BY JEREMY WIMPFHEIMER
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Throughout the decades, Diaspora Jewry has found many ways to show its support for Israel. In recent years, an increasing number of families have discovered an additional avenue to display their love for the Jewish State—by bringing their smachot straight to the heart of Israel.
While the idea of a bar mitzvah at the Kotel or choosing that site for the first laying of tefillin is by no means new, this trend of bringing the simcha to Israel is extending to many other happy occasions as well. Numerous companies are now responding to this growing idea and designing specific service lines for those in search of a complete Israel simcha solution.
David Walles, CEO of the Israel-based Eddie’s Travel (koshertravelers.com) has dedicated a section of his growing travel business to helping families celebrate in Israel. He partners with Tali Lev of Lev Hofaot to produce quality events for a wide range of budgets.
“Whatever the nature of the simcha, holding it in Israel adds an additional dimension of excitement and adventure that will make it that much more enjoyable,” says Walles. “At the same time, we know that planning a simcha far from home can be a confusing task — which is where our service comes into play.” Eddie’s Travel, which has established a strong name for top-tier kosher travel services on land and at sea through their cooperative venture with Kosherica Cruises, offers interested clients a way to make sure they have an informed partner when it comes to planning a simcha.
“We work with the proper service providers who know the lay of the land and are able to provide our customers with competitive pricing while also ensuring they’ll get a truly unique and quality event,” Walles says. As a seasoned veteran of the travel business, Walles says that in addition to the event itself, customers are treated to a one-stop stop shop where they can book flights and hotels and arrange extensive touring itineraries as part of their time in Israel.
All over the world, whether it’s a wedding, bar mitzvah, important anniversary, or any other family simcha, the typical request people have is that the event should be “unique.” This has led to smachot with all different types of Simcha Planning In Israel themes ranging from sports to environmentalism and pretty much everything in between. But according to those involved with Israel-based smachot, celebrating in the Holy Land presents a whole new array of options where the locale and the setting become a significant part of what the simcha is all about.
Mark and Nancy Schiff of Los Angeles have chosen to celebrate all of their sons’ bar mitzvahs in Jerusalem, with their youngest son just having celebrated his coming of age at the Kotel. Mark says that commemorating this occasion in the capital of the Jewish world “gave us the chance to celebrate in the most meaningful place on the planet.” He added that what was originally designed to be an educational experience for his children about the centrality of Israel in Jewish life became one that was internalized both by his sons as well as himself and his wife. He said, “A party in Los Angeles is one night, but a week or two in Israel is forever.”
Danny Kaizler is founder and president of IsraEvents (www.israevents.com), a company which has developed a reputation for high-end customized celebrations. He says the ability to celebrate in Israel provides a number of benefits that make the Jewish State a sought-after option for families. “Despite the fact that planning an event in Israel brings with it some unanticipated costs like airfare and hotels,” says Kaizler, “many customers realize that at the end of the day, producing a largescale event here can still be more affordable than if it is held in North America or England.”
While there are many upsides to having your simcha in Israel, there are some issues that one needs to know about beforehand to avoid getting stuck at the last minute—particularly when weddings are involved. One young woman who fulfilled her lifelong dream of a wedding overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City noted the need to remember that all marriages in Israel are performed through the local Chief abbinate and thus conducted in full accordance with halachah. As such, the bride and groom need to be approved by the local rabbinical authorities prior to the wedding. The two are therefore required to produce letters from rabbis who are familiar with their families verifying that they come from Jewish homes. As long as everything is in order, the process is fairly smooth.Kaizler agrees that planning an event in Israel requires a heavy dose of “let the buyer beware.” “If you’re coming into Israel for a simcha you shouldn’t be going it alone or else you’ll be overpaying and running into endless headaches and obstacles that will leave you regretting the entire experience,” he says.
For Walles, the chance to bring people from all over the world to spend their happiest moments in Israel is truly rewarding. For the Melbourne native who made aliyah several years ago, “Israel has a magic and a wonder to it that makes it better than anywhere else on earth to have true simcha. The proper event produced by people who appreciate the potential behind real event planning will make sure it’s something that neither you nor your family or friends will ever forget.”