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A Guide to Building a Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel

The only guide in the world that explains how to organize a Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel without a production company!

A little about us

David Mansora

Produces and organizes Bar Mitzvah

Produces and organizes Bar Mitzvah events at the Kotel. Has a BA from the Robin Music Academy. Married, has 3 children, resident of Jerusalem. Knows the Kotel area very well. Aware of all problems that could occur from the moment you decided to get to the Kotel on the Bar Mitzvah day, up to the moment when, god willing, you celebrate the event itself.

Hagai Ben-Haim

Bar mitzva rabbi

Married with 5 children, Bar mitzva rabbi, scribe, former vice- winner of the world Bible quiz, teaches and prepares boys for their Bar Mitzvah in all manners, works at the Kotel Heritage Foundation for 10 years.

We have compiled all the knowledge and information we have accumulated over seven years of producing Bar Mitzvah events at the Kotel. Here you will find a lot of information in addition to articles and videos that appear on our site.

All comments or enlightenments are welcome. You can contact us via the email at the end of the article.

picture bar mitzvah at the kotel western wall

Persuasion – that’s not us

Persuasion – is a person’s perception of what is good and what is bad, what works and what does not work, what’s right and wrong. Phrases such as “I do everything alone” or “I do not want production through the Internet”, “Only by word of mouth,” I will ask my friends what they did.

And I will do the same, “productions need money”, all the descriptive characteristics of our reality are our beliefs. Beliefs create a new level, called capacity, so you can produce an event on your own, but you must take into account that you have to work very hard before the event and during it as well.

photo bar mitzvah at the kotel western wall
Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel

Now what actually needs to be done

Now what actually needs

Step One – Checking the event date

Before the event, you should check the exact date of the event (check according to the Hebrew calendar and not the Gregorian). If you have any problem finding out, please contact Rabbi Hagai Ben-Haim at +972522600640 and he will help you regarding the matter (free of charge).

The Aliya to the Torah takes place on Mondays and Thursdays, because only then, by Jewish law, the Torah is read. In addition, it is possible to celebrate during a New Moon, even if it comes out on any other day of the week because then too, the Torah is take out. Please note that if the New Moon comes out on other days, there will be less people at the Kotel than on Mondays and Thursdays and for you that is an advantage.

bar mitzvah by the kotel
Bar mitzvah at the Kotel

Step Two - A place for the Bar Mitzvah Celebration

There are several places to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah. We will provide the information and you will need to personally choose what’s right for your family. At the Kotel, of course. In my opinion it’s the most appropriate place to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah, because the Kotel is the symbol of Israel and Judaism, and there is no better place.

Every important event goes through the Kotel. Whether it’s a military ceremony, Memorial Day ceremony, Jerusalem day, fasts during the year, weddings, marriage proposals, Bat Mitzvahs, Siddur parties and mainly Bar Mitzvahs for Jews from around the world.

Even from a tourism point of view, the Kotel plays a very respectable part. It is considered one of the top ten world tourist attractions. Each year the Kotel receives around 10 million visitors.

bar mitzvah projects in israel
Bar mitzvah day

Besides, it’s fun to see all the joy that resides at the Kotel and to be a part of it. Here, the Kotel is called “The Kotel of Joy” and has been called that for a long time. We will not be exaggerating if we say that the saying written about the temple also refers to the Kotel: “Those who did not see the joy residing at the Kotel, has not seen joy”.

  • A Synagogues in Jerusalem - many families don’t want to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in a synagogue near home, so they decide to come to the Holy City, but because they already celebrated a Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel, this time they want something else and more intimate, only for the family without strangers. That's why they search for a synagogue in Jerusalem.

We made a list of synagogues in Jerusalem to have a Bar Mitzvah in

Here is a list of synagogues in the Jerusalem area:

The Ruin synagogue (Ha Horva)

Is in the Jewish Quarter. This is a very grand synagogue, restored and reopened 5 years ago. The cost of the place is 3,000 NIS.

The Ben Zakai synagogue

Is in the Jewish Quarter as well. This is one of the four Spanish synagogues. An age-old and impressive synagogue. The Ark within it was brought from Italy. The cost of the place is 2,500 NIS.

The Istambouli synagogue

Right next to the Ben Zakai synagogue, part of the four Spanish synagogues. It too is large and the Ark within it is spectacular in its beauty. The place also cost about 2,500 NIS.

