The ghost city of the Israeli Army

A gigantic military base was built in an urban-style environment to accommodate training sessions for Israeli soldiers. The only graffiti artist in the troops draws and paints Palestinian figures and Palestinian flags on the building walls. Posters and nationalist slogans are copied throughout the place. Soldiers also dress like Palestinian militants during their training sessions.

Three men wearing military uniforms are sitting down, taking a break from their military exercises. Posters of Palestinian nationalists fill the wall behind them. The image of the three soldiers is at odds with the figures of the martyrs whose faces remind us of the countless lives that were lost for the sake of freedom. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

Leaning against a wall holding the memory of Palestinian « heroes » on scattered posters, three Israeli soldiers take a break from their training session. The few posters are barely visible to the eye, but one can easily recognize the faces of the men that were slain by the Israeli army, and among them, on the right, the staring eyes of a boy. And just like time, some faces just faded away. Throughout the green, white, black, and red colors of the Palestinian flag, the posters read, ‘the nationalist islamist militant organization Hamas.’ Along the lines written in Arabic, the name of the founder of Hamas is seen on every poster: « Ahmed Ismail ».

At the foot of the wall, one of the green-uniformed men, the only one wearing the traditional Jewish cap « the kippah », holds a cigarette to his lips while his right peer stares into the void.

Inside the ghost town Mini Gaza, training sessions simulating a warfare in an urban environment take place. Geared soldiers are in a kneeling position facing their adversary. The roads, the small blocks, and the pillars across the city are a copy of Gaza or the West Bank in which numerous battles between the Israeli military and the Palestinian organizations clash. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

Across the military base, walls are painted with mock Palestinian graffiti: the faces of Palestinian political figures are depicted all over the constructions. At the foreground of the picture, the Palestinian flag is painted on a pony wall behind which an Israeli soldier is kneeling. On the other side, a drawing of the spectacled Hamas leader wearing an islamic hat can be seen on one of the edifices. They call it « Mini Gaza », a deserted city built in the Zeelimarmy base in 2005, around the end of the second Palestinian uprising. The concrete buildings and the widely-open areas reflect the environment in which the Israelian army operates, including the West Bank, Gaza, and southern Lebanon.

A young soldier reading a book is sitting at the foot of a brick wall on which a Palestinian flag is painted. Below it reads « Free Gaza ». Next to the soldier, his peers rest, have lunch, smoke cigarettes, and chat with each other. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

The contrast between reality and the mock graffiti is striking: another wall holding the weight of the Palestinian cries reads « free Gaza! » Against it leans an Israeli soldier wearing a kippah. In the middle of the backpacks scatterred on the ground, the young man reads the Torah, the religious Jewish book. Every detail is added to the constructions in order to create the fake city of Gaza.

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