Families will have plenty to doat Israel in the Park festivities

Traveling through the small-scale Israel that will be created Sunday in Golden Gate Park, families will be able to find plenty of entertainment and activities for their young ones.

Real camels, a mini Dead Sea and 10 miniaturized Israeli cities will make up the landscape of Sharon Meadows, providing some of the fun. Singing performances will add to the atmosphere at the Israel in the Park event, the highlight of a year-long "Israel at 50" celebration.

Drora Arussy, Israel in the Park's educational coordinator, said the festival provides an opportunity for families to explore Israel together.

"`Israel in the Park' is a family learning experience. That's why we have multilevel activities," she said. "We're trying very hard to be all inclusive. It's the way to be comfortable with your connection to Israel."

She added, "The main focus is to identify with Israel, especially here in the San Francisco area where people are split about their feelings for Israel. It's a safe place to experience Israel and show your pride."

Headlining the children's entertainment at the festival will be singer-songwriter Craig Taubman. He'll play a one-hour concert at 1 p.m. on the main stage.

Taubman is known in many Jewish communities for blending gentle rock and roll with Jewish culture and prayers. His themes include childhood experiences, such as getting a haircut, to the pluralistically spiritual lyrics in the song titled "One World" that link together Buddhists, Christians, Moslems and Jews. He sings in Hebrew, Yiddish and English.

Part of the festival program includes Taubman singing with children from Temple Beth Jacob in Redwood City. In a phone interview from Southern California, Taubman said that singing with the children will create a special image of community for the festival.

Taubman's San Francisco appearance is part of his "One World" 54-city tour that honors Israel's 50th anniversary.

"In San Francisco, we'll do a number of original and traditional songs that celebrate the miracle of the birth of the Jewish homeland," he said.

Throughout the tour, Taubman has distributed tzedakah boxes to audiences in each city and hopes to raise enough money for Armdi, Israel's red cross, to purchase at least one ambulance.

As part of a group called Craig 'n' Co., Taubman has recorded albums for Disney Records and has performed for TV shows, movies and Nickelodeon. The group's CD, "My Newish Jewish Discovery," recently received the 1998 Parent's Choice Gold Award.

After the singing, families can visit each of the 10 recreated Israeli cities such as Kiryat Shmona, Safed, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

When they arrive, attendees will receive mock "passports" with their Israel in the Park festival programs. The passport will be stamped at each of the 10 cities. The first 1,200 visitors to fill up the passport with stamps will receive a prize.

Special activities for teens are scheduled in the Eilat area, including local high school bands, simulated wind surfing and hair wrapping.

In the area of Safed, children can roll beeswax candles and make havdallah spice bags. "Young children get to pick out what they like to smell and the parents can tie the bag for them," Arussy said. "Then they can learn about havdallah."

In the city of Rosh Ha'Ayin, located in the Tel Aviv area , children from South Peninsula Hebrew Day School will run Yemenite activities. Children can participate in the hand-painting henna ritual that takes place during a Yemenite engagement ceremony.

Arussy said older children can paint their hands while the younger children can use paper and a toothpick.

Signs with information about cultural rituals and symbols will be displayed in educational tents in many of the cities.

Throughout the day children and parents can head to Jaffa to hear Arab folktales, pet goats in the Kibbutz area, soak their feet in the salty Dead Sea, take a camel ride through the desert for a small charge, or check out the climbing wall in Masada.