When the security situation deteriorates – as it has in recent weeks – Israelis, and friends of Israel abroad, find themselves searching out scraps of information on terror attacks and scares. But finding accurate information can be a challenge; rumors abound, and tracking down the facts to get a full picture is often an exercise in frustration.
To alleviate that frustration – and to provide a “website of record” that will preserve information about terror attacks and other security incidents that affect the public – StandWithUs, a worldwide organization that seeks to enhance Israel’s image abroad, has developed the Mapping Terror site. The site, say its authors, will record and provide accurate, unbiased information about terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
“The general public, especially outside of Israel, hears about terrorist attacks against Israel from time to time, but they don’t always understand the gravity of the situation and just how much terrorism affects the lives of all Israelis,” said Emily Schrader, new media manager for StandWithUs. “This map is a step to remedy that.”
The map, which was developed just last week, has, unfortunately, grown significantly in the past several days, as reports of attacks are recorded by StandWithUs staff and interns. The incidents are listed in three categories: attacks against Jews, against Arabs, and “recent attacks,” which cover the most recent 72 hours. The map is interactive, so a user can click on a specific attack and get expanded information, including a description of the attack, links to online news stories discussing it, the specific location on the map where the attack took place (down to the street address or intersection), and links to social media sites where users can spread the word about the incident.
While a new incident can only be created by StandWithUs staff, said Schrader, the site allows users to provide real-time updates of breaking incidents. The map automatically reformats for mobile devices, so users who are in the field can add updates as they occur.
StandWithUs welcomes all the help it can get with the map, said Schrader. “Anyone can request privileges to assist, and once someone is approved to add attacks to the map, we have the ability to approve or edit their additions to the map. If something isn’t properly sourced or formatted, we will edit it. As of right now, the map is accurate for all of 2015’s attacks through today. In the future, we plan to add attacks from 2014, 2013, etc.”
While the information generally comes from already published accounts of terror attacks, the map is an important resource because it is the first one that aggregates all information about terror attacks in Israel on a single site, said Schrader. “The purpose of the map is to give people an understanding of how nearly everywhere in Israel is affected by terrorism. Additionally, it’s to serve as a resource for those looking for information about where attacks occurred and when. As far as I know, there isn’t a comprehensive resource where you can physically see just how terrorism has touched practically all of Israel.”
The map was developed on the MapMe platform, which provides tools to allow anyone to create a map for any purpose – such as Mapped In Israel, Map.Me’s first project, which aggregates information for investors, tech workers, entrepreneurs, and anyone else interested in the Israeli tech scene, and concretizes an ecosystem that might be hard to get information on otherwise. Mapped In Israel shows where tech companies are located, what they do, who their management teams are, and even if they are looking to hire workers. Users of the map can search for companies by industry, investment types, what kind of work they do, and jobs available.
Map.me is the brainchild of high-tech wunderkind Ben Lang, a 21-year-old immigrant from the US who developed the platform over the past two years. “The ability for anyone to visually map an entire ecosystem just didn’t exist before, yet its value for both those within the community and those looking to get involved is enormous,” said Lang. “We have hundreds of maps now created using our platform. And our goal is to reach thousands by the end of the year.”
StandWithUs is no stranger to using technology to get Israel’s message out. In 2012, the organization brought to Israel 10 of the world’s top Instagram users to take inspiring, interesting, and fun photos of daily life in Israel. Between them, the 10 Instagrammers have about 2 million followers, providing what StandWithUs said was an unprecedented opportunity to enable people around the world to experience a side of Israel they are unlikely to have ever seen.
Last year, members of the StandWithUs Fellowship at Tel Aviv University produced an interactive video clip using technology by Israeli start-up Interlude. Called Israel Your Way, the clip uses Interlude’s unique technology to enable viewers to make choices about the video’s plot, characters, and choices as they are watching. With the multiple choices available in the video, there are dozens of possible outcomes.
Mapping Terror, of course, is a much more somber venture, because of the material it encompasses, said Schrader.
“StandWithUs is blessed to have a huge network on social media that reaches a peak of 40 million people each week, so we are confident that a resource like the Mapping Terror website is seen by a significant number of people,” she said. “We have already had a number of people contact us who are interested in taking part in this important project. Our hope is that this partnership between Map.Me and StandWithUs will help to show the world, through an unbiased and well-sourced project, that Israel is facing a very real threat.”
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