03 Nov 2013 04:00
The Caliber 3 Academy in the West Bank area of Gush Etzyon has become a renowned training center for both professionals and amateurs alike, where people come from around the world to be trained in counter-terrorism techniques. On any given training day, the trainers at Caliber 3 are instructing Israeli citizens and tourists, adults and children, in emergency response tactics and “Krav Maga,” a self-defense system developed for military in Israel and Hungary that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from boxing, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Judo, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and grappling, along with realistic fight training.
The company was founded by IDF Colonel Sharon Gat in 2002 Caliber 3 was founded by Sharon Gat, who is also the CEO. The academy is certified by Israel’s Ministry of Homeland Security, the Police Force, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry and works closely with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) as well. Despite the fact that the shooting ranges are filled with photo targets of Arab men wearing keffiyahs on their heads, Gat stresses that the training is not how to attack or provoke terrorists, but only protection. “Even if the targets are Arabs and they don't like Jews, we don't shoot people that are not intended to make a terrorist act.”
American and Russian tourists are among some of the many tourists who come to the academy looking for a different type of tourism than usual. Caliber 3 advertises this new tourism as “Commando Tourism,” where people can come train alongside seasoned veterans with real-life counterterrorism experience. The bullets are true but the participants seem to be having a lot of fun. One woman, Margo, came from New York with her young son Harry to learn self-defenses, while Mary from Fishers, Indiana, came with her entire family just for a good time during their vacation in Israel.
"They are mostly American and Russian Jews who have relatives or friends in the colonies," says Gat, continuing, “they want to understand what it means to live in a climate of war where you must defend 24/7 from the Palestinians."
The academy includes three shooting ranges, a dining room, a Krav Maga gym and a tactical training center. Caliber 3 is dedicated to Capt. Hagai Hayim Lev, a 24-year-old Israeli soldier killed in 2002 during a military operation in southern Gaza Strip.
Photos by Giuliano Camarda