Planning A Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Israel

While photography is an important aspect of your bar or bat mitzvah in Israel, I know there are tons of other things to check off your list! I hope this post will help you get your simcha off the ground with a few pointers on how to manage the details of this important event in the Holy Land.

Your Bar & Bat Mitzvah Tour in Israel

The best way to make sure that you make the most of your time in Israel is to connect someone who knows the place. See if your local Jewish Federation organizes bar and bat mitzvah tours, consider doing a group event with other families, or contact the Israel Ministry of Tourism for advice, tips, and recommendations on how to celebrate your bar or bat mitzvah in Israel. Visit the Israel Ministry of Tourism here or call 1-888-77-ISRAEL for more information. In addition, these other phone numbers might prove useful, too.

Movement for Progressive Judaism
Jerusalem Connection Resource Center (Orthodox)
Har-El Reform Synagogue
The Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel

Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel (Western Wall)

The Kotel (Western Wall) is the last remnant of the Temple Mount and the premier spot for both local and international b'nei mitzvah gearing up for this important rite of passage. Traditional b’nei mitzvah at the Kotel will meet with little incident and can expect to freely conduct a male-only bar mitzvah service in the Men’s Plaza at the Western Wall without disturbance. Remember, the Kotel prayer space separates men and women with a dividing wall, so mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and sisters may have to stand on their tiptoes to get a good view of the action.

Egalitarian Bar & Bat Mitzvah Ceremonies

Many Diaspora families are thrown for loop when they realize their daughter cannot perform a bat mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel (Western Wall). Currently, Israeli law forbids women to hold religious ceremonies in the Women’s Plaza of the Western Wall. The restrictions prohibit women from reading from the Torah, wearing prayer shawls, or blowing the shofar in deference to Orthodox worshipers. The Women of the Wall organization, a multi-denominational group of religious-activist women, is one of the primary organizations fighting to loosen these laws. You can read more about Women of the Wall here. While the Kotel may introduce complications for liberal denominations, there are other solutions for the b’nei mitvah looking to celebrate this special event in Jerusalem. For the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, or Reconstructionist family that wishes to celebrate without gender separation, I recommend the following:

  • Robinson's Arch - Ezrat Yisrael (which is open and free)

  • Robinson's Arch - Jerusalem Archaeological Park/Davidson Center (admission charged for all ceremonies conducted after 9:00 am)

Robinson's Arch is a continuation of the Western Wall (and closer to the Dung Gate) although not in the main plaza. Ezrat Yisrael and the Jerusalem Archaeological Park (Davidson Center) are adjacent and both overlook Robinson's Arch. In practice, most people use all these terms interchangeably: Ezrat Yisrael, Robinson’s Arch, the Jerusalem Archaeological Park (Davidson Center) and the Masorti Kotel.

So, Where Should You Hold The Ceremony?

You can hold your bar or bat mitzvah for free either at Ezrat Yisrael or the Jerusalem Archaeological Park (Davidson Center) before 9 AM (ceremony starting around 7:30). If you want to have your ceremony after 9 AM, I still think it is worth the entrance fee to the Archaeological Park (Davidson Center) which includes the Herodian Street which is an especially beautiful location. In order to make sure there is both space and an available Torah scroll at either of these locations, you must book in advance through the Masorti Movement or Rabbi Sandra Kochman at My advice is to contact the Masorti Movement directly for the latest policy updates since they administer this area.

Who Should Officiate?

While you are free to choose your own officiant, I happen to know two excellent ones who hail from Judaism's liberal denominations and are themselves intimately familiar with the layout and protocols of the Western Wall when it comes to egalitarian ceremonies (as well as other popular ceremony locations).

Rabbi David Ebstein

Rabbi David EbsteinAs I began frequenting the Kotel for my own work, I found that I kept bumping into Rabbi David Ebstein, a relaxed, knowledgeable, and all-around fun Rabbi (and tour guide) for b'nei mitzvah. David's laser focus and uplifting discourse make you feel like your event is the only one happening in what can be sometimes be a crowded venue. Whether you are a super Jewishly-connected person, or you have had almost nothing to with your Jewish identity in years, David will help your family find your comfort zone and create an unforgettable ceremony.

Rabbi Rosalind Glazer

Rabbi Rosalind GlazerI first met Rabbi Rosalind Glazer through my wife who studied for her own bat mitzvah under Rosalind more than 20 years ago in Berkeley and whose family still vividly recalls the spiritual depth and amazing musicality that Rosalind brought to the event. Now a Jerusalem local, Rosalind continues to draw on  decades of experience as a Jewish educator and life-cycle officiant for families looking for rich, meaningful Jewish events.

Both Rabbis will make sure that your learning is in sync with the Torah reading schedule for the big day, help you customize a meaningful ceremony, and ensure that your selected location is available.

Other Locations for Your Bar or Bat Mitzvah Ceremony

The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem

Just inside of Jaffa Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem, layers of the city's history come together in this beautiful location where you can hold a private bar or bat mitzvah in the historic courtyard and gardens of Jerusalem`s 2000+ year-old Citadel. For more information, click here.


Masada has been a symbol of the perseverance of Jewish peoplehood since 70 CE when hundreds of Jewish refugees escaped from Jerusalem to the fortress-palace atop Mount Masada overlooking the Dead Sea. The rebels lived on Masada for three years until the Romans successfully besieged the fort in 73 C.E. when they found that the residents had taken their own lives rather than submit to foreign rule. Read more about planning an event at the dramatic heights of Masada here.

The Western Wall Tunnels

Travel beneath the walls of the Old City to the Western Wall Tunnels, a popular bar mitzvah location since it was excavated in one of Israel's greatest archaeological triumphs almost 30 years ago. The galleries of the Western Wall tunnels hint at the enormity of the Second Temple and allow visitors to get as close as possible to the ruined Temple's Holy of Holies. Like the Western Wall, the ceremonies permitted in this venue are Orthodox, and gender separation rules apply. For more information about this location, click here.

Bar & Bat Mitzvah Certificates from the Israel Ministry of Tourism

Looking for another way to remember your bar or bat mitzvah in Israel? The Israel Ministry of Tourism offers certificates for bar and bar mitzvahs to commemorate this special event in Israel. This is a wonderful piece of memorabilia, perfect for framing! If you are interested in receiving a certificate, please contact the Ministry of Tourism at least 21 days in advance. Visit the Israel Ministry of Tourism here.