UPDATE — Google launches Street View in Israel – PHOTOS

According a story in Haaretz a few days ago, Google Street View for certain locations in Israel formally launches on Sunday 22 April. My first impression is: Wow, that didn’t take long! The inauguration of the photographic project, when the ‘Google cars’ and tricycles first began collecting images in Jerusalem (with all the attendant controversies — this is Jerusalem, after all) was reported just last September in Haaretz, HERE and HERE.

Another on-line story said the pictures are already up today, Saturday — so I had to have a look. Besides Jerusalem, the other covered localities listed are: Haifa, Tel Aviv, Merhavia (moshav and Kibbutz just east of Afula), Kfar Kama (Circassian village in Lower Galilee), Nahsholim (the community adjacent to Tel Dor) and Beersheba. One more report, from the unofficial web-log “Google Maps Mania” which is exactly what it sounds like.

For those not so familiar with  Street View, there’s a very simple tutorial page HERE (I needed a refresher). Otherwise the main access is via www.maps.google.com . Basic instructions: Zoom in on the map area of your choice; from the control area, drag and drop the little “pin man” to the specific location on the map (when you drag, all the streets covered by the SV image base are then highlighted in blue); pan, zoom and navigate at each image point to your heart’s desire; to go back to the map, just close (X) the image.

You can access Street View through the rather more involved Google Earth as well. Also, Google Maps seems to have zillions of other photos already embedded and keyed via thumbnails to map locations, a feature you can switch on or off. And… Street View also has ready-made “galleries” of scenic and historic locations. There is even a map that purports to show all Street View coverage worldwide.

And ‘here’s a strange’ (as Paul Harvey used to say): If you don’t want to look at pictures of this country’s real locations, then the Mini Israel attraction is also covered by the Street View images!

I had a look and wasted way too much time playing with it — you may as well benefit from my purely personal — and quite random and quirky — experimental tour. (NOTE: The images posted below are screen-snips and are not linked to the Street View site. If anyone is insatiably curious about the exact viewpoint for any image, just leave a comment below.)

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Street View covered the entire outdoor grounds.

Yad Vashem. Transport Memorial: A period rail car donated by the Deutschesbahn recalls the horrendous journey of millions to the death camps. The truncated trestle cantilevered out over the steep slope causes everything to hover eerily at the edge of the abyss…

Yad Vashem, Memorial to the Lost Communities: A sprawling, quarry-like labyrinth remembers the thousands of  Jewish communities in Europe decimated in the Holocaust.

Look, the Street View buggy didn’t come down our street! — Waaahh!!

The striking “Chords Bridge” by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It carries Jerusalem’s new light rail line over the main intersection at the western entrance to the city. (Structurally, the cables hold up the tall, angled spar; the bridge itself is freestanding.) And, yes, we sometimes have clouds in Jerusalem — it was winter!

Ramat Shlomo. Remember the ancient limestone quarry discovered in northern Jerusalem just a few years ago, where the largest (25-foot-long!) stones for the Herodian Temple Mount were cut out? It’s now a school. I wonder what, if anything, was preserved.

I wondered whether a Street View vehicle made it down (or up) the pilgrim way on the Mt. of Olives. Yup. This fellow (his face duly blurred) is not praying toward Mecca — he was immortalized cleaning out a drain!

Exiting the Mt. of Olives tunnel going east, toward Jericho, look to the right and you’ll see this ancient, man-made cave that was uncovered in creating the tunnel approach. Archaeologists say 2,000 years ago it was a factory for making stone vessels, the kind then connected with Jewish practices of ritual purity.

Ir David Street in Silwan. This is the humble community center that served the neighborhood’s Arab residents. Israeli authorities found it so threatening that they demolished it using heavy equipment on 13 FEB 2012 — CLICK the image to see my post, “Important Ruins in the City of David”.

The building where I shared a volunteer flat (briefly, in 2001) in Jerusalem’s mostly Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa. At that time the street had no name (obviously, there was no home mail delivery, and you prayed you’d never need to summon an ambulance) — I presume it’s the same now.

The classic viewpoint of Jerusalem, in front of the Seven Arches Hotel on the Mt. of Olives.

Ras al-Amud neighborhood. This used to be the main road going from Jerusalem into the Arab-Palestinian town of Bethany. Now, it’s The Wall. I have a friend who lives about 50 meters on the other side, and from this point it would take me at least an hour to get to her house, by bus. I don’t have to deal with it very often, but thousands of other people do — every day.

Separation Wall graffiti, Ras al-Amud (see article below). This is the Jerusalem side — The graffiti and artwork on the Palestinian side is a world unto itself, some of it very clever and all of it, like this, quite pointed. (Try a Google Image search for “separation wall art palestine” and see what you get!)

Ein Karem on the west side of Jerusalem. The building on the right is the former home of Biblical Resources, where I volunteered in 1999-2000; our biblical meals for visitors were held just inside the large arched window. My cats and I lived across the street in the atmospheric, vaulted cellar of Ruth’s house (left) — a 10-second commute! These wonderful old historic structures point to their former owners: the Arab families of Ein Karem who were all expelled from the village in 1948.

Not to fixate totally on Jerusalem, here’s a shot of the port of Old Jaffa.

UPDATE / MON 23 APR 2012:

A brief notice in yesterday’s Haaretz (Sunday) explains that the Street View service actually went live on Friday, two days before the announced launch.

A follow-up story in today’s Haaretz (Monday) gives further glimpses of a living and conflicted city — Jerusalem — as captured by the Street View cameras last October and November. It says, in part:

Google’s cameras also reveal Jerusalem’s endless ruptures – the separation fence in Abu Dis with graffiti in English reading “the hands that build can also tear down.” On Yoel Street, at the corner of Habbakuk is another spray-painted slogan: “Gerer = murderers,” a reference to the ongoing struggle for control of Batei Warsaw, a section of the ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Mea She’arim, between the Gerer Hasidim and an extremist sect known as the Sicarii.

The problems of daily life do not escape the all-seeing Google cameras. These include overflowing trash receptacles in [Arab] East Jerusalem and that area’s pot-holed roads and missing sidewalks. The municipality says things are getting better in this department, but that is not the tale being told by the pictures.

As in real life, a Street View attempt to navigate along Agrippas Street to the Mahaneh Yehuda open-air food market is difficult. Changes in public transportation in the capital have brought hundreds of buses to Agrippas every day, and most of the “street view” is blocked by a solid wall of those buses, sitting in traffic…

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This entry was posted in City of David, Israel-Palestine Scene, JERUSALEM, Jerusalem Places, Modern History, Photography, PHOTOS, Resources, The Media and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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