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BM CEREMONIES SITES & CONSIDERATIONS

A BM tour of Israel is a great way to make your child’s milestone special and the family memories created will last a lifetime. Looking for that perfect location for your BM ceremony is key to the planning of your trip. While some families may prefer the “traditional” sites, many families are looking for more creative locations.

While Sarai Tours is not an event planner, we do have a lot of experience in planning BM trips and we have assisted in organizing BM ceremonies at many different locations. We work with several event planners, who can provide event planning services if needed.

Here below, we will give you some of the “basics” as well as some new ideas.

Logistical considerations:

When you are in the process of considering the different locations, here are some logistics to keep in mind:

What day of the week:

The traditional days for a BM ceremony are the days we read the Torah: Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Rosh Chodesh days and during the Jewish holidays of Chanukka & Succot.

The Rabbi

Do you already have a Rabbi in mind to officiate the ceremony? Or have you already contracted a Rabbi?

 If the answer to this is “yes” then you need to check with your Rabbi if he is available for BM ceremonies in Jerusalem only or if he will agree to officiate the ceremony in other sites as well.

Most Rabbis officiate multiple BM ceremonies per day, particularly during the high season (summer and the last two weeks of December). If they need to go outside of Jerusalem to officiate the BM, they cannot handle more than 1 BM ceremony on that day and therefore are likely to have a higher honorarium and you will need to cover his travel expenses.

If you do not have a Rabbi in mind, we will gladly hire a suitable Rabbi on your behalf.

Your guests:

Are all your expected guests on the tour with you? If so, you will have more flexibility of planning the ceremony in a “non-traditional” setting.

If you expect guests that are not on the trip with you, you may want to consider selecting a site that is easily accessible for the other guests. If the other guests are Israeli family members that tend to live in 1 specific area, then having the BM ceremony in that area makes sense.

If you have guests coming from abroad, likely a BM ceremony in Jerusalem will be the easiest for everybody else to make their plans around.

Rain & heat:

Rain is a consideration during the winter months only. Make sure you have a back up plan in case you plan for an outdoors venue.

Heat is a consideration during the summer months (June – Sep). If you plan for an outdoors site, make sure there is ample shading.

Items you will need:

Torah Scroll: The more traditional sites will have a Torah Scroll you can use. To non-traditional sites you will need to bring a Torah. Check with your Rabbi if he will bring one. Of not you will need to rent one. Renting a Torah will be an additional expense. You will be asked to leave a guarantee deposit check and to pay for insurance in case something happens to the Torah Scroll. Torah Scrolls are very expensive and organizations who rent them out will NOT let you take the Torah to any site where nature can do damage to the scroll (such as the beach, a forest, etc.)

Chairs: It will make sense to have chairs to sit on during the ceremony. If the site does not provide them, you will need to have them brought in. We recommend hiring an event planner.

Staff: In some places (like Mt. Scopus) we recommend you have staff that will keep away non-invited “guests”. This can be arranged at additional cost, but is another cost to consider when you plan your trip. We suggest you hire an event planner if you want the ceremony in such places.

F&B: You may want to have some drinks, snacks or a full meal on site. Some sites do not allow any food or drinks to be brought in, so make sure you check into this before you make your decisions. Unless you at a hotel or catering setting, you will need an event planner to arrange this for you.

Music: While this is optional, if you want to have music at the BM ceremony (either before or after) you will need to check in advance if this is allowed. For example, the hotels in Tel Aviv & Jerusalem in particular will not allow you to play music (electronic music or other) at the hotel on Shabbat.

Decorations: We recommend hiring an event planner if you want decorations. Some sites do not allow for decorations (particularly the more traditional sites)

TRADITIONAL BM SITES:

Here are some of the more traditional BM sites:

The Kotel, in the Old City (Bar Mitzvah only):

This is THE traditional site for BM ceremonies, the Holiest of the Holiest. Make sure you schedule the ceremony early and your Rabbi will need to grab a table for you as early as possible & he needs to bring a Sefer Torah. This site is preferred by orthodox and conservadox families.

You cannot pre-book the site, it is first come first served.

Pros: There is no cost to doing the BM ceremony at the Kotel, though a donation will be expected. Logistically easy for all your guests to get to.

Cons: Women are not allowed in the men section and will need to be in the women section. There is no “rain alternative”. The site can get extremely crowded. There is no shade.

Robinson’s Arch, in the Old City:

Under the auspices of the Masorti Movement, this site is at the Southern Steps of the Temple.

