Bar mitzvah in Israel gives child connection to Israel

As part of the tour, families gather at the giant menorah by the Knesset in Jerusalem, where b’nai mitzvah certificates are handed out. Photo courtesy of Israel Discovery Tours

As part of the tour, families gather at the giant menorah by the Knesset in Jerusalem, where b’nai mitzvah certificates are handed out.
Photo courtesy of Israel Discovery Tours

There are bar mitzvahs celebrated at a local synagogue. There are bar mitzvahs held in large social halls, or country clubs. And then there are bar mitzvahs, on a whole other scale, where the family travels to Israel to celebrate the simcha together.

Israel Discovery Tours specializes in these b’nai mitzvah, where the teen and a few members of the immediate family spend about two weeks in Israel, gaining a love for the country and a bar mitzvah at sunrise atop Masada.

The concept behind the family bar and bat mitzvah tours run by Israel Discovery Tours is to “give the child that connection with Israel,” said Bradley Sharps, vice president of the company located in Skokie, Ill. “It really does happen,” he said.

Years after a person’s bar or bat mitzvah ends, memories fade to the effort involved and how fun the party was. But a family trip to Israel can create memories of the Jewish state and also lead a person to want to return, he said.

“It’s like a gift you can give your family and yourself of a lifetime memory,” Sharps said.

Some of the company’s clients are children whose parents also went on this tour with their parents. Generally five to eight families are involved in each of the company’s three tours, two of which are held in the summer and one during the winter break. The participants travel by bus together.

The cost is $4,295 per person for the 12-day tour and $4,974 for the 14-day adventure, not including air fare. The bar mitzvah child goes for free.

During the trip, the family generally spends time in Jerusalem, and goes on an archeological dig. The travelers visit Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum. They share tea with Bedouins and spend time at the Dead Sea, Caesaria and Eilat.

The participants, who share the day’s parsha, hold their b’nai mitzvah atop Masada, followed by a kiddush. They don’t miss out on the party, traveling to Tel Aviv for a shared bar mitzvah bash, Sharps said.

His company has “a large following” in this area, particularly in Potomac and Gaithersburg, he said.

Israel Discovery Tours has been in business for 25 years and offers other tours as well.

spollak@washingtonjewishweek.com

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