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Israeli Travel Company Offers Modern Warfare Training As Vacation Package

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"This is no honeymoon. We take groups of civilians from around the world and provide them with extensive training in modern warfare. The training is a shortened version of the top-secret techniques of the Israeli Special Forces."

No, this is not George Saunders pulling a PR stunt for his next surrealist novel. These are words of greeting from a real company, an extreme travel firm based out of Haifa, Israel, whose company mission is to offer military tourism that's "as real as it gets."

Chillin' out.

Nice change of scenery.

Launched in 2009, LionOps, run by a 26-year-old former member of the Israeli Special Forces, is now aiming its marketing pitch at foreigners, especially Americans, who want to learn to fire Uzis, jump from airplanes, or play act like spies on a hostage-retrieval mission. One can also sign on to withstand stress-testing interrogation techniques (while hooded, for your own Taxi to the Darkside moment) or take some lessons in the Israeli Martial art of Krav Maga. Just pick your vacation module and let LionOps take care of the rest.

"No, I can't give you my Seamless Web password."

So far, the company has been able to lure a few North Americans to sample their trips. Among the testimonials on the site, one traveler says: "Thanks LionOps for the most fun I have had in Israel. Where else can you receive instruction in shooting, krav maga, and urban combat techniques all in one day?"

An editor with the trade publication Travel Weekly took a junket to check out the training camp, er, vacation. In his diary-like report of the multi-day plan (complete with slideshow images that looks like scenes from The Hurt Locker), Kenneth Kiesnoski first confesses that although he's the son of former Navy SEAL, he had no experience with weaponry whatsoever. 

Yet I was also intrigued by, and oddly drawn to, the proposed itinerary. Whether it was wanting to connect with my inner "macho man," curiosity about the lives and livelihoods of those deployed in the ever-tense Middle East, the chance to revisit Israel or all of the above, I was hooked on the idea. As it seemed an ideal kind of male bonding experience, I asked my younger brother, Jeffrey, to accompany me. 

Here's a report on the sibling bonding:

"After warming up, Jeffrey and I don some protective gear and boxing gloves and are shown how to take repeated blows to the stomach without complaint. We then learn how to both neutralize an attacker armed with a handgun and break a chokehold, all against the stunning backdrop of a slow sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.

Eyes off the slow sunset, travelers. The LionOps trainers actually keep your downtime limited and discourage sight-seeing to keep you focused on mastering combat techniques. For the hedge fund managers from New York or other Western white collar professionals who show up with a weak handshake and soles as soft as a baby's bum, the Israeli trainers say they'll customize activities, taking everything down to your assessed skill set. The goal is to do nasty army things but "in a fun way," which should reduce your chances of developing actual PTSD. This is "military lite," according to the company founder. And for some guys it appears to be addictive.

Here's a typical training exercise:

But if all the adrenaline and personal attention gets you too pumped, the company has a sober reminder: 

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