My Last Bar/Bat Mitzvah…. Having a Bat Mitzvah in Israel…. That Time I Completely Blew Through My Budget….

This post gets three titles, because I just couldn’t decide how to headline this story.

After sharing a post-simcha report with you guys from my oldest’s Bar Mitzvah (in Cleveland) back in 2016, and my middle one’s Bar Mitzvah (in Israel) in 2018, I wanted to round out the triology, so to speak, with a report from my daughter’s recent Bat Mitzvah (in Israel).

(I even did a post breaking down the costs of our Israel bar mitzvah vs. the costs of our Cleveland bar mitzvah, if you’re curious how they compared.)

Our original plan for our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah was to take a small group of our family and friends away for Shavuot. Since she was born the day before Shavuot, she chose to learn to read Megilat Rut.

(Last minute practicing before chag)

A girl reading Rut wouldn’t really have been accepted in our local minyan, so we decided to have our own minyan. (I know that a girl / woman reading the megilah isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and that’s totally fine, but I’m not looking for any negative commentary on how our daughter chose to mark her bat mitzvah.)

By now, I think you guys know that I am a planner. I start planning smachot WAY in advance. I do not like doing things at the last minute, and I really do not like last minute changes.

And yet, by Pesach, we still hadn’t even booked the guest house. We had visited a few places back in December and really liked Kibbutz Alumim, but I was so nervous to commit because of Corona.

During Chanukah, Israel was in the throws of its worst Covid-19 peak, our vaccination campaign still hadn’t started, and the thought of taking responsibility for the health and welfare of all these people — assuming Israel would even have been allowing hotel / guest house stays (which had been banned for months) — was too stressful.

So we kept pushing off making a reservation and putting down a deposit. We just waited and watched.

We even floated the possibility of having a small backyard something and delaying the bigger celebrations until next year, which I know many families have had to do in the midst of Covid.

Frankly, it was driving type-A-planner-me nuts — and making my daughter pretty worried, too —  but I did my best to live in the grey of yihiyeh beseder (a very Israeli saying, meaning “It’ll be fine” – aka: Don’t worry, it’ll all work out) and help my daughter trust that we would make a beautiful Bat Mitzvah for her despite all the uncertainty.

The week after Pesach — just six weeks before the circled date of Shavuot — my husband and I reassessed the trends with Corona, felt confident that things were headed in the right direction, and sof-sof (finally!) decided to book the kibbutz and commit to our plan.

We quickly invited a very small handful of our closest friends and family, and a couple of our daughter’s best friends from school and Bnei Akiva. It was a frenzy of activity as we hurried to arrange rental cars to get the girls down to the kibbutz, shopped for dresses, asked friends to lead shiurim for Leil Shavuot, made room assignments, chose menus, and baked a ton of bars and cookies to freeze and serve over chag.

And then, six days before her bat mitzvah, everything stopped.

On the Tuesday morning before her Bat Mitzvah, we had woken up to an altered reality: Jerusalem had been targeted with rockets, Israel had retaliated, and the South of Israel had spent the night in their bomb shelters.

For all my anxiety about Corona, the one thing I didn’t have on my Bingo card was rockets.

Kibbutz Alumim is in the south of Israel, right along the border with Gaza. While our top worry was everyone’s well-being, a very close second worry for me was “OMG WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?”

I immediately went into Plan B mode: Was there anywhere else that could even take us at this late date?

We called every single hotel, guest house and youth hostel from Jerusalem north. [Of course, this was before the massive barrages of rockets launched at the center of the country (which I wrote about in one of my newsletters), rendering much of the center of the country uncertain as well.]

After many, many “No, sorry we’re all booked”s, I called a guest house in Netanaya, which a friend had suggested to me. Miraculously they were able to accommodate us.

The only hitch: It was about 40% more expensive than we had budgeted.

