Google Street View has begun taking photographs of Kiryat Arba near Hebron, according to residents of Kiyrat Arba who witnessed Google cars shooting in the area during Succot.
Chairman of the Kiryat Arba local council Malachi Levinger commented: "The introduction of Google Street View in Kiryat Arba indicates the strengthening of international legitimacy for the communities of Judea and Samaria."
Google Street View was launched in Israel last April. Users can use the photographs to see what a particular location looks like, as if they were actually standing at that spot. 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.
Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa were the first three cities to be mapped out using the new technology. Afterwards, Google Maps expanded 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.
It appears Kiryat Arba was next on the list, after speculation that Google cars have been spotted in other West Bank settlements as well.
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
Only after lengthy negotiations with Google did the Israeli Law, Information and Technology Authority (ILITA), part of the Justice Ministry, agree to roll out the service here.
Immediately after the ILITA’s announcement that Google Street View will operate in Israel, rights groups slammed the decision.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) said the service could erode citizens’ privacy.
ACRI spokeswoman Dana Bar said that while the service did allow people to navigate the streets more easily, it could pose a threat.
However, 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.
Melanie Lidman contributed to this report.