Celebrating At The Wall


For Jewish boys through the ages, the bar mitzvah, usually in a local synagogue, usually on a Saturday morning, is a communal passage from childhood to adulthood.

For a growing number of 13-year-olds, the passage takes place in the shadow of Judaism’s holiest site. Sometimes on a Monday or Thursday morning, or on Rosh Chodesh, when the Torah is chanted.

A bar mitzvah at the Western Wall, the spiritual epicenter of the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, is part religious ceremony, part vacation highlight, part family simcha. Organized by tour guides and led by the rabbi of the family’s choosing — a visiting rabbi from overseas or a rabbi-for-hire from Israel — the bar mitzvah, centered around the score of portable platforms that dot the open plaza-worship area at the base of the Wall, features a Torah scroll carried from the covered men’s area on the men’s side of the mechitza.

For most, the dress code in Israel is informal, favoring open-collared shirts, sans suit.

Sometimes, a chorus of shofar blowers, above, accompanies the bar mitzvah boy, sefer Torah in hand, through the ceremony. Sometimes, young friends and family, right, follow the proceedings perched atop the mechitza. Sometimes, especially if the bar mitzvah boy is from Sephardic stock, the sound of high-pitched trilling can be heard from over the mechitza.

Always, the event is a cause for yelling “Mazel Tov.”

As in any synagogue on a Saturday morning.