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In the West Bank, ex-Israeli soldiers initiate tourists into “anti-terrorism”

Ⓒ AFP – MENAHEM KAHANA – | Foreign tourists familiarized themselves with Israeli techniques to fight “terrorism” and learned how to use weapons in the former training camp “Caliber 3” near Efrat in the occupied West Bank on 18 July 2017

“Fire, fire, fire,” shouted the shooters before unleashing a noisy bang with their automatic rifles: no casualties. The targets are balloons arranged a few meters away, and the shooters are not fighters, but tourists.

They are about twenty Jews from South America who have stuck a passage through “Caliber 3” between a visit to the Old City of Jerusalem and a bath in the Dead Sea.

Caliber 3, founded in 2003 by a former Israeli special forces, Colonel Sharon Gat, is initially a training camp for security professionals. It is located near the Israeli settlement of Efrat in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel for 50 years.

Tourists learn about Israeli techniques for fighting “terrorism” for about two hours and learn how to use weapons.

Ⓒ AFP – MENAHEM KAHANA – | Foreign tourists familiarized themselves with Israeli techniques to fight “terrorism” and learned how to use weapons in the former Caliber 3 training camp near Efrat in the occupied West Bank on 18 July 2017

“The aim of this training is not to teach you how to shoot,” says instructor Eitan Cohen to tourists, “but to make you understand what is being done here in Israel to fight terrorism.”

Former army instructors claiming to have served mostly in elite units, train policemen or vigilantes in the handling of weapons, protection of personalities or methods of survival.

Since 2009, the center also offers for a little more than 100 dollars per person services to tourists in search of shivers: “the ultimate experience” firearms shooting, urban paintball, or learning Of Krav Maga, a method of self-defense developed by the Israeli army.

– Keffieh in the crowd –

Tourists experience a moment of fright when they find themselves in the middle of a mock attack. Without knowing what awaits them, they wander quietly in a rough market setting. Teachers secretly intermingled with them. One of the monitors even bears a Palestinian keffieh.

Ⓒ AFP – MENAHEM KAHANA – | Foreign tourists familiarized themselves with Israeli techniques to fight “terrorism” and learned how to use weapons in the former training camp “Caliber 3” near Efrat in the occupied West Bank on 18 July 2017

Suddenly, lattice instructors emerge, screaming at the truly scared tourists to throw themselves on the ground, and master a “terrorist” who had taken out a knife.

Eitan Cohen, 41, debriefs them. He still maintains a bit of mystery about why seasoned professionals like him are able to spot the “terrorist” immediately, which is not the one they might have believed – the man at the keffieh.

Impressed, tourists photograph on a background of Israeli flags this “Rambo” in lattice, sunglasses on the forehead, gun slung over the shoulder and gun in the belt, former sniper of antiterrorist commandos according to the site of Caliber 3.

Ⓒ AFP – MENAHEM KAHANA – | Foreign tourists familiarized themselves with Israeli techniques to fight “terrorism” and learned how to use weapons in the former training camp “Caliber 3” near Efrat in the occupied West Bank on 18 July 2017

“It was great, I understood a lot of things today,” enthuses Lili Cohen, 43, breathless after running a few tens of meters and doing push-ups under the screams of the instructors.

She, her husband, and their children who were involved in paintball while their parents were shooting, came from Caracas for their holidays.

– ‘Moral values’ –

“I came to learn and it was both informative and fun,” said her husband Dan Cohen, 49 years old.

Some Jews in the area deplored the “bad image” of the company while the conflict with the Palestinians persists on condition of anonymity.

This does not prevent the regional council, intercommunal authority, from promoting Caliber 3 on its website.

On the Palestinian side, Mohammed Burjieh, a 38-year-old professor, sees a new Israeli expression of incitement to hatred.

Ⓒ AFP – MENAHEM KAHANA – | Foreign tourists familiarized themselves with Israeli techniques to fight “terrorism” and learned how to use weapons in the former training camp “Caliber 3” near Efrat in the occupied West Bank on 18 July 2017

Caliber 3 exploits the specter of terrorism to “make Israel forget crimes,” said the teacher in the village of Massara, separated from Efrat by the wall built by Israel.

“The settlers at the head of this enterprise insinuate the fear (of the Palestinians) in the minds of tourists to spread it on their way home,” he denounced.

Caliber 3 reported receiving nearly 25,000 tourists, Americans, Chinese, Canadian or South Americans in 2016.

“We explain to tourists the difficulties of this war, which is very different from a classic war,” says a Caliber 3 instructor, Yoav Fleishman, wearing a black T-shirt with the words “combat instructor”.

At the end of the program, Eitan Cohen pounded before his students his message on the “morals” of Israeli soldiers.

“We must protect civilians while maintaining our moral values,” he said with applause.

“When I hear this guy and I see what he’s doing, I’m reassured about the future of Israel,” says Cohen, the other Venezuelan.

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