Bar Mitzvah Q&A

  • Can we bring refreshments to the ceremony? What food is recommended to serve and where is the service area? Where is the food left during the ceremony?

    Q:  Can we bring refreshments to the ceremony? What food is recommended to serve and where is the service area? Where is the food left during the ceremony?

    A:   Refreshments are obviously an inseparable part of the celebration at the Kotel. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has set aside a special section for refreshments in a covered area opposite the Kotel. The area includes tables ready to be set up by you. Light refreshments can be brought, including drinks, cakes, bourekas, fruit and sweets (it is advised not to bring anything that needs refrigeration). The food can be left in the special area during the ceremony, with someone you have selected watching over it. The Foundation is not responsible for anything you leave in that area.

  • Can we incorporate personal greetings and comments into the ceremony?

    Q:  Can we incorporate personal greetings and comments into the ceremony?

    A: Absolutely!! Personal greetings and blessings can be included in the ceremony with the help of your guide who will indicate to you the proper time and place for such by maintaining appropriate limitations of modesty as is warranted at this holy site.

  • Can we photograph and video at the Western Wall?

    Q:  Can we photograph and video at the Western Wall?

    A: Yes, videos and photographs can be taken at the Western Wall. There is also the option for the Western Wall Heritage Foundation to photograph the Bar Mitzvah boy and to upload his picture onto our website, with the family’s approval, of course.

  • Do you also give Bar Mitzvah preparatory lessons?

    Q:  Do you also give Bar Mitzvah preparatory lessons?

    A: Definitely. The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has a special program in Israel that prepares young boys for their Bar Mitzvah. Lessons take place in the city where the boy lives and are given by teachers who are especially trained for this. The program is subsidized and requires advanced registration. For further details and registration, see click here.

  • Does one need to reserve the date for the Kotel ceremony in advance? How long before the date does one need to reserve it? How is it done?

    Q: Does one need to reserve the date for the Kotel ceremony in advance? How long before the date does one need to reserve it? How is it done?

    A: Holding a Bar Mitzvah ceremony at the Kotel requires advance reservation with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation in order to reserve a guide who will accompany you throughout the ceremony and assist in running it. One can reserve the date from 6 months in advance to as late as one week before the event. The reservation can be made in one of two ways: (1) via the Foundation’s website (link), or (2) by telephone, *5958. In exceptional circumstances, reservations can be made at shorter notice, by telephone only.

  • How does one reserve a date to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah? Is there a specific date on which it should be celebrated?

     Q: How does one reserve a date to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah? Is there a specific date on which it should be celebrated?

     A: The Bar Mitzvah is the Hebrew date of the boy’s 13th birthday. The ceremony, including his being called up to the Torah can take place on Monday or Thursday or on Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the Hebrew month), days when the Torah is read during morning services. The ceremony should be held as close to the birthday as possible. It can be observed on or after the Hebrew birthday, and only in specific and rare occasions up to a month before.

  • How long does the ceremony last? Does the ceremony always start on time or could there be delays?

    Q:  How long does the ceremony last? Does the ceremony always start on time or could there be delays?

    A: The ceremony itself lasts approximately 40 minutes, but additional time should be allotted for setting up the ceremony and the arrival of all the guests, using the restrooms, etc. It is advised to arrive at least 15 minutes before the arranged time and to also take into account possible traffic delays getting to Jerusalem and inside the Old City, finding parking, and walking to the Western Wall Plaza.
    Aside from rare occurrences, we stand closely to the time-frame set for the ceremony, so that once you arrive at the Kotel there should not be too much of a wait.

  • In what languages can the ceremony be conducted?

    Q:  In what languages can the ceremony be conducted?

    A: The guides of the Western Wall Heritage Foundation speak various languages, including English, Russian, French and Spanish. If you would like the ceremony run in a language other than Hebrew, you must indicate your language of choice when you register for the ceremony. We will try, but cannot guarantee, to find you a guide in your requested language.

  • Is it customary to give a tip to the guide or a donation to the Foundation?

    Q:  Is it customary to give a tip to the guide or a donation to the Foundation?

    A: The Foundation’s guides work on salary and they are forbidden to accept tips. Any family interested in making a donation to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation is welcome to leave their donation at the Bar Mitzvah stand located at the entrance to the men’s prayer section.

  • Is there a limit to the number of people we can invite to attend our Bar Mitzvah celebration at the Kotel?

    Q:  Is there a limit to the number of people we can invite to attend our Bar Mitzvah celebration at the Kotel?

    A: There is no limit to the number of people who can attend the ceremony at the Kotel. However, some of the tours and activities we offer are limited to a group of 35 people. If there are more people in the group, they can be divided into several groups.

  • On which days and at what hours can the ceremony be held at the Western Wall?

