People around the world will be able to “walk” through the streets of Israel’s major cities using the Google Maps program within the next year, after Google announced on Monday the launch of the virtual street view program in Israel.
Specially-designed cameras mounted on cars and tricycles will patrol every street – from the cobblestones of Old Jaffa to the narrow alleyways of Mea She’arim – allowing someone sitting at home a 360-degree view of the street of their favorite felafel joint, or the road outside their first apartment.
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa will be the first three cities mapped out using the new technology. Afterwards, Google Maps will expand to include smaller cities, as well as a concerted effort to map holy sites, archeological sites, historical sites and natural wonders such as the Kinneret and Maktesh Ramon. The process takes a few weeks for photographing and a few months to seamlessly “sew” the pictures together to create a continuous panorama in all directions.
“Israel’s cultural heritage touches billions of people around the world,” said Meir Brand, the managing director of Google Israel, South Africa, and Greece. “As an Israeli who was born here and lives here and knows what a beautiful and amazing country we have here, I want people to see and experience its unique character, and I’m happy Google can play a part.”
Google Maps was launched in May 2007 and is available in 30 countries. Many countries have only allowed Google Street Maps to continue by blurring peoples’ faces and not showing government buildings or military installations.
Brand said that security authorities had reviewed the program over the past year and approved it. He added that the Street View would only go in public areas, not show images in real time, and blur faces and license plates in order to protect privacy.
National Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that the police were not concerned about possible security threats stemming from anyone around the world having easy access to a street-by-street layout of Israel’s cities.
“This is not going to cause a new threat,” he said on Monday.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat praised the initiative, which he said would increase tourism to Israel and allow people to feel more connected to the city.
“The more people learn and the more they get exposed to the city, the more they love our city, and the more they want to come to the city of Jerusalem,” said Barkat. “There is no doubt in my mind that once Google Street View will show holy sites for the benefit of the world to enjoy, it will contribute to a better future and a peaceful future in city of Jerusalem,” he said.
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