The Western Wall is a symbol of longing, yearning and hope for the Jewish People, from ancient times to today, as anyone who lived through the Six Day War in 1967 can attest. Visiting the Western Wall, therefore, seeing its towering ascent and touching its hand-carved stones, is an opportunity to connect first-hand with Jewish history.
More than any religious spot, the Western Wall holds a unique spiritual and physical place in the hearts of Jews in Israel and around the world. To pray here is a soul-searching experience for Jews of varying ethnicities, nationalities and levels of observance.
Bar Mitzvah celebrations, on the men’s side of the open-air sanctuary, take place almost as spontaneously as they do pre-arranged. There are always men praying at the Western Wall willing to help enhance the experience, by contributing to the minyan (or quorum of ten men needed for collective prayers) or by singing along in an accented, native Hebrew.
If you’re planning a Bar Mitzvah ceremony at the Western Wall, here are a few things to keep in mind. For Bar Mitzvah boys who have prepared their Torah portions to be read aloud, Torah-reading ceremonies take place on Mondays and Thursdays and Saturdays (with the Sabbath service), with the morning prayers (“Shaharit”) or until 11:00 am. These days are often more crowded at the Western Wall, so it may be hard to find a larger space to accommodate your group. Women will have to stay on their side of the sanctuary, but of course will be able to hear the ceremony. And of course everyone participates in throwing candies at the Bar Mitzvah boy following the culmination of his reading, symbolic of showering him and his family with sweet wishes.
Some ceremonies include a brief speech following the Torah reading. Should you wish for all family members - male and female - to gather around for this part, please plan on holding this part of your celebration on the outer plaza area, not in the sanctuary part where men and women are separated. Also if you wish to serve food, light refreshments or snacks for your guests, the acceptable location is on Hagai Street, which is underneath the covered passageway in the Muslim Quarter near the Western Wall Plaza.
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation serves as an information center for activities at the Western Wall and the outdoor plaza. They are an excellent resource to help you and your family plan your Bar Mitzvah celebration at the Wall, including providing a more intimate for your Bar Mitzvah boy’s speech, laying of the phylacteries (“tefillin”) or even reading his portion from the Torah. Additionally, the Foundation grants the Bar Mitzvah boy a certificate signed by the Rabbi of the Western Wall. Through its Bar Mitzvah Call Center, the Foundation answers all sorts of questions about planning Bar Mitzvah ceremonies at the Wall, including assisting with logistics before, during and after the ceremony itself.
Contact: Western Wall Heritage Foundation, Bar Mitzvah Call Center
Hours of Operation: Sunday- Thursday, 16:00-19:00 (4pm - 7pm)
Please note, at the Western Wall there are many individuals who will offer assistance, seemingly voluntarily. Many, however, will request payment for their ‘service’ after the fact. This is important for you to clarify before accepting ‘help’ from anyone on site.
A Bar Mitzvah celebration at the Western Wall is an unforgettable experience and we are here to help you and your family have the best experience possible. Contact us to get started, we’re here to answer any questions you may have.