    Q: On which days and at what hours can the ceremony be held at the Western Wall?

    A: Bar Mitzvahs are held on days when the Torah is read, i.e., Mondays and Thursdays or on Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the Hebrew month). On these days ceremonies are held between 8:00 AM and 3:00 PM.

  • What do we need to bring with us for the ceremony?

    Q:  What do we need to bring with us for the ceremony?

    A: You should bring the tallit (prayer shawl) and t’fillin (phylacteries) you bought for the Bar Mitzvah boy. We also suggest that you bring a sufficient amount of (soft) candies that guests can throw towards the Bar Mitzvah boy during the ceremony.

  • What do you suggest that we do before or after the ceremony? What tours or activities do you suggest?

    Q: What do you suggest that we do before or after the ceremony? What tours or activities do you suggest?

    A: The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has a wide variety of activities (for a fee) that can be incorporated either before or after the ceremony at the Kotel. Among these activities are:

    •  The “Quill of the Heart” – an encounter with an ancient tradition of Jewish scribes, writing Torah scrolls, phylacteries (t’fillin) and mezuzot), in one of the beautiful halls located in the Kotel Tunnels. click here 
    •  “Young Guides” - a tour of the Kotel Tunnels or the Chain of Generations Center led by the Bar Mitzvah boy himself (requires registration and training 6-8 weeks in advance – for more information click here
    •  Family tour in one of the Kotel’s tourist sites – the Tunnels, the Chain of Generations Center, or Behind the Scenes, led by one of the Foundation’s guides. click here
    •  A Bar Mitzvah family tour in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, led by one of the Foundation’s guides. click here

  • What happens if it rains on the day of the ceremony?

    Q:  What happens if it rains on the day of the ceremony?

    A:  On rainy days, the ceremony is held inside the area called Wilson’s Arch, to the left of the men’s prayer area. This is an inside area that includes a raised women’s section, separated by glass. The women can hear the prayers by using earphones loaned to them by the hostess stationed in the women’s section.

  • What happens when we arrive at the Western Wall? Where do we meet the guide?

    Q:  What happens when we arrive at the Western Wall? Where do we meet the guide?

    A: The Bar Mitzvah ceremony’s stand is located immediately after the security check gate adjacent to Dung Gate. Two National Service volunteers are there whose job it is to introduce your group to the guide who will accompany you throughout the ceremony.

  • What is the procedure for bringing a Torah scroll to the Kotel?

    Q:  What is the procedure for bringing a Torah scroll to the Kotel?

    A: Without advance coordination, it is forbidden to bring a personal Torah scroll to the Kotel. Any family interested in bringing a family Torah scroll to the ceremony must coordinate this in advance with the office of the Rabbi of the Kotel, and to get (and bring) written permission for doing so. Without this permission, it will be impossible to pass the Torah scroll through the security check outside the Kotel Plaza.

  • What other services do you offer for the celebrating families?

    Q:  What other services do you offer for the celebrating families?

    A: The Foundation’s Bar Mitzvah family package coordinator would be happy to assist you in any ancillary services to your event, from beginning to end, including organizing transportation, the family’s procession to the Kotel, restaurants, halls, etc. For details call *5958.

  • What souvenir does the Bar Mitzvah boy get after the ceremony?

    Q:  What souvenir does the Bar Mitzvah boy get after the ceremony?

    A: Every Bar Mitzvah boy receives a decorative certificate with his name and the date of his Bar Mitzvah. The certificate is signed by the Rabbi of the Kotel and can be framed for a memento that will last forever.

  • Where can we eat after the ceremony?

    Q:  Where can we eat after the ceremony?

    A: A list of recommended restaurants in the area can be found here (link)

  • Where is the closest parking area?

    Q: Where is the closest parking area?

    A:   There are several parking options in the area: The closest is on the street outside Dung Gate along the Old City walls, with a fee paid in the parking meters by each parking space. Other parking areas are found in: The Mt. Zion parking lot, about a 7 minute walk from the Kotel, the Carta parking lot near Jaffa Gate, and the First Station parking lot (the old Jerusalem train station), from which a free shuttle leaves every 20 minutes and returns to the First Station parking lot from the stop outside the Dung Gate, also every 20 minutes. The ride takes about 10 minutes each way.

  • Who runs the ceremony? What qualifications does he have?

    Q:  Who runs the ceremony? What qualifications does he have?

    A: Our guides have all undergone careful selection, specialized training and qualification by the Western Wall Heritage Foundation. All our guides are trained in leading prayers and in helping create a festive and joyful atmosphere. Our guides are familiar with the proper Torah reading ‘trop’ (notes) and can assist in the Torah reading as needed. In addition to helping run the ceremony, the guide will also assist you in all logistics such as finding a table in the Kotel area, bringing a Torah scroll and prayer books, and the like.