JERUSALEM (JWN)–Virtual visitors to Israel will soon be able to take “walking tours” of the country on-line, when Google finishes compiling its Street View program, now under way.
Special cameras mounted on cars and pedal-powered tricycles have first begun photographing the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa, with the aim of eventually covering the entire country. The millions of digital photos will include everything from beachfront promenades to holy sites, from modern urban vistas to famous archeological and geographical sites.
Once the photographs are taken, Google Maps editors splice them together into a seamless, 360-degree panorama of whatever scene the computer user selects. The view is just as if the user were standing on that spot, able to turn around and see the entire surroundings.
Launched in 2007, Google Maps is available so far in some 30 countries. Israel gave its approval to the program on condition that Street View would show only public areas and not in real time. In consideration of privacy, Google is also required to blur faces and license plates.
“Israel’s cultural heritage touches billions of people around the world,” Meir Brand, the managing director of Google Israel, South Africa, and Greece told The Jerusalem Post. “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.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat praised the program, which he anticipates will boost tourism to Israel and enable people abroad to deepen their connection to its eternal capital.
“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 the city of Jerusalem.”