to your choice. After refreshments, we will march to the Western Wall in a moving Biblical procession accompanied by shofar horns and drums. After the ceremony, you can enrich the family experience with additional activities – a photo experience as Biblical characters with souvenirs to take home, a biblical tour, an escape game into the past, and more. And of course - incredible meals to celebrate in Biblical atmosphere and clothing, including spectacular photographs as a souvenir of an unforgettable day.
Photo Courtesy of Live the Bible
Baraka Hall and Restaurant is located near Mamilla and invites you to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in a hall designed for up to 250 guests in a festive, authentic atmosphere. Baraka's kind staff will make you feel at home and make sure your Bar Mitzvah event becomes an unforgettable experience that all guests - and especially the Bar Mitzvah boy himself. The charm of the Old City makes this place perfect for Bar Mitzvah events. At the restaurant, you can enjoy a kosher event menu under the supervision of Rabbi Mahfud consisting of a variety of delicacies from Moroccan-Oriental cuisine that will add flavor and color to any occasion. In addition, you can use sound equipment and a variety of lighting options. Plus, there’s plenty of parking near the hall.
Photo courtesy of Baraka
After the ceremony, it is customary to have a celebratory breakfast or lunch, depending on the time at which the ceremony was held. The meal is served among family and friends attending the special occasion. You have a number of options.
Photo Courtesy of Music Square Complex
If you're looking for a restaurant near the Old City, not too far from the Western Wall - there's no place more suitable than Kinor Bakikar. It’s easy to see why: It is located in the picturesque Nahalat Shiv’a neighborhood, in an old building that belongs to the Music Square complex. As such, it radiates an authentic Jerusalem atmosphere. Kinor Bakikar is a kosher restaurant and has a designated space suitable for events of up to 120 guests. This makes it an ideal location for hosting bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah dinners. The Jerusalem Stone from which the restaurant building is constructed, the warm and pleasant design of the place creates an atmosphere of Old-time Jerusalem. Completed with meticulous food and warm and dedicated staff, this is the perfect place for your family’s event.
Photo: Zappa Jerusalem
Housed in a historic building dating back to 1937, Zappa Jerusalem is one of Israel's most distinguished concert halls and event venues. The Zappa's beautifully designed space can accommodate up to 350 guests, which is perfect if you're planning on a medium/large-scale Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebratory meal. The Zappa offers high-end kosher catering by Chef Ori Ziso, who specializes in flavors, aromas, and attractive food serving. Being a musical venue in its essence, one of the great options about this place is that you can include intimate live performances in your event, making it even more unique and outstanding.
Lechem Basar (Meat & Eat)
Photo: Lechem Basar (Meat & Eat) Restaurant
Located at The First Station and within walking distance from the Old City, Lechem Basar is one of Jerusalem’s best restaurants for meat lovers. Besides its convenient location, the venue can accommodate meals for up to 100 guests in a luxurious atmosphere. The menu creates a beautiful, tasty, and honestly, quite a creative combination of juicy meats and fresh homemade bread. There is also a private VIP room, designed for 35 guests; a special menu for business lunches that offers great food for great prices; and of course, a kosher lemehadrin event menu designed accordingly to your specific needs and requirements.
Teamim Culinary Experience
Photo: Teamim Culinary School
Looking for a unique bar/bat mitzvah celebratory meal option? Go with a culinary experience at Teamim Culinary School. The idea is this: you get a fun group cooking class and a tour at the colorful Machane Yehuda market. It's an original way to celebrate a bar/bat mitzvah, which will also prepare the kids for adulthood. The workshop is designed to engage the participants and to make sure that everyone has an important role and value in preparing the mitzvah meal. Needless to say, at the end of the class, you get to sit all together and enjoy your meal. The classes are designed for groups and can be booked for families and/or groups of friends.
When planning an event overseas, cost concerns can always creep into the picture. Luckily, Liza Even-Israel of Events by Liza has some great advice on how to save money by either avoiding Israel's value added tax or getting a tax refund on certain purchases. "Many tourists are unaware of the various opportunities for VAT free or Vat reimbursements available when planning their events," Liza says. "Being that VAT in Israel is at 17% , this can account for big savings. "First of all, it is important to know that if you are staying at a hotel and holding your event at the same hotel, you will not pay VAT for any of your non-Israeli guests staying at the hotel. Furthermore, if you are purchasing certain goods for your event in Israel and you are not an Israeli citizen, you will also be entitled to a VAT refund at the airport. For example, I coordinated a wedding for a couple coming from the States. They wanted an Israeli-made Ketubah from a certain artist. The artist supplied them with a special VAT refund receipt which they presented to the authorities at the airport and were reimbursed for the VAT."