You are in the middle of our history here. The site is of spiritual and historical significance. Reservations are required

Pros: Men and women are allowed to be together. Logistically easy for all your guests to get to. There is no cost if you arrive before 9AM, but a donation will be required. The site has limited Torah tables and can help with Conservative sidurim if needed (sidurim are on first come first served basis – to be safe, ask your rabbi to bring pamphlets with the services printed on them). Cons: This is a magnificent site to have your Simcha. The reasons our passengers gave for not planning their ceremony here, is that they have done it before and they are looking for a more unique location. The site is always very busy. There is no “rain alternative” though there is a little enclave where you can shield yourself, but it is small and the first one to grab it will get it.

Massada:

The fortress has been THE alternative site for a BM in Jerusalem for decades. The view is magnificent and the site has a lot of history. Reservations are required

Pros: The site has a team that handles all the BM requests. There are several shaded areas for BM ceremonies to take place. They set up chairs, provide a torah table and have a Sefer Torah on site. There are fun meal options near by, such as Bedouin Tents, Abraham’s tent & Dead Sea Hotels with Spa options.

Cons: logistically further away. You may need to provide transportation for the guests who are not on tour with you. You will have to pay travel expenses for the Rabbi and likely pay him a higher honorarium during high season, as he cannot have other BM ceremonies on that day

HOTEL / CATERED SETTINGS:

The hotels in Jerusalem host many BM ceremonies each year. In the winter this makes particularly sense, as many hotels have great terraces with views of the Old City, while offering an indoors option in case of bad weather. All these places will be able to provide catering and the set up of the hall for the BM ceremony will be handled by the hotel staff.

You may need to bring your own Sefer Torah (ask your rabbi) and if you want music and decorations you will need to hire an event planner.

The hotels will charge between $450 - $1500 for the hall rental and the meal options range from $50-$125 per person, depending the hotel.

HUC – Beit Shmuel / Merkaz Shimshon:

The HUC has a wonderful roof top terrace (seats up to 120) with magnificent views of the Old City. This option is available in the summer only. During the winter we recommend the Blaustein Hall. The Blaustein Hall is great for bigger groups (100-350) and is not recommended for small families. The site will provide a Sefer Torah for a fee. While the site offers classrooms for small families, these rooms are not very pretty – they are basic class rooms and most do not have the great views.

Mt Zion Hotel – The Villa:

This hotel is ideally located with great views of the old city of Jerusalem. During the summer your can have the ceremony in their garden, during the winter we suggest the Villa, overlooking the Old City. The Middle Eastern décor makes it a memorable venue.

Inbal Hotel:

The presidential suite of this hotel has a terrace for small venues and if it rains the suite has a dining room for up to 8.

You will need to book the suite for the night. The hotel offers impeccable service and great food.

Mamilla Hotel:

This very contemporary hotel has a roof top outdoors restaurant that they can close for private events. The cost of renting out the space is quite high, but you will enjoy incredible views, excellent service and wonderful food.

King David Hotel

This historical hotel has beautiful gardens, great banquet space & impeccable service. But it is also the most upscale hotel with relevant price tag.

LESS TRADITIONAL BM SITES that will require an event planner:

JERUSALEM: 

Mt. Scopus with lunch or dinner at Darna’s

Have your BM ceremony at THE traditional pilgrim site, overlooking the Old City. This is where the Israelites arrived to Jerusalem during the “Shlosha Regalim” – the three pilgrim festivals (Pessach, Shavuot and Sukkoth). Recommended to have an event planner here and arrange for security who will keep the hawkers at bay for undisturbed ceremony.

Meal at Darna’s traditional Moroccan restaurant (option for belly dancer at additional charge)

Ashkenazi or Sefaradi Synagogues (Bar Mitzvah only) in Yemin Moshe neighbourhood, Klezmer parade up to Teenim restaurant. Lunch in the plant-filled paved patio or in the inner courtyard. This venue has a marvellous vista over the Old City’s walls David’s Tower, and the Church of the Dormition from the restaurants windows.

The Hecht Synagogue followed by brunch at the Maiersdorf Faculty club (Bar Mitzvah only):

Historical synagogue at the heart of Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University, overlooking the breathtaking beauty of Jerusalem. Orthodox setting. 

