Is­raeli firm of­fers tourists ‘anti-ter­ror­ism’ ad­ven­ture

Global Times - Weekend - - TRAVEL -

The for­eign­ers yell “fire, fire, fire” be­fore shoot­ing their au­to­matic weapons as Is­raeli in­struc­tors look on – but this is no mil­i­tary train­ing.

The 20 or so Jewish tourists from South Amer­ica are on an “anti-ter­ror­ism” course run by former Is­raeli sol­diers in the oc­cu­pied West Bank. Their tar­gets are bal­loons nearby.

“The aim of the train­ing is not to teach you how to shoot,” Ei­tan Co­hen, one of the in­struc­tors, says to the group, “but to make you un­der­stand what we do here in Is­rael to fight ter­ror­ism.”

The tourist at­trac­tion of­fers an un­usual op­tion for vis­i­tors com­ing to see Jerusalem’s holy sites or to float in the Dead Sea.

But while it may be ex­hil­a­rat­ing or in­struc­tive for some, oth­ers find it of­fen­sive, ac­cus­ing the com­pany of prof­it­ing from Is­rael’s oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory and fears of “ter­ror­ism.”

The com­pany is called Cal­iber 3, lo­cated near the Is­raeli set­tle­ment of Efrat south of Jerusalem, and it be­gan in 2003 as a train­ing camp for pro­fes­sional se­cu­rity per­son­nel such as po­lice.

The in­struc­tors, in­clud­ing ex­sol­diers who say they served in elite units, use their ex­pe­ri­ence gained through Is­rael’s var­i­ous con­flicts.

Since 2009, it has also be­come an at­trac­tion for tourists who are taught how to han­dle weapons, par­tic­i­pate in paint­ball or learn Krav Maga, the self­de­fence method us­ing box­ing and mar­tial arts de­vel­oped by the Is­raeli mil­i­tary.

They pay a lit­tle over $100 to par­tic­i­pate.

Dan Co­hen, 49, came from Cara­cas with his fam­ily to va­ca­tion in Is­rael and de­cided to add the train­ing to his itin­er­ary.

While his chil­dren play paint­ball nearby, he and his wife Lili lis­ten at­ten­tively to the in­struc­tor be­fore a crash course in han­dling au­to­matic weapons and fir­ing on a bal­loon.

“We came here think­ing we were go­ing to do some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” he says, adding they wanted to learn “how to shoot” and “re­act in a ter­ror­ist sit­u­a­tion, God for­bid.”

“But what we re­ally learned is how the sol­diers make quick de­ci­sions and un­der­stand what is wrong and what is right in th­ese sit­u­a­tions, and how hard it is to un­der­stand.”

Some Pales­tini­ans say they see the com­pany as an in­sult.

Mo­hammed Bur­jieh, a 38-year-old teacher in the neigh­bor­ing vil­lage of Mas­sara ac­cuses Cal­iber 3 of ex­ploit­ing fears over “ter­ror­ism.”

“The set­tlers who run this com­pany cre­ate fear [of Pales­tini­ans] among tourists so they spread it when re­turn­ing to their coun­tries,” he says.

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