If you're going through all the trouble of having all this celebration, then you're definitely going to want to capture those beautiful memories with photos that do them justice. Unfortunately, history is littered with amazing events with disappointing photos, so it's important to think long and hard about your photographer. Barak Aharon of Barak Photography is an Israeli photographer who is well-known on the events scene and has also had his photos published in numerous newspapers. He has some advice:
Finding the right photographer
"Naturally, not every bar or bat mitzvah is the same; locations, guests, and circumstances vary widely," Barak says. "However, if you have looked at the photographer’s portfolio, and the pictures seem like the kind of thing you would be happy to see on your wall at home, then that’s a match. "Also, keep in mind that your photographer is going to be present on an important and intimate day in your life – feel free to give your photographer a call in order to get to know the person who will be documenting the big day. Equally important is to take a look at what others have said about working with your potential photographer (Is s/he prompt and prepared? Was the work delivered on time? What was it like to effectively invite this person into a family event?); a transparent business will provide reviews through a third party service like Google Plus, TrustPilot, or others."
"For people coming from abroad, the process of planning an event in another country can be stressful," he adds. "However, there are plenty of virtual resources available to potential clients (no matter where they are from). "The website is your first stop. After all, it’s a window into the business, and any photographer worth his or her salt knows that this can be a deal-maker or breaker. Make sure there is an English version of the website; if not, that’s a non-starter. "Pay attention to the speed and detail in which you receive a response to your inquiry. And finally, invest in a conversation to get a general vibe and verify what type of experience the photographer has working with b’nei mitzvah families (ask about the flow of a typical event, and don’t be shy to ask for suggestions about local, the party, or even accommodation based on past examples).
While celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah in Jerusalem is an incredibly rewarding experience in and of itself, guided tours of Jerusalem and the rest of Israel can also be an enriching accompaniment. Take advantage of this opportunity and visit the City of David, Tower of David Museum, The Jerusalem Archaelogical Park, and the legendary Hurva Synagogue, which was recently reopened.
In addition to being fun and educational, it has the potential "to plant the seeds of personal development, self-grown and responsibility in a young teenager," says Jerusalem-based tour guide David Sussman, adding that for such an occasion, you should be sure to hire a "highly qualified guide."
"The guide should be passionate, funny and engaging for both the kids as well as the adults, and if they served in the army here, that is always a plus as well, as army service is a huge part of Israeli society and will give your guide a true sense of Israeli culture.
If you're looking for a unique experience, we recommend checking out Smart Tour and especially their Classic Old City EZ Raider Tour. This special adventure will allow starting your celebration in a fun activity that will also expand your horizons – all while driving an exciting EZ Raider vehicle – all the way to the Western Wall.
Another interesting and inspiring attraction worth visiting is The Rabbi Kook House. The historic house functions as a museum and is perfect for those looking to enrich the bar mitzvah experience with valuable content and engaging activities. During your visit to the museum, you will visit the house of Rabbi Kook, see historic and authentic items, and learn about his extraordinary life. In addition, you will also have the chance of participating in a variety of activities, take a guided tour, and watch a fascinating movie. Looking to enrich your experience even further? The Rabbi Kook house hosts classes and courses, seminars, culture nights, educational activities, and walking tours around the city.
If you'd like to find your own tours, check out our listing of tours in Jerusalem & Israel.
Photo: Alex Yampolsky
One of the most important and meaningful aspects of any bar mitzvah (and for some bat mitzvahs) is the donning of tefillin. Jerusalem is home to Oter Israel, one of the most highly regarded producers in the world of tefillin in accordance with all types of Jewish tradition. In addition to selling tefillin, Oter Israel also offers tours of its factory, where you can get an up-close look at the process of making tefillin, from inscription to assembly. Learning about all the effort and care that goes into producing tefillin is sure to enhance the experience of putting on tefillin as a Jewish adult for the first time.