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.)
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…