Israeli firm offers tourists ‘anti-terrorism’ adventure
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.