54 white doves to fly in S.F. at June 2 Israel celebration

In what will no doubt test the trainability of the modern homing dove, Brandeis Hillel Day School students will release 54 of the white birds on Sunday afternoon, June 2 in Yerba Buena Gardens.

Organized by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation's Israel Center and the Jewish Community Relations Council, the annual "Israel in the Gardens" festival will feature the Israeli rock band Etnix, Israeli artists, folk dancers and exotic-food vendors.

"This event centers on our Jewish community's deep desire for peace, which has been the Jews' basic prayer for thousands of years; the dove is the symbol of that quest," said Marc Schickman, advisory committee chair of the Israel Center.

The dress is casual — guests may get decorated in face paint and henna tattoos. Party favors will include handmade tile mosaics and the chance to buy T-shirts, books, arts and crafts, jewelry and a variety of Israel delicacies.

Guests will also be treated to interactive shows, including puppets, stories and magic, as well as educational programs highlighting Israeli antiques, the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient tile mosaics. The festival will feature family programs, both visual and hands-on, designed to showcase some of the significant contributions Israel has made to the modern world.

Following the five-hour fair, 54 children between the ages of 5 and 14 will liberate one of the doves over Yerba Buena Gardens for every year of Israel's statehood.

Brandeis Hillel got on board with the project after seeing a chance to combine its students' interest in nature and the world with their awareness of Israel and Israeli culture.

"These children have an opportunity to be part of a memorable ceremony, which integrates love of animals and their love of Israel, which in turn builds a respect for God and nature and science and creation," said Rabbi Henry Shreibman, head of the school.

Throughout the school year, a significant part of the students' education involves learning about Israel. The school's involvement in the Israel Independence Day festivities serves as a form of applied learning for all ages, he explained.

The focus of this year's event, said organizers, is showing the Bay Area community how it can be directly involved with Israel. Along with the children's participation, there will be a chance for people of all ages to contribute to a CD drive, which encourages fairgoers to bring a new or used CD to the festival and donate it to an Israeli child or soldier.