There are some really popular spots for Bnei Mitzvah celebrations in Israel; the two that spring to mind are Masada and the Western Wall.
Both of these locations are incredible, and awe-inspiring each in their own way and for different reasons. I was privileged enough recently to travel with a wonderful family from the States who had chosen to celebrate their daughter/granddaughter/niece’s Bat Mitzvah in a place that after 7 years as a tour guide, I had never seen used for this purpose; the synagogue at Ein Gedi. Most visitors to Israel have been to Ein Gedi, or have at least driven past the sign for it.
Many have hiked past the waterfalls and some will have taken a dip in the refreshing natural pools there. Far fewer however will have stopped at the unusual white roof a kilometer or two down the road, which is protecting an incredibly well preserved synagogue dating back some 17 centuries. The synagogue’s mosaic floors are fantastically preserved, and the location in the quiet of the desert surrounded by palm trees, with towering mountains on one side and the Dead Sea on the other provides an almost timeless feeling with built-in space for reflection and contemplation.
As I sat and watched as the young lady become a Bat Mitzvah I couldn’t help but think about who’s seat I was sat in; which third century Jew sat in the exact spot that I was now sat in, and I couldn’t help but think of the chain of generations that linked that person to myself and the wonderful family that I was traveling with.
Israel has so many places to offer for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah trip, it’s important to sometimes think outside of the box, and find those locations that are maybe just off of the beaten track; that way an amazing experience can also be an unusual experience.
Written by Jo Lane, Gordon ActiveTour Coordinator and Tour Guide