Frankie and I had an impromptu emergency budget ‘meeting’ (if who’ve attended one of my free online budgeting basics classes, you know all about these!) and decided that with just 120 hours to go until her Bat Mitzvah, time and flexibility were not on our side. We confirmed with the Netanya guest house and tapped our emergency fund. (Do rockets rescheduling your daughter’s bat mitzvah count as an emergency? We decided it did.)

The next five days were a complete blur for me, honestly. I always feel responsible for my guests even at a simple Shabbat meal — but at a Bat Mitzvah, when sirens were going off around-the-clock (although thankfully none in Netanya since the first night of the rockets), that sense of responsibility went into overdrive. Plus, I knew my daughter was a nervous wreck, and all the changes and uncertainty were making it worse for her.

The morning of her Bat Mitzvah, I still wasn’t confident it was really going to happen. One family of six that was supposed to come cancelled at the last minute, but then another couple asked if they could bring their five kids because they didn’t feel safe leaving them at home. Incredibly it all worked out. I just keep mumbling yiyiyeh besder to myself as I packed the trunk, dropped off the dog at the kennel, drove to Netanya, and said about one hundred prayers for quiet and calm.

To say that I feel grateful that we made it through the yomtov without a single siren in Netanya is the greatest understatement. And miraculously, we didn’t just make it through: We had an absolutely beautiful chag.

While I personally didn’t exhale until all was said and done (and there was a cease fire!), our guests kept telling me how relaxed and happy they were, which is an unimaginable blessing in the midst of everything that was going on.

The place was beautiful, the food was delicious and plentiful, our guests mixed and mingled like old friends, and our daughter was a SUPER STAR! She read Rut beautifully, and didn’t even flinch when her cousin pelted her in the back of the head with a mazal tov candy bag!

She delivered her dvar Torah like a seasoned pro (in spite of the fact that she, like her mama, gets massive stage fright before speaking!), and enjoyed 25 hours of a blissful bubble with some of the sweetest 12 year olds I’ve ever met!

As we were packing up the car to drive home on Tuesday morning (thank G-d for one day yomtov!), she said, “I don’t want to leave. I had the best Bat Mitzvah ever. Please can we do this again?”

And that, my friends, was priceless. Even if we didn’t stick to the budget.


  1. What a beautiful way to mark her bat mitzvah
    Lots of nachas!

  2. Mazel tov on her bat mitvah! I know how proud you are of her.

  3. Yita weiss says

    Mazel tov ! Beutiful!
    And you should see nachas and simchos from your entire family

  4. Mazal tov! So glad you were able to share such a beautiful simcha with your friends and family.

  5. Mazel Tov! So glad it worked out!

  6. Jennifer Kash says

    Mazel Tov! So glad it all worked out!

  7. ❤️❤️❤️❤️ 💕💕💕Mazal Tov!!!

  8. How absolutely beautiful – Mazel Tov to your whole family

  9. Dorri Goldman says

    Mazal Tov! So happy that everything worked out so beautifully and you all will have great memories FOREVER!

  10. Dina Cotton says

    What a beautiful story! Lots of Nachas from your daughter and all of your children!

  11. Skai Bateman says

    Mazel tov. So happy to hear when things work out

  12. Judy Fulda says

    Mazal tov!
    Before you know it, Mara, you’ll be posting about weddings!

  13. Dobrushe Haller says

    Màzel tov!!! Much nachat!

  14. CG Polirer says

    wowww! I am so glad you blew the budget. What a beautiful ending to a rough journey. Mazel tov!

  15. carol fried says

    MAZAL TOV to you all!

  16. Rebekkah Lindow says

    Great to hear that it was a meaningful, happy, restful (at least relaxing and calm) occasion! May you merit to be a part of many more happy occasions!

  17. Shulammis Saxon says

    Mazel Tov, Mara!
    Your daughter is beautiful Bli Ayin Hora! Wishing you much Nachas Ruach from her and her BIG brothers 🙂

    • Mara Strom says

      Thank you so much! Such a lovely comment! (And lol at the BIG comment – she actually made a joke about their height – especially the oldest one — in her speech!)

  18. Mazel tov. Thank you so much for sharing. Beautiful photos.

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