“Magniv!” (“cool”) exclaimed a captivated little boy, as a police officer from the Search and Rescue Unit rappelled down City Hall across Jerusalem’s Safra Square on a sunny Monday afternoon, while sitting on a plastic plank manned with supplies.
Three days before the school year begins, thousands of parents brought children of all ages to take in a special four-hour police exhibition featuring 30 units.
While the rappelling exhibition was popular, many of the children were also spellbound by muzzled dogs from the Canine Unit, enormous mounted black horses from a patrol unit, and a rolling, remote-controlled bomb-disposal robot.
“The units represented here are from every department within the police, including search, investigation, forensics, traffic and canine,” said Doron Ben-Amo, police spokesman for the southern region of the country.
“And it’s a happy day, because over 10,000 Israeli citizens are coming to meet us, to ask us what we do in the police – and as you can see, a lot of the children can see what the police do every day while working very hard at special jobs in Jerusalem.”
Ben-Amo noted that the free exhibition, which started at 4 p.m., was geared toward children to help familiarize themselves with the capital’s ubiquitous law-enforcement officials.
“You know, in the past a mother may have scared her son or daughter by saying: ‘If you don’t eat your vegetables, I will call the police,’ and now I think they will see that the police are nice human beings, and are here all the time for the citizens to protect and save them.”
Indeed, Sarah Kaufman, who brought her three children, Noa, 11, Naama, 10, and Itamar, 4, said it was important for her to visit the exhibition so they would understand that the police are there to help them and should be trusted.
“I wanted to show them how the police work, because in Israel they see them a lot in a lot of situations, and sometimes they are afraid of policemen,” said Kaufman. “So I think it is a good thing for them to meet them and see that they don’t need to be afraid of them.”
Asked what she liked most about the exhibition, Naama earnestly replied, “I like that they help people.”
Meanwhile, Noa said she enjoyed watching the trained dogs disarm a mock terrorist.
“That was really cool,” she said.
Yoni Secemski, head of the Missing Person’s Team – one of 10 units comprising the Search and Rescue Unit – which helped execute the rappelling spectacle, said his team operates throughout the entire country to aid people lost and trapped by natural disasters.
“In our unit there are 50 volunteers, and most of the other nine units have between 40 and 100 people,” he said. “We generally recruit people who love and know open spaces, and know how to navigate them.”
Volunteer Tamar Citron said she enjoys the nature of the work because it is helpful and “breaks up the everyday routine.”
“They can call me in the middle of the night, they can call me on Saturday, 24/7, 365 days a year,” she said. “And I like nature, so it’s great for me.”
After completing a two-week missing person’s course and three-week rappelling course, Secemski said volunteers are ready for service.
Dressed in civilian clothes, Jerusalem counter-terrorist police officer Liron Levi, 32, who has one of the most dangerous jobs in the force, said he brought his three-year- old son Guy to give him a sense of what he does.
“We take positions across Jerusalem to protect the citizens, and I wanted Guy to see what daddy is doing,” said Levi. “We are the shield of Jerusalem, and we protect everyone – Jews and Arabs.”
Moreover, Levi said the exhibition is a good morale booster for a force that has been spread thin since a terrorism wave that engulfed the capital nearly one year ago.
“It’s good for the police to share with children how we work to make things better,” he said.