Welcome to Chicago! No, not that Chicago.
This is “Chicago”, the fake Arab town built by Israel in the middle of the Negev desert to train its military forces in urban warfare.
Though artificial, our hometown's dessicated twin is “highly realistic.” Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, whose photographs of “Chicago” are collected in this book and are replicated here, wrote: “To create this alternative universe, Palestinian architecture has been carefully scrutinized. Roads and alleyways have been constructed to mimic the layout of towns like Ramallah and Nablus. In one corner the ground has been covered in sand, a reference to unpaved refugee camps like Jenin. Graffiti has been applied to the walls with obscure declarations in Arabic: 'I love you Ruby' and 'Red ash, hot as blood'. Burned-out vehicles line the streets.”
Perhaps more interesting than its spatial “authenticity” is the fact that the “history” of this ghost town “directly mirrors the history of the Palestinian conflict.”
The first and second Intifada, the Gaza withdrawl, an attempted assassination of Saddam Hussein, the Battle of Falluja; almost every one of Israel's major military tactics in the Middle East over the past three decades was performed in advance here.
This is where generations of Israeli soldiers rehearse over and over again like actors in a Hollywood studio set. Here, with props on hand or littered about, they perfect their stage presence, try out some new moves and hand gestures, and fine tune their dialogues in front of cardboard cutouts of generic terrorists. Here also, they practice their showstopper: walking through walls. And then it's time to step out in front of live television cameras, the whole world already a captive audience, to play out their well-choreographed routines.
Meanwhile, “Chicago” is so named because its bullet-ridden fake walls apparently recall the punctured real walls of Al Capone's Chicago. While still acknowledging the dizzying complexity of Arab-Israeli relations, one wonders if a small yet meaningful step towards lasting peace could be taken if, on Israel's side, it stops vicariously engaging with the Palestinians in secret, replicant cities after first exorcising this mythological, gangster-infested Chicago from their collective memory and replace it with something real and true?
Not everyone was a mobster then, the same way not everyone offered something to our former governor for Obama's senate seat. The same way not all Palestinians are terrorists.
In any case, should the ultranationalist Avigdor Lieberman and his party's racist ideology get their way in a ruling coalition with Benjamin Netanyahu, and all Israeli-Arabs get expelled from Israel, their homes and cities dismantled and resettled over, at least part of their history, albeit one written by others, has been recorded for future archaeologists to study.
Subtopia: MOUT Urbanism
BLDGBLOG: A miniature city waiting for attack