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"Making an Entrance" - role playing as a learning tool

The Spring Team will deploy very soon, and we will resume exclusive regular reports from the field.

In the meantime, read this report about one of their experiences at training:

Role plays are tools used in Michigan Peace Team (MPT) training to prepare MPTers for their work on the ground. One of the role plays experienced this weekend was about arriving at the Tel Aviv airport. The following is a brief description of that role play and the lessons learned.

At the Tel Aviv airport a line of people were waiting at the customs/passport desk with one official at the desk, but with two soldiers at his disposal. One of the two MPTers traveling together was called forward. The official asked the standard questions: “Where are you going?” “Who are you going to see?” “Will you be contacting anyone from ISM?” This first MPTer responded briefly, but then was escorted away by one of the soldiers for further questioning.

The next MPTer was called forward. The same standard questions were asked , but there was a twist, “You are coming to see the Holy Land, are you Christian?” And then,”Do you know it is dangerous to travel in the West Bank?” “Are you going to contact anyone from ISM?”

The MPTer asked “How do you recognize someone with ISM?"

No answer was given, but questioning continued. “Where are you going?” “What are you going to do?” Then the official recommended that the MPTer stay away from ISM because they were terrorists. After that the second MPTer was also escorted away for further questions. The two MPTers could not see one another.

A third MPTer not traveling directly with the other two arrived at the passport/customs desk soon after. This third MPTer was allowed to enter the country with only few questions. This MPTer waited for the first two, but they were not aware that she had been allowed entry because they could not communicate with her. The second one seeing her off to the side thought that she too was under suspicion.

The second MPTer was soon released with only a few addition questions after his main interview and told to go through the entrance. The official was thanked. The first MPTer who was held in a separate area underwent much interrogation, but was released. All three MPTers were allowed entry into the country, much to their relief.

Important lessons were learned through the role play and the debriefing:

1. It is important to be knowledgeable and speak succinctly about where you are going and what you are going to see. If you are traveling with someone it is necessary to be on the same page about details of the tour. Having a marked tourist book might be helpful. Haifa in Israel is a delightful Mediterranean vacation spot.

2. It was stressed how crucial it is to put on a tourist persona from the time one’s leave home and to stay in that persona until one arrives at the final destination.
3. It can be helpful to answer a question with a question and not to give much information.

4. It is advantageous to try to look and feel relaxed and comfortable, e.g. when waiting for the next step, one might take out a book and read it

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