Visit Safed, the Wall, Tel Aviv — in Golden Gate Park

You'll need a map and a compass to navigate Golden Gate Park for this year's Israel in the Park festival.

On Sunday, June 7, San Francisco's Sharon Meadows will be transformed into a mini-Israel in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Jewish state, laid out in the shape of Israel.

Wander winding medieval streets and corridors of Safed, meet for coffee and babka in an outdoor Tel Aviv cafe, view a replica of Marc Chagall's stained-glass windows from Hadassah's Ein Kerem Medical Center and leave messages in a small-scale Western Wall. Later, the messages will be taken to Israel.

"Visitors will be transported to the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and to Israel's spiritual center of Safed," said Don Friend, who is festival co-chair along with his wife, Janie. "They'll hear Israeli music, shop open-air markets and sample falafel, Middle Eastern salads and rugelach."

Janie Friend added, "This is the largest birthday party for Israel we've ever had here. We're expecting 12,000 people to show up."

The birthday bash, a highlight of a yearlong series of "Israel at 50" celebrations, will feature Rami Kleinstein, a leading Israeli rock star who writes his own lyrics and music.

Israeli Consul Eran Etzion called Kleinstein "a captivating performer on stage [who] plays an authentic Israeli blend of Western rock with local Middle Eastern flavor."

The event is sponsored by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Israel Center and the Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, the Israeli Consulate-General and the S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education.

Cultural and historical sites and landmarks within Israel's most popular cities will be recreated with theatrical facades and painted backdrops.

A giant agricultural collage made of beans and rice will serve as a backdrop for the kibbutzim area. Another backdrop will show Eilat's rich Red Sea underwater scenes.

Joining Kleinstein on the main stage will be American children's singer and entertainer Craig Taubman. The two will give full-length performances.

Israel at 50 coordinator Lani Raider said the festival is still negotiating contracts with additional popular entertainers. "Stay tuned, we may have some big surprises."

Other scheduled performances and activities include storytellers, jugglers, klezmer and Mizrahi music and folk-dancing instruction. Attendees may also have an opportunity to chat online with relatives and friends in the JCF's partner town, Kiryat Shmona.

Students from the BJE's affiliated day schools and Hebrew schools will play a key role in this year's Israel Independence Day celebration by creating the sets, staffing exhibits and running workshops for making Israeli jewelry and Shabbat candles. They'll also play the parts of historic rabbis and public figures. Poetry, stories and letters from Israeli pen pals will be on display.

Exhibits and presentations will focus on Israel's achievements over the last five decades.

"It's important that we appreciate all that Israel has accomplished in the last 50 years," Don Friend said. "Too often, we tend to concentrate on the problems because that's what makes it into the news. With the celebration, we're focusing on the fact that Israel has been transformed from an arid desert to a modern, booming metropolis.

"Israel has introduced innovative technology and set worldwide standards in the fields of agriculture, medicine and computer software, and it's successfully resettled more than a million emigres from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. These are some of the country's most amazing feats that we take for granted."

Rabbi Doug Kahn, JCRC executive director, said that while the overwhelming majority of costs for the event are being offset by donations from local foundations, a modest entrance fee is necessary this year.

Advance tickets are $8 for adults, $4 for students, children over 5 and seniors. Children under 5 are free. Tickets at the gate will be $10 and $6.

"This year's birthday celebration is really two events in one. It's an all-day concert with top-of-the-line entertainment and outstanding activities for all ages," Kahn said. "You have to consider that to hear any of our star performers in concert would cost well over $25 per person."