App helps war-scarred southerners find northern R&R

Wispa, which provides a platform for buyers and sellers, aids Gaza-area residents ‘get away from it all’

A schoolgirl waits in a shelter on Monday as an air raid siren sounds during an IDF Home Front Command drill simulating a bombing attack (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A schoolgirl waits in a shelter on Monday as an air raid siren sounds during an IDF Home Front Command drill simulating a bombing attack (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An Israeli app that brings buyers and sellers together in peacetime has started a wartime service — helping shell-shocked residents of southern Israel find some rest and relaxation away from falling rockets by connecting them with people in other parts of the country who are willing to pitch in.

“We know that families in the South of Israel are going through a tough time, and we wanted to help,” Israeli start-up Wispa says on its website. “We have added a category called “South Aid” to the Wispa app, where people can offer accommodation, services or any donations to help.”

The Wispa app is a sort of “virtual garage sale” that puts together buyers and sellers, searching through users’ social networks for references to items other users are looking to buy. If a user is looking for a used car, for example, the app will check with other Wispa users for information on cars that they own, and query them if they’re interested in selling — filtering by location, price, and other factors. If the answer is yes, Wispa makes a “match,” and the deal is done. Wispa, established last year, is funded by private investors and the Chief Scientist’s Office, and is set to embark on a fundraising round in the coming weeks.

Wispa handles products and services of all kinds, including gadgets, clothing, electronics, and even apartments. Potential renters looking for a sublet or a vacation apartment search through listings and photos uploaded by “sellers.”

For its South Aid app, Wispa simply turned that model on its head, providing a platform for users in the south to search for residents of other areas in Israel, especially in the relatively quiet north of the country, who have space to put them up for a few days – giving southern residents a much-needed break from the incessant wail of sirens and sounds of warfare they have suffered over the past several weeks, said Wispa CEO Netanel Teicher.

The platform has also been helping Israelis in other parts of the country get together with businesses in the south that have been forced to seek out new markets to survive, as well as giving Israelis who want to help a list of the items needed in specific locations, responding to requests for assistance posted by residents of southern towns. So far, the system has been used by hundreds of people on both sides – southerners seeking assistance and Israelis willing to help out, said Teicher.

In addition to posting the information on the app, Wispa is also working with several forums and popular Facebook pages to get requests and offers “in front of the people who need them,” said Teicher. “Our technology knows how to parse through the social networks and find the people who are seeking each other, but don’t realize it yet. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on this, and we are very proud to make our own little contribution to helping those who need a hand during these difficult times.”

“Wispa in general is a very ‘Israeli’ app, in that we tell someone who is looking for information ‘go speak to this guy, he’ll help you out,’” said Teicher, reflecting the legendary group affinity of the society. “The platform is coming in very handy right now.”

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