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Planning a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Jerusalem

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Celebrating a bar/bat mitzvah in Jerusalem is a magical experience both for the bar/bat mitzvah boy or girl, the family and all the guests who come out of town. The feeling of having the ceremony at the Western Wall, surrounded by the holy city is inimitable.

Of course, that’s the fun part. There’s also the hard part — planning.

However satisfying the outcome, the planning stages 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

Bar Mitzvah Kotel

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!”

Check out our full listing of restaurants for bar/bat mitzvahs >>

Find more bar/bat mitzvah venues >>

Ceremony at the Kotel (Western Wall)

“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.”

Alternatives to the Kotel

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 it’s 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.

For more information:

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If you plan on having an Orthodox ceremony and are looking for another historically significant venue, check out the Hurva Synagogue.

For more information:

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Send an Inquiery to Hurva Synagogue

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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:

  • Touro Restaurant in Mishkenot Sha’ananim with a stunning view of the Old City walls
    (072-3290722)
  • 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.

Accommodation for Family and Guests

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.

Windows of Jerusalem – Rental Apartments

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Photo: Windows of Jerusalem Vacation Rental Apartments

One of the most popular accommodation solutions is Windows of Jerusalem. Located in the heart of Jerusalem’s city center, these 5-star rental apartments offer an elegant and modern hospitality experience. The rooms and apartments are equipped with all the necessary amenities for adults, children, and even babies. The hotel accommodates both small and large groups for short-term and long-term vacations. It’s a great choice if you’re planning on expanding your bar/bat mitzah visit outside the walls of the Old City and experience modern Jerusalem.

  • +972-(0)72-328-1879

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If you are looking for something more intimate and personalized try Hotel Yehuda or Mount Zion Hotel near the Old City.

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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.

  • +972-(0)72-371-3901

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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, large screen and advanced sound system.

  • +972-72-3944564

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More hotels for Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem >>

The Celebratory Meal

Between the Arches – Bein Hakshatot

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Photo: Between the Arches Restaurant

According to the tradition, the bar Mitzvah ceremony is usually followed a celebratory breakfast or lunch with your friends and family. If you are interested in a celebratory meal, here are some highly recommended event venues, specifically for the purpose of bar/bat Mitzvah events, both inside and outside the Old City.

If you’re looking for a venue inside the Old City and nearby the Kotel, Bein Hakshatot is the perfect place for you. Everyone in Jerusalem knows that when you’re hosting an event in the Old City, you go with Bein Hakshatot. Bein Hakshatot (Between the Arches) restaurant is housed in an ancient 13th century building with curved walls and a vaulted ceiling that will make you travel back in time and space. With its kosher lemahdrin dairy cuisine and an event venue for up to 90 people, the restaurant is the ideal choice for those looking to celebrate bar/bat Mitzvah events inside the walls of the Old City. The food is absolutely excellent and the service is great.

Book a Bar Mitzvah Celebratory Meal at Bein Hakshatot Restaurant

Touro

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Photo: Touro Restaurant

If you’re open to the idea of a restaurant outside the walls of the Old city, Jerusalem’s best event planners recommend Touro restaurant for a bar/bat Mitzvah celebratory meal. Touro is a kosher chef restaurant with a Mediterranean cuisine menu featuring meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes. The restaurant has an amazing balcony for up to 120 guests with an incredible view of the picturesque Mishkenot Shaananim neighborhood, the Tower of David and the Old City walls. The staff is very helpful and they will accompany you in every step of the way during your event planning. High quality food, amazing view and great service – it’s the perfect recipe for an unforgettable Bar Mitzva meal.

Book a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebratory Meal at Touro Restaurant

Zappa

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Photo: Zappa Jerusalem

Housed in a historic building dating back to 1937, Zappa Jerusalem is one of Israel’s most distinctive 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. 

Book a Bar/Bat Mitzvah Celebratory Meal at Zappa Jerusalem

Lechem Basar (Meat & Eat)

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Photo: Lechem Basar (Meat & Eat) Restaurant

Located at The First Station and in 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 guest in a luxurious atmosphere. The menu creates a beautiful, tasty, and honestly, quite 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.

Book a Bar Mitzvah Celebratory Meal at Lechem Basar Restaurant

More restaurants for events in Jerusalem >>

More restaurants for Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem >>

A complete list of restaurants in Jerusalem >>

Saving Money — Value Added Tax

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.”

Photography & Video

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.”

The challenges

“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).

Tours

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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 ZUZU Tourism tours. They offer experiential guided tours for the whole family. Their bar/bat mitzvah tour is a Segway/bicycle tour that goes through all of the most important historical landmarks around Jerusalem, ending at the Western Wall. The kids will get bicycles (Segway vehicles have an age limit of 16+) and the adults can join by bicycles or Segway.

  • 072-3290755

Plan your bar mitzvah tour with ZUZU Tourism now

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Photo: Live the Bible

If you’re already celebrating a Bar Mitzvah at the Old City, why not check the Old City’s most recent and unique attractions? Live the Bible is a special photography attraction that will take photos of the whole family on the background of different Biblical settings and stories. Costumes included! This is a special and experiential adventure that will also guarantee a great souvenir to take back home with you.

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If you’d like to find your own tours, check out our listing of tours in Jerusalem & Israel.

Buying Tefillin

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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.

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Read more about Oter Israel >>

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