Day school kids and teachers recreate Safed and Jaffa…

Ahuva Maoz prayed that she'd get Safed. Marit Shmargad had her sights set on a kibbutz. Ziona Tassa wanted Rosh HaAyin.

And Anila Sole-Zier was willing to settle for whatever was left.

No, these are not Middle Eastern potentates carving up Israel. They are Bay Area Jewish day school teachers staking their claim to the Israeli city their school will represent at "Israel in the Park" on Sunday afternoon. The festival honoring Israel's 50th birthday takes place at Golden Gate Park's Sharon Meadows in San Francisco.

According to educational coordinator Drora Arussy, nine Bay Area day schools are participating. To get ready, pupils have been studying their designated city, making decorations and planning activities. Tents representing the cities will be scattered throughout Sharon Meadows approximating each city's location in Israel.

Ahuva Maoz, a Hebrew and music teacher at Oakland Hebrew Day School, was hot to get Safed.

"`Please, God, we want Safed. We want Safed.' God heard," said Maoz, describing how she invoked divine intervention to lay claim to Israel's mystical city. "In the 15th and 16th centuries, [Safed] was almost equal to Jerusalem. The most important rabbis moved from Jerusalem to Safed."

Located in the mountains, Safed is a maze of narrow, winding streets filled with tiny houses and art galleries. It's the birthplace of Kabbalah, the city where Moses ha-Levi Alkabet wrote "L'cha dodi." Maoz is recording a tape of several versions to play in the school's tent.

Maoz and the students will recreate the Safed of the 16th century. Visitors will make beeswax candles for Shabbat and a spicebox for havdallah. There will even be a secret space in the back of the tent for mystical experiences.

Sunnyvale's South Peninsula Hebrew Day School chose Rosh Ha'Ayin. According to Hebrew teacher Tassa, Rosh Ha'Ayin, which means "head of water," has many natural wells and supplies water throughout Israel.

"It is one of the main cities of immigration," said Tassa, adding that it has a large Yemenite population.

"Yemenite dresses are black with colorful designs embroidered on them," she said. Tassa, a sabra of Yemenite descent, will teach Yemenite dancing and embroidery to visitors at the festival.

Anila Sole-Zier of San Francisco's Brandeis Hillel Day School admitted that she picked Jaffa because it hadn't been taken yet. But even so, it's no second-rate city.

"It's very old," said Sole-Zier. "It's one of the ancient ports in Israel. A lot of artists live there. It has an Arab and Jewish population…living next to each other. They're not separated like in Jerusalem."

She and her students will share the spirit of Jaffa by teaching visitors how to fold paper boats and doves. Rabbi Henry Shreibman, a mime and seasoned storyteller as well as the school's director, will tell Arab folktales throughout the day.

Students at San Mateo's Jewish Day School of the North Peninsula cannot keep their ideas inside a single tent.

Teachers and students chose to represent the kibbutz lifestyle.

"Everyone is equal in the kibbutz," said Judaica teacher Marit Shmargad when asked what most appeals to the students about kibbutzim. "Life for youngsters in the kibbutz is wonderful. [There are] no limitations. [There are] animals, work and responsibilities. All of this as a child sees it is fun."

Named Kibbutz Yachad ("Kibbutz Together"), its walls will be decorated with slogans about equality and everyone doing what they do best. The decor will be agricultural in theme with fruits, vegetables, animals and maybe even a tractor.

"A map will show the irrigation system in Israel," said Shmargad. "Even though water is a big problem, [it shows] what can be achieved with hard work and good engineering."

The school even has its own expert, fifth-grader Noa-Lee Holtzman. With grandparents, an aunt, an uncle and cousins living on a kibbutz, she has been a frequent visitor.

"A kibbutz is a sense of togetherness," said Holtzman, who has visited her relatives at Passover. "You don't feel outside. You feel connected even if you're just visiting."

She made a videotape of the kibbutz, which will be shown at Israel in the Park, and she has found pen-pals for her schoolmates.

On the kibbutz, "the kids can run anywhere. They can go to their friends' homes without even calling their parents," she said. "Parents don't guard their children every minute. It's all safe."

She described the junkyard where the kibbutz kids play: "[The children] consider it treasures, not junk."

Her own class, she insists, "is like a kibbutz. We're all equal," said Holtzman, who plans on living on a kibbutz when she grows up. "I feel like a messenger."