The synagogue in Mishkenot Shaananim

its uniqueness is because of the neighborhood where it is located. This is the first neighborhood to stretch outside the old city walls. Today it's considered a very exclusive neighborhood, very popular amongst tourists and is very groomed and looked after.

Synagogues around the house

Many families prefer not to leave the city, and to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah and the grooms Saturday (wedding related) at the local synagogue, because they already know the place, do not need a lot of logistics, everything is ready and is much cheaper.

Bar Mitzvah on Masada

An amazing and unique place, a desert landscape, a Bar Mitzvah in the nature. However, for the majority of families the distance is great, the price is expensive because there is not much supply and its very hot weather. The entry fee includes a round-trip cable car ride: Adult - 76 NIS; Youth - aged 5 to 17 – 43 NIS; Of course the musicians, transportation, meals and photographers should be added to this.

Bar Mitzvah in Safed (Tzfat)

In the Old City. Resembles the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem. Mystical ambiance. A unique and exciting experience. The Bar Mitzvah is usually done in the Spanish synagogue “Abohav”.

Hotels

There is a possibility to conduct the Aliya to the Torah at a hotel and of course eat lunch there. There is a priority to hotels closest to the Kotel. This is an excellent solution for the rainy season.

bat mitzvah history

Here are some highlights to follow during the organization of the event:

Shuttle Service

It is very important that the bus be modern, comfortable for the trip, from a known company, punctual, a Jewish, kind and patient driver, orientated in Jerusalem and the Kotel in particular.

Homework – go to Google, write “Shuttle to the Kotel”, and start calling all the companies. You have to tell them the date of the event, number of seats, origin and destination, time of departure and time of return.

bar mitzvah ideas

Arrival time at the Kotel

1) There is no doubt that the recommended time to reach the Kotel is wither early in the morning before 9:00 A.M. or after 11:30 A.M. The reason for this is: usually families leave the house between 8:00 A.M. and 9 A.M. After a stop for breakfast and after all the traffic to Jerusalem and to the Kotel, arrival time is between 10:30 A.M. and 12:00 P.M.

2) Now do a simple calculation: As an annual average, each event is consisted of between 30-40 families on Mondays and Thursdays, each family is about 40-50 guests, and if you multiply 40 families by 50 guests per family, you will come to about 2,000 people at the Kotel between 10:30-12:00. This is a very large amount of people and you will probably be swallowed by the crowd.

3) So you should arrive either before or after rush hour. If you are able to arrive between 8:00-10:00 A.M., that is great. The Kotel is relatively empty and you will enjoy an intimate experience. If you insist on prayer at the time, it is clear that this is the preferred option for you.

bar mitzvah music
Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel

If this is impossible for you because finally it does not require gathering guests early in the morning, especially if you live far away from Jerusalem, it’s better you arrive after 12:00. The Kotel then begins to empty from families and the logistics will be easier to implement. There is no problem in terms of Jewish law, Aliya to the Torah is possible until sunset.

If you wish, you can arrive in the late afternoon, especially in the summer when the days are long, but that requires coordination with the director of the Kotel, about taking out the Torah.

In any case, consider the probably of delays. Whether it’s David who was late and everyone is waiting for him, if its bad traffic that is always there or if it’s anything else. So if you have coordinated with suppliers, always have an interval of time and in real time inform them that you are running late.

bar mitzvah jerusalem western wall

Planning the Bar Mitzvah day

Here is the outline of the today:

Leaving the house

Stop for breakfast

Arrival at the Kotel

Musicians parade

Attractions on the way to the Kotel

Aliya to the Torah ceremony

Tour of one of the sites in the Kotel area

Lunch

Details are as follows:

Many families have their breakfast on the way to Jerusalem. Possible locations for that are Latrun, Canada Park and so on. Common to all this it is a meal outdoors. Of course you can have breakfast at the Kotel and save the time of stopping midway.

Overall, you can prepare the breakfast yourself. Is a bit of a headache but on the other hand it saves a lot of money. It is possible to get up early that day, prepare different kinds of sandwiches, cut some vegetables, buy fresh pastries from the local bakery, of course, drinks, and there you have a rich and satisfying breakfast.

bar mitzvah jewish songs

If, however, you want to be as guests yourselves and not to mess around with anything, then your answer is the catering company. You need to write in Google “breakfast at the Kotel”, or “breakfast on the way to Jerusalem”.

