Over 40 percent of Israeli families who had the choice celebrated their sons’ Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall in 2009, the Western Wall Legacy Foundation reports. Many families from abroad did the same.
Several years ago, the Foundation learned that awareness of the Western Wall (Kotel) had dropped to the point where a large majority of pupils in Israel’s schools had never visited the site. In addition, though it had long been prevalent to celebrate Bar Mitzvahs at the Kotel, the situation was changing drastically. Many families either did not know how to run the ceremony on their own, or were daunted by reports of “Bar Mitzvah quacks” charging exorbitantly to run it for them.
The Foundation thereupon established its Bar Mitzvah program, free of charge and with maximum attention to the families’ needs and concerns. “To our joy,” says Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Holy Sites, “the project has succeeded beyond our expectations – and the results indicate a re-connecting between Israeli families and the Western Wall.
“There is no place like the Kotel for a young man to internalize his newly-established link with the chain of Jewish generations and history,” the rabbi added. “This is the time when he is ready to truly understand what it means to be a Jew – and this is the best place to mark that.”
The program offers knowledge, step-by-step accompaniment, and technical information. The Bar Mitzvah boy is also presented with an attractive certificate marking the time and place of the occasion, and signed by Israel’s Rabbi of the Holy Sites. Though the above is free, a specially personalized tour of the Western Wall Tunnels for the Bar or Bat Mitzva child and family is available for a fee
A Bar Mitzvah ceremony marks the coming of age of a Jewish boy, when he becomes obligated to fulfill the Torah’s laws at age 13. Special programs are also available at the Wall for Bat Mitzvah girls.
Tens of thousands of Bar Mitzvah boys have already celebrated the special occasion in this manner in the past five years.