Though rockets are flying around Israeli skies, 20 Jewish students from top universities and corporations around the world have traveled to Israel for a 10-week internship at large tech companies like Checkpoint, Google and PayPal, as well as at start-ups –and they’re getting involved in the tech side of the conflict.
While they may have signed up for the internships to advance their careers, participants in the Israel Tech Challenge have been making their own small contribution to the war effort.
The group of 20 came to Israel on July 14, a week into the Israeli air campaign in Gaza that opened Operation Defensive Edge, joining another group of 16 that arrived in June. Both the newcomers and the “veterans” have taken things in stride, said Toledano. “They didn’t overreact to the situation, and they’ve shown a good ability to cope with the situation. They didn’t panic when sirens went off in Tel Aviv, where most of them are working, and their motivation has not decreased.”
If anything, it’s increased, said Toledano, “Many of the participants had ideas about developing security related apps in the hackathon, and some have done so in the context of the theme of the event, which to develop apps and services to enhance safe living in urban areas.”
Among those apps is Notifi, developed by Futter and several colleagues during the Challenge’s June hackathon. Notifi checks your location and checks Twitter for messages on developing situations in your area. “The premise is that when there is a security incident — a protest, robbery, fire, etc. — people are going to tweet about it in real time,” said Futter. “Over 60% of tweets include geolocation information. We coordinate that information with sentiment analysis to determine how serious a situation is, and send appropriate warnings out to users. The app would work very well in Israel, or anywhere else.”
When it’s finished, that is. Futter and his team developed an alpha version of the app for the hackathon, but with their internship duties (Futter is working at Checkpoint) they haven’t had time to follow up. “I really hope we can find the time to finish it,” Futter said. “There’s a lot of unrest in Israel and the Jewish world in general, with anti-Semitic riots going on throughout Europe. A tool like this could help make life safer for large numbers of people.”
We’ve noted that when bad things happen to Jews, the bad things spread to everyone else (Islamic terrorism being a prime example). But when Jews do good things (this pogrom app being one minor example), the world entire benefits.