 

Ask the guests how kosher they eat. There is standard kosher, strict kosher, “Badatz” kosher, and if you decide to book through a catering company, check that it has the appropriate kosher level you require.

bar mitzvah by the kotel

Musicians parade to the Kotel

The internet has a lot of bands of drums and trumpets. I will not write what is good and what is not. Go to Google, write: “drummers at the Kotel” or “Drums and trumpets at the Kotel” and start calling each one. What is most important is not the price because they all pretty much charge the same price, but the joy they bring to the family.

Most of the joy is the parade because there is no entry for musical instruments into the Kotel plaza, and therefore you have to choose musicians who don’t just play the instruments but do other fun things as well. It is also important to match the musicians of the family. For example, if you are from an Ashkenazi family, you will find klezmer more suitable than drummers.

The same also goes for Bukharin Jews who have their own special tunes, but if the family is Oriental, such as Moroccan, drummers are needed to set the eastern rhythm. During the research you should ask for video clips, so that you can watch and see that the musicians do a good job.

bar mitzvah kotel israel

The Bard at the Parade

My recommendation is to add a procession Bard to Oriental families and a cantor to Ashkenazi families. The Bard has a key part in the parade. His job is to lead the parade, sing, cheer, greet and conduct it. And of course ask for videos to get an impression of the professionalism.

photo bar mitzvah+kotel masorti
Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel

Releasing the balloons

Releasing the balloons is done on the way to the Kotel, during the parade or at the end of it. Each member of the family gets a balloon and then release them together.

bene israel bar mitzvah images
Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel

Hasid (follower) Doll

An inflatable doll in the form of a Nachman the Hasid (follower), operated by a person from inside the doll. Very suitable for children. Very appealing to Israelis, tourists and other people. The doll joined the dancing and does all sorts of amusing stunts. How to search? Go to Google and write: “Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel” attractions.

bar mitzvah ceremony in israel
Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel

Tefillin-laying ceremony and the Aliya to the Torah

We have reached the most important thing on the Bar Mitzvah day. I do not know why, but people invest less in the logistics of the ceremony even though it’s very important.

For example, the matter of reserving seats next to the partition between men and women. As is known, the Kotel is a public place, and dozens families celebrate a Bar Mitzvah at the same time.

If there are no reserved seats, almost certainly there will not be a place near the partition and you will have to either wait for a vacancy, or as a lack of choice, celebrate with the women far from the men. It is worth it to spend a little money so that you have peace of mind at the ceremony itself, and everyone will enjoy it together.

celebration bar mitzvah in israel

Sun in the summer

This is very important. If you arrive early you do not have a problem with the sun because the wall covers the plaza up to the middle until about 9:30 A.M. If you can’t get there early, there is a solution as well.

The Kotel attendants provide umbrellas installed on the partition. Of course this is only a partial solution, but it’s something.

masorti bar mitzvah israel

Rain in the winter

Since you can’t take out a Torah scroll in the rain, so it would not get wet, the ceremony is performed at a sealed part of the Kotel called “Wilson’s Arch”. The place is air-conditioned, has seating chairs for women and slightly resembles a synagogue.

The entrance for men is through men section and the women entrance is via the Kotel tunnels. There is also a unique option for women to listen to the ceremony – headsets that connect to a transmitter receives by the groom. Please note that this is a free service that can be obtained from the Kotel staff.

In terms of photography at Wilson’s Arch, it’s a bit dark and the women area is almost impossible to film, which is something you need to take under consideration.

bar mitzvah package israel
Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel

Prayer duration:

Free option:

There is a free service, provided by the Kotel Heritage Foundation, where you can invite a free guide to the Aliya to the Torah ceremony.

Bar mitzvah at the Kotel

Paid option:

I always highly recommend bringing a professional bard to conduct the ceremony. The reason is simple. The guide is an employee of the Kotel, and gets paid an hourly wage and is banned from accepting tips. Therefore, he has no motivation to a great job, but only to do what he must. In contrast, a bard you hire privately has every reason to make the event the best possible, to publish his name and attract more clients. The investment here is very worthwhile.