Ceremony, activities and celebration at Ein Yael Living Museum

Daily life as it was during the time of the Bible.  With hands-on workshops for all and a particularly good Bat Mitzvah Program – MARCH – SEPT ONLY

Hadassah Hospital Synagogue

This venue is popular in particular with our passengers who are affiliated with Hadassah. This famous hospital in Ein Karem is home to a synagogue with the famous Chagall windows. They allow Bat Mitzvah ceremonies with aliyah le Torah.

Lunch at one of the excellent restaurants in Ein Karem artists village.

CENTER:

Sataf springs - outdoor BM Ceremony

At Mt. Eitan where agriculture was developed by the Israelites thousands of years ago. Includes: gentle hike, Plant a tree with JNF and festive meal in Sataf Village (Middle Eastern and Southern French cuisine).

Neot Kedumim – Biblical landscape between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem:

This park has “in house” staff that can assist you with the planning of your BM ceremony.

Other than a tour, the site offers workshops, such as: making wine, Olive oil, hyssop bags. They also offer sheep herding for larger groups and scribe workshops (teaching the creation of torah scrolls). We will gladly put you in contact with the site. Lunch in on site Bedouin Tent or restaurant

Ceremony & lunch at Allenby’s Farm

In a beautiful historical building built over a hundred years ago, in a unique intimate atmosphere.  Located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, this is an ideal location whether you need an indoor or outdoor banquet hall in a beautifully restored building.  This was a chef restaurant which became a banqueting hall which still has a huge focus on the food.

Ceremony & catered lunch at the great synagogue in Tel Aviv (Bar Miztva only)

Ilana Goor museum

The Ilana Goor Museum, true to its goal of infusing life with art, and art with life, accommodates a full range of events, whether lectures, dinners, or parties.

All events are extremely prestigious and elegant, with the ancient building and breathtaking view weaving a truly magical atmosphere.

NORTH

Ohel Yaakov Synagogue in Zichron Yaakov (Bat Mitzvah only) followed by lunch at Hankin house or at Bistro de Carmel.

Across the magnificent view of the Binyamin bay, sits the Hankin house as a lighthouse, in a beautiful building from the 1930's. Special pampering dinners, in an intimate atmosphere, in a restaurant that takes us back in time, with open porches and a panoramic view to the sea.

Bistro de Carmel is set in a venerable stone building, constructed by Baron Edmond de Rothschild 120 years ago, in the heart of the Zichron Ya’akov winery. With its recently-revealed stone walls, high ceilings, spacious rooms, and tall windows opening onto the winery - the Bistro de Carmel offers diners a discriminating setting for fine dining.

Ceremony and lunch at Or Nikrot

Facing the sea, on Rosh Hanikra cliff, or in the tunnel…

Ceremony and catered lunch at historical Yehiam Castle

Ceremony in Synagogue in Safed followed by lunch at "Dinner in Paradise”

"Dinner in Paradise"  overlooking Mt. Meron, gourmet cuisine in an old picturesque house.

Katrzin

Ceremony at the synagogue of this Talmudic village / archeological site, followed by dinner at Iskandar Restaurant (Kibbutz Gadot) or Coffee Annan / Goucho restaurant at Merom Golan, with horseback riding.
Ceremony & lunch at historical Shuni Fortress

Somewhere in-between Binyamina and Zikhron Yaakov, in the heart of the beautiful Jabotinsky park, arose from the past the two thousand years old Shuni fortress. The site is surrounded with archeological remains of the Roman period. It overlooks the beautiful scenery of the Taninim River and vineyards granting outstanding cultural and tourist experiences for its visitors. The Shuni fortress has a unique roman theater, with more than one thousand seats, providing the perfect location for refined musical performances and shows, including classical music, Jazz, rock and special dancing events. On the top of the fortress is located an intimate and gourmet bistro with Italian, French and Mediterranean flavors. Additionally, Shuni is the setting of the renowned Milestone jazz club bestowing an exclusive stage for outstanding Jazz and Israeli-music performers. Shuni is also the perfect location for family or business events allocating the best facilities for memorable celebrations that will become forever part of the Shuni history.

Ceremony & catered lunch at Villa Melchett, a beautiful, historical, secluded villa on the Sea of Galilee. 

These are just some of the options available. But as long as there is a budget, we can do a lot more:

  • Jeep tours & rappelling followed by catered outdoors dinner at the Dead Sea Area
  • Burma road hike or jeep tour & pioneer style kumsitz
  • Beach parties with food and music
  • Cave rappelling and archeological dig
  • Mitzpeh Ramon – BM ceremony on the rim overlooking the crater, followed by bike ride Meal at hotel or Bedouin tent with camels