Legos, archaeology tempt kids at S.F.s new Jerusalem

Striding through the Jaffa Gate at Jerusalem in the Gardens, youngsters will enter a city-within-a-city, rich in activities, learning opportunities and fun.

Between noon and 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 9, San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens will be the scene of a new Jerusalem, a refashioned City of Gold whose every gate opens onto scenes evoking Israel or Judaism.

Micki Naggar Bourne, director of the Israel program at the Bureau of Jewish Education and coordinator of children's activities for Jerusalem in the Gardens, says these activities are sure to engage kids of all ages and might "encourage their parents to get artsy-craftsy as well."

Volunteers from community agencies and other groups will staff the activities.

Created to resemble the Old City's real gates, replicas will be posted with texts explaining history and context.

At Jaffa Gate, which is the official entrance, visitors will pick up their "passports" and have their pictures taken alongside a camel. At Zion Gate, an archaeological "dig" will offer kids a chance to probe for treasures in the desert sand. Nearby, young visitors can help rebuild a Lego version of the ancient Temple.

Kids-at-heart may join their youngsters in designing "Chagall" windows, creating a mizrach [the ritual object placed on the wall of one's home that faces Jerusalem] and making Hebrew name-bracelets and other jewelry by the Damascus Gate.

Visitors can write wishes or prayers on slips of paper and slip these into a crack in the Western Wall. The papers will be delivered to the actual wall this summer by local confirmation students participating in the Summer in Israel program.

At the high-tech New Gate, visitors can make their own Jerusalem Web pages. Staffers will help input pictures, birthday greetings and other messages.

The web page will be loaded onto the BJE Technology Center's Jewish Web Project the week after the festival and can be accessed through the World Wide Web.

Visitors seeking a brief rest in between hands-on activities can sit back and enjoy the talents of storytellers, face painters and other entertainers.

Suzan Berns