April 16, 2024
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Planning a Simcha in Israel? Here Are Some Tips

There is nothing more meaningful than having a family event in the home of the forefathers. Hosting family and friends for a bar mitzvah or wedding in Israel strengthens the bond between them and the country and adds a Zionist element that can only be felt there. The mere beauty and history of Israel guests will experience is something incomparable in significance to any other destination.

A celebration and trip to Israel planned from abroad is quite involved. Considering the myriad of details that go into a trip of this kind, there are many more ideas and tips not mentioned below so the following is a basic outline for those thinking about hosting a family or group from overseas to join them for this momentous occasion.

Professional Services

To plan a bar mitzvah or other event in Israel seems like an impossible fete when living abroad. For this reason most people decide to hire a local event planning company to take care of all the details on the ground without the worry and stress. A planner/coordinator can not only create a meaningful trip with special programing and unique activities, but will make sure the outcome is what you expected and more. A planner will make sure the schedule is kept and that every detail surrounding the visit is taken care of. This includes details such as providing customized welcome baskets and favors, handling soft drinks and sunscreen, caring for special diet needs as well more serious issues such as emergency medical treatment. A highly creative planning company can customize a theme that is “branded” into every part of the trip. The planner will meet and get to know and understand who and what the celebrant is about in order to customize the trip to them because the trip should be focused mostly on him/her. For added assurance a hospitality crew is often hired to oversee all events and will make sure that guests are having a great time so the host need not worry about a thing! That said, this trip can certainly be done without a planner but will take much more effort and stress when one is not used to the way Israeli vendors work (or don’t work) and not familiar with the terrain.

Scheduling the Trip

Scheduling the date of the Bar Mitzvah is typically based on the Bar Mitzvah boy’s Hebrew birthday. Many people try to combine the event with school vacations. It is important to book accommodations at least six months in advance since vacation times are usually the most popular and preferred hotels and venues can be booked quickly.

Accommodations

Larger and more popular hotels are excellent for groups large and small and can sometimes provide private dining and private prayer rooms and even a snack room if desired. Many people consider staying at boutique hotels where the group is a majority or the only guests. The staffing at smaller hotels can be more accommodating with special requests and tend to go out of their way to make their guests happy.

Touring

If you decide to use a planner it is important to let them know if this is a group of people coming from abroad who have never been to Israel before or have been many times. That will dictate where a group should be based and what sights they should visit while on the trip. Jerusalem tends to be the home base for most groups if this is a first time there. If most of the guests in the group have visited Israel many times, they may choose Tel Aviv or the north of Israel as home base or decide to have a “rolling trip” where each night is spent in another location across the country. This will allow for many unique and exciting experiences at every stop. Keep in mind that if there are elderly people or babies in the group, it is important to let the planner know so there are areas for resting and shade at each location.

Guided bus and walking tours are available in every city so if a planner is not hired to arrange the entire stay, these should be booked at least a month in advance with a recommended bi-lingual tour guide. Israel has an abundance of superb tour guides but it’s best to ask someone who has already had a bar mitzvah trip in Israel before who they used and if they were pleased. Bus drivers and tour guides are likely to expect tips above their standard fees so it is important to find out what is suggested in advance. Cash is always the preferred method in which they like to be paid so a trip to a bank either before or during the trip is essential.

Although this trip is partly a spiritual learning experience, it is also a celebration in a magnificently beautiful country. Leaving time for fun activities such as horseback riding, water activities, the beach, jeep tours and hikes will keep the kids and young at heart excited throughout the journey!

A great way to document the rare opportunity where family and friends are enjoying their special time together in Israel is to hire a photographer and even a videographer not only for the service and party but to accompany the group throughout the journey. You will appreciate having those memories in print for years.

The Bar Mitzvah Celebrations

A large majority of families coming from abroad to celebrate a bar or bat mitzvah, plan on two special events highlighting the celebrant.

1) The Torah reading service in Jerusalem at the Kotel is almost always planned for bnai mitzvah followed by a brunch. The Torah reading ceremony where the weekly parsha is read takes place on Mondays, Thursdays and Shabbat. There are special “place holders” that can be called on to reserve a spot close to the mechitza so women can watch or listen to the bar mitzvah boy’s reading. If the weather is very hot a good suggestion would be to make sure there is bottled water for the group. Some even provide customized hats for the occasion. There are many options for hosting a brunch near or in close proximity to the old city.

Torah reading can also take place anywhere from an ancient synagogue to a cool historical sight. The more unique venues can be arranged in advance by either the planner or sometimes the tour guide if known in advance of the trip. A brunch can take place at the venue itself but if an outside caterer has to be brought in, the venue must be informed in advance.

2) The Bar Mitzvah celebration or Seudat Mitzvah generally takes place on a separate day than the service at the Kotel or other venue. The number of incredible venues to host such a special event are in abundance throughout the country. Party planners are great for creating special themed celebrations and for designing and providing decor. They will take care of every aspect needed to make a unique, memorable and meaningful celebration. Many boys at this stage are interested in sports, music, or computer gaming so it’s important to create the Bar Mitzvah party to suit their preferences.

Sometimes families use the bar mitzvah celebration as an opportunity to do a special “chesed” in Israel. Some choose to host a party, carnival or barbeque at a children’s home or a Torah dedication ceremony at an army base. Some families even choose to dedicate a needed facility. Other families decide to take a day out of their journey to work in a soup kitchen or such. These chesed opportunities are in abundance all around Israel and provide an important learning aspect to the bar/bat mitzvah celebrant.

Any which way a family chooses to celebrate in Israel, be it in Jerusalem, Tel- Aviv, on a kibbutz or at the beach, it will be a trip of a lifetime. One that the bar/bat mitzvah celebrant, their families and guests will remember their entire lives!

By Penny Rabinowitz

 Penny Rabinowitz is a professional party planner in both the United States and Israel. Visit her at www.pennyandcoevents.com.

 

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