Go the ex­tra mıle

Sun­shine, spir­i­tu­al­ity and sav­ings are among the plea­sures of an event in Is­rael, says Anna Har­wood

The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Simchahs Abroad -

‘I AL­WAYS KNEW that my wed­ding would be in Is­rael, even be­fore I found the bride,” says Josh Green, from Manch­ester. “In ad­di­tion to the beau­ti­ful weather, the af­ford­abil­ity and the stun­ning back­drop, noth­ing can beat get­ting mar­ried in a coun­try with thou­sands of years of Jewish his­tory.”

Is­rael con­tin­ues to be a pop­u­lar desti­na­tion for Bri­tons plan­ning wed­dings and bar/bat­mitz­vahs. Against the cost of UK venues, kosher cater­ers and all the ex­tras, the al­lure of sav­ing thou­sands of pounds and hav­ing guar­an­teed sun­shine is too much to refuse. Long-dis­tance plan­ning can be daunt­ing, so it is worth bud­get­ing for an event plan­ner to guide you through the process and ne­go­ti­ate the best deals.

Michal Kaye founded Events Is­rael to make the most of the coun­try’s sim­chah po­ten­tial. “Born in Eng­land and raised in Canada, I’d al­ways worked in lo­gis­tics for ma­jor Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions, plan­ning con­fer­ences, fairs and trips,” ex­plains Kaye. “Hav­ing made aliyah in 2008, I was work­ing in hi-tech when a fam­ily friend re­quested help to plan their wed­ding in Is­rael. I found the ex­pe­ri­ence so en­joy­able and suc­cess­ful that I im­me­di­ately de­cided on a ca­reer change and the fol­low­ing week I had al­ready se­cured client num­ber two.”

Kaye has planned ev­ery­thing from par­ties in tra­di­tional, lav­ish wed­ding halls, to those in a backto-na­ture set­ting.

“I have just fin­ished throw­ing a fab­u­lous three­day wed­ding for a Bri­tish cou­ple,” she says. “For the same price as a sim­ple wed­ding in Eng­land, I was able to se­cure some of the top lo­ca­tions in Is­rael and ex­tend the fes­tiv­i­ties to be­come a lux­u­ri­ous va­ca­tion for all the guests.” The three-day wed­ding bash be­gan with a rooftop pool party over­look­ing the Ma­rina in Tel Aviv. Guests were served a sump­tu­ous buf­fet, sipped cock­tails while watch­ing the sun set and swam un­til the early hours of the morn­ing. Fol­low­ing a day on the beach, guests spent Shabbat in their ho­tel in Tel Aviv and 100 cel­e­brants en­joyed a fes­tive Fri­day-night meal to­gether. On Sun­day, trans­port was or­gan­ised to whisk the wed­ding party to HaAchuza, one of Is­rael’s orig­i­nal manor houses and the lo­ca­tion for the wed­ding celebration.

On the out­skirts of Ris­hon LeT­zion, sum­mer wed­dings at HaAchuza take place within the grounds, over­look­ing rolling hills and green pas­ture. The bride had metic­u­lously planned with Kaye how to subtly in­cor­po­rate a Bri­tish, rus­tic feel. “We didn’t spend much money on flow­ers as we were amid na­ture,” says Kaye. “In­stead, we played with dif­fer­ent ideas for cre­ative place cards, unique party favours and el­e­gant dec­o­ra­tions.”

While in Eng­land, sim­chah plan­ning can take up to a year, in Is­rael the process runs a lot faster. “Most ven­dors won’t fi­nalise ar­range­ments un­til much nearer to the event; peo­ple work on a dif­fer­ent sched­ule here, the av­er­age wed­ding time­line is much shorter,” says Kaye. That is not to say that Bri­tish cou­ples can’t be­gin to plan their event ear­lier, it sim­ply means that fi­nal con­tracts will not be signed un­til a later date. “It can be a lit­tle frus­trat­ing for my clients not to be able to fi­nalise ev­ery­thing when they come on a pi­lot trip months in ad­vance, but I of­ten end up rush­ing around three weeks

Guests sipped cock­tails in lux­ury tents in the desert

be­fore the event and, be­ing abroad, the cou­ple is spared that has­sle!”

For cel­e­brants plan­ning their oc­ca­sion in­de­pen­dently, with­out an events plan­ner, the last­minute na­ture of Is­rael means that, with a lit­tle or­gan­i­sa­tion, one can ar­rive two or three weeks be­fore the event and still have time to make fi­nal adap­ta­tions to the menu, mu­sic, flow­ers and dec­o­ra­tions. But as in the UK, cel­e­brants need to be re­al­is­tic about their bud­gets. Kaye be­lieves that one should bud­get five to 10 per cent higher than ini­tial quotes, to cover any un­ex­pected costs and make sure that with ev­ery ven­dor, an English con­tract is sup­plied.

Many fam­i­lies de­cide to bring their chil­dren to the Holy­land for their com­ing-of-age cer­e­mony — there are so many mean­ing­ful lo­ca­tions. Pos­si­bil­i­ties in­clude a small cer­e­mony at Masada, fol­lowed by brunch with views to the Dead Sea; To­rah read­ing at the Western Wall fol­lowed by a party amid the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ru­ins, or an egal­i­tar­ian bat­mitz­vah over­look­ing the Old City in a glass­domed venue.

One of Kaye’s most mem­o­rable bar­mitz­vahs took place this sum­mer, with the brief of in­cor­po­rat­ing Is­rael’s mod­ern and an­cient his­tory. The To­rah read­ing took place at La­trun, a crit­i­cal hill in­volved in the cap­ture of Jerusalem and now a me­mo­rial to fallen sol­diers in the tank corps. The lo­ca­tion sig­ni­fied the bar­mitz­vah boy’s com­mit­ment to Is­rael and deep grat­i­tude to­wards those pro­tect­ing the land; La­trun also of­fered views across the Judean hills.

The evening fol­low­ing the cer­e­mony, the guests were bussed to Eretz Bereshit, a stun­ning venue deep in the Judean desert and yet just half an hour from Jerusalem. While the chil­dren formed a drum­ming cir­cle on an iso­lated hill­top, the adults

sipped cock­tails in a lux­u­ri­ously tented arena. The chil­dren trav­elled on camel­back to re-join their par­ents and the bar­mitz­vah party con­tin­ued in full swing as the stars twin­kled in the clear desert sky.

If plan­ning any re­li­gious cer­e­mony in Is­rael, it is ad­vis­able to con­tact one of the or­gan­i­sa­tions de­signed to as­sist in th­ese mat­ters, such as Tzo­har or Itim. Kaye rec­om­mends us­ing Itim, a char­ity that will ad­vise on both bar­mitz­vah and wed­ding cer­e­monies — one of its aims is to limit the bu­reau­cracy in­volved.

Just be­ing in Is­rael adds a spe­cial en­ergy to your day. From its mul­ti­plic­ity of cul­tures , you can adopt one or two new re­li­gious el­e­ments to en­hance the spir­i­tu­al­ity of the oc­ca­sion. And how­ever lav­ish your ban­quet, it will still have a laid-back Is­raeli at­ti­tude, a real party at­mos­phere.

Rus­tic-style din­ing at Eretz Bereshit, in the Judean desert Bar­mitz­vah band at Eretz Bereshit

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