A peaceful vista of the rugged South Hebron Hills in the occupied West Bank is rudely interrupted by a man, an Israeli settler, wielding an automatic rifle in the distance. Next, the Israeli police come and throw tear gas at a group of Palestinians, all the while shouting at them and pushing them back. This immersive ‘virtual reality’ experience of settler violence was available for a limited time at the JW3 cultural space in north London.
Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem have created this VR installation in order to bring the reality of settler violence to the UK, then on to Europe and the rest of the world. B’Tselem’s spokesperson Dror Sadot says they want to bring it to communities like this one, to try to put them in the shoes of Palestinians that face these attacks.
“When we put videos online, it’s easy to scroll past them. When you’re here with this headset on, you can’t scroll past. You can’t ignore it.”
For Sarit Michaeli, an Israeli human rights activist who helped create the VR video, seeing the locations and videos together is still a difficult experience. “Wow..it’s not the first time I’ve seen that but it’s still pretty hard core.” Sarit was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet from close range by Israeli soldiers in 2013, while supporting a protest in the occupied West Bank, but the incident hasn’t held her back.
“This isn’t just about making people aware, it’s about getting people to understand what’s happening on the ground, but also to take responsibility and take action…to hold Israel accountable for this situation.”
B’Tselem hope to expand the project so they can bring it to cities and communities around the world.