Get in touch with ancient artifacts from Israel in S.F.

There are spots in Israel where all one has to do is scoop a hand into the dirt to excavate 4,000 years of history.

Shards of painted clay pots, the feminine-shaped remains of an oil lamp, even frail coins are fished out of the land without much effort. That's because the ground in Israel is teeming with history. According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, these ceramic traces can tell the story of everything from ancient lifestyles to battles during the time of the Crusades.

For the first time, the Israel Antiquities Authority will be bringing a sample of some of the country's archaeological finds to the "Israel in the Gardens" celebration on Sunday afternoon at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens.

"With each new discovery, Jews all over the world attain a better understanding about their relationship to the region," said Shelley-Anne Peleg, manager of the Israeli Educational Center for Archaeology, part of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

As a representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority, she will be toting thousands of years of tangible history to the Bay Area. This will be the first time the organization, which specializes in teaching archaeology to children through classroom workshops and at on-site digs, will be bringing its program to America.

"The crux of our goal is not necessarily just to teach history, but to give an idea how people used to live, why it is that today we are connected to Israel and why it's important to preserve it," she said. "Plus, it's always fun to get into the process and make a little piece of our own history. The kids love that part.

"The idea is to have people of all ages to really get connected to Israel in a fun and educational way."

This year, the Israel festival will literally be doing just that by allowing visitors to see and even touch genuine artifacts.

"The key is to get people who may not have ever seen, let alone touched, this history familiar with some of the most important finds in Israel," she said. "Simultaneously, our workshops tell the history of significant discoveries and the excavation processes used to preserve the pieces."