Minor life-cycle celebrations are usually held at home. When it comes to more significant events, such as Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, weddings and golden anniversaries many Jews throughout America choose to celebrate in Israel. Their major desire is to achieve a personally meaningful experience, and also to support Israel, to cut down their guest list, to avoid social pressures and to minimize costs.
Here are some points to consider when planning your affair in Israel:
- Think about your priorities when choosing your venue. Are you most interested in the religious/historical/spiritual significance or are you looking for a spectacular view or a particular ambiance?
- Consider the weather and plan accordingly. A daytime outdoor affair in the summer can be very hot and uncomfortable. On the other hand, while Israel is known for its mild winters there is a definite rainy season which can be unpredictable so a contingency plan for an outdoor winter event is necessary.
- Be aware of bureaucratic requirements. For a marriage to be officially recognized, it must be registered with the Rabbinate. This requires submitting various affidavit-type documents attesting to both parties’ marital status and Judaism some time before the wedding.
- Familiarize yourself with the ceremony in question. Whether you are celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah or a wedding, there is a range of customs which can be included in or excluded from the ceremony. Certain things which you may take for granted may not be regarded in the same way in Israel. Be sure to discuss all aspects of your ceremony with the presiding Rabbi.
- Inquire about the method of payment and the currency requested. Each of your service providers may have different requirements. Most are willing to receive payment in either shekels or dollars but many do not take foreign credit cards. Some are hesitant to accept personal dollar checks. Asking will enable you to come prepared.
For a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration in Israel one may choose to have a prayer service in which the child is called to the Torah. While the rules at the Western Wall permit a service of this kind only for boys, there are other options for girls as well as for boys. The service can then be followed by a short tour and a festive meal.
Marriages in Israel are a religious affair and are performed according to the Orthodox Halacha. There are numerous banquet halls and gardens available for a wedding. Some people choose to conduct their ceremony in one setting and continue the affair in another place.
While it is not absolutely impossible to plan and arrange a party long- distance, there are instances in which personal presence can make the difference between an “okay” choice and an optimal one. Hiring a party planner can be the ideal solution. Choosing one who is flexible enough to allow you to determine your degree of involvement in decision making and choices will enable you to feel that this is truly your own affair.
Written by Adina Buchs, proprietor of “B’Rosh Shaket” party and event planning.