Order of the ceremony:

Tefillin laying

Shema reading

Half Kaddish.

Raising the Torah

Parade with the men bringing the Torah from the Ark.

Three ascents including the groom

The father's blessing - "good riddance of this punishment"

The mothers blessing. Appears on the website (to learn) including private and general blessings for the family.

A decorated certificate with the name of the groom and the date of Aliyah to the Torah

Bat mitzvah in Jerusalem

It is very important to choose a Rabbi based on the family’s heritage association (Spanish, Ashkenazi, Yemenite). Find out in advance so as not to create discomfort afterwards. It should be noted that some bards are versed in all versions regardless of their origin. Obviously it’s great, and even advisable to take such a Rabbi to diversify for the guests.

A little tip – there is a phenomenon at the Kotel of private individuals offering themselves to conduct the ceremony, usually for a fee. If this also suitable you, great. Just agree on the amount in advance to save unnecessary grief for both sides.

photo bar mitzvah in the western wall

Scribe Workshop

Torah book, Tefillin, Mezuzah. These are all sacred objects to the Jewish people. They are all written by a person called a scribe author, on parchment with a quill and ink.

This is actual art that requires patience, concentration, and divine knowledge and fear. The workshop content is this: a scribe author will come, first he will explain the basic concepts and then the Bar Mitzvah boy himself will experience writing.

What you get there, is the home blessing written on parchment. The last 13 letters, as are the age of the groom, will be hollow, and you will need to complete them after a short briefing from the author, of course. We recommend let as many people as possible to do this so that everyone can experience this and everyone will participate in the joy. The workshop is usually done at of the ceremony, on the table that was prayed on.

bar mitzvah israel
Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel

What not to bring to the Kotel

Tables, umbrellas, arrangements, notes. If you forget Tefillin or tallit, there is a stall at the men entrance, from which you can borrow for a deposit. There are even Kipas at the entrance for those who forgot.

photo bar mitzvah israel tour
Bar mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel

What to bring to the Kotel

Cold water bottles (even though there are water coolers at the plaza), candy, the grooms Tefillin or tallit.

I would recommend to write on a paper all the phone numbers of all the suppliers for the event:

  • Bus
  • Rabbi
  • Musicians
  • Tour Guide
  • Photographers
  • Various attractions
  • Phone list of all guests participating in the event, including friends of the Bar Mitzvah boy, because sometimes they get lost.

What is forbidden to bring to the Kotel: musical instruments, knifes, alcohol.

Tours in the old city area

Before booking a tour, you need to consider if the tour route is suited for all guests. There are places with a lot of stairs, there are outdoor places were its very warm in the summer and cold in winter, there are places that limit the number of people per group, and therefore you need to check all these things in advance.

Below is a list of recommended tours:

  • The Kotel Tunnels - closed site. About an hour and a half long tour. Guided tour. A combination of mysticism and archeology. Must be punctual. Up to 35 people in a group. Cost of the tour: Adult – 30 NIS, child - 15 NIS.
  • David's tomb – open site. A huge complex that includes above observation deck. Free admission - it is strongly recommended to take a paid guide.
  • Tour of the roofs - open site. Includes stairs. An overlook of the panoramic view of the old city including the Temple Mount area. Free admission - it is strongly recommended to take a paid guide.
  • The Generations chain - closed site. 45 minute tour. Guided tour. A combination of technology and archeology. Museum of Glass in combination with smoke and lighting. Must be punctual. Up to 35 people in a group. Cost of the tour: Adult - 25 NIS, Child - 15 NIS.
  • The Ruin Synagogue (hurva) - closed site. 45 minute tour. Guided tour. One of the most magnificent synagogues there is. Cost of the tour: Adult - 25 NIS, child - 15 NIS.
  • City of David - open site. 2 and a half hour tour. Guided tour. Including stairs and a lot of walking. Cost of the tour: Adult - 45 NIS, child – 35 NIS.
  • Davidson Center - open and closed site. Includes the Archaeological garden and Museum. 2 hour tour. It is highly recommended to take a guide for an additional fee. Cost of the tour: Adult - 30 NIS, child - 16 NIS.

In conclusion, we’ve put lots of material together for you to assist you in building a Bar Mitzvah day.

You can always contact us via number: 0522600640.

You are also welcome to visit our website, where there is additional material that includes articles and videos.

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