New Worlds: On-line city databank locates emergency services

Anyone can get updated information in real time - a service that will upgrade the personal security of all residents.

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May 12, 2007 22:20
New Worlds: On-line city databank locates emergency services

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The Ramat Hasharon Municipality, which has proven to be very technologically minded in recent years, has installed a geographical information system (GIS) for mapping the city's emergency facilities. These include medical installations, shelters and emergency water tanks, and divides the city into regions for treatment of specific population groups according to age, location and the number of residents. The GIS system presents all the geographical and demographic data together with aerial photos of buildings on a special Web site (www.ramhas.co.il). Anyone can get updated information in real time - a service that will upgrade the personal security of all residents. Just a few clicks will lead to information on the closest bomb shelter, water tank or evacuation point for wounded. The new technology was spurred by the Second Lebanon War, with its rocket and missile bombardments on the civilian population in the north. Ramat Hasharon Mayor Yitzhak Rochwerger instructed various municipal departments to map the entire city and its emergency facilities, infrastructure, road signs and land surfaces for the first time and store the data on a computer system. The demographic data was crossed with the geographical data, making it possible to identify how many children or elderly, for example, live on a specific street and what public facilities are nearby. The fire service, home front and other rescue organizations will also use the data. David Menashe, the city's deputy director-general for computer telecommunications, said: "We are working to add more data to the system, including the location of all sewage and water drainage lines." "I see myself as responsible not only for development, infrastructure and improvement of the quality of life in Ramat Hasharon, but also for preparations to protect human life," concluded the mayor. "The new system gives our residents the highest level of security. We will be able to cope with all scenarios." In view of security threats in the north and south and complaints about lack of public information on shelters and emergency facilities around the country, national and local government should copy the Ramat Hasharon innovation. UNIFORM AFFECTS POLITICAL VIEWS Over the course of their military service, combat soldiers adopt more dovish political views and are more open to compromise on security issues, according to research completed in the University of Haifa's School for Political Science. Israel Defense Forces Col. (res.) Dr. Zvika Barkai, who served as commander of the Haifa region and head of the Home Front Command's operations branch, conducted a survey of soldiers' views. Additional parameters that effect change include the unit served in, gender and service as an officer. "In the opposite of what would be expected, military service does not cause people to adopt militaristic views," said Barkai. The research, which was conducted over three and a half years under the direction of Prof. Avraham Brichta, Dr. Daphna Canetti-Nisim and Dr. Ami Pedahzur, surveyed 490 male and female soldiers in every branch of the IDF. They were asked to answer the same series of questions before induction, six months into their service and immediately following their release. The researchers aimed at evaluating whether the army is actually the politically neutral institution it purports to be. "It's a problem when the public is convinced that soldiers are coerced into adapting specific political views. Such a public belief could limit the ability of the government to use the army for nationalist missions," Barkai said. The research did indeed find that soldiers' political views change over the course of their service, and that the type of service, length of service, rank and gender influence the change. The initial interviews found that a large percentage of soldiers began their service with clear right-wing views. Six months into their service they were more conservative, and after completing their service they took on more dovish views. In addition, these soldiers adopted more conciliatory views toward minorities in general, specifically toward the Arab minority, and experienced a greater change in their views about human rights than soldiers who began their service with less extreme views. Overall, when political views change during military service, they revert back to the original views after release, with the exception of combat soldiers who maintained more dovish views following release. Soldiers who served in field units underwent the greatest change in political views. The research reveals that not only combat soldiers in these units undergo a change; all soldiers in field units undergo a change. Those with hawkish views adopted more moderate views, and a raised consciousness for minority rights. Those who served as officers also underwent a major change in their political views: Officers adopted much less right-wing and more pragmatic views than enlisted soldiers. They also underwent a greater change in espousing strongly democratic values, adherence to the rule of law and minority rights. Women, on the other hand, underwent a change in political views - and became more right wing and hawkish. At the same time, they increased their support for regulation of non-conventional weapons more than their male counterparts. Women soldiers experienced a greater change in their support of democratic values, while men cared more about human rights. "It is important to note that although men underwent a greater change, their values were almost identical to women's in terms of concern for human rights at the end of their service, as they began with more extreme views," explains Barkai. While army service did not affect the level of religious observance among soldiers, it did improve understanding between religious and secular soldiers, and increased willingness to compromise on religious issues. The findings show that military service does influence political views; thus civilian authorities need to oversee the values and messages that the army espouses to ascertain that the military works to assimilate only universal, accepted values. Only then will the military be an effective agent for bridging existing conflicts. Barkai recommends that minorities and marginalized populations be encouraged to serve, and supports a large-scale draft of Arabs, increased participation of Druse and Beduin, haredi Jews and religious women. He also urges special programs for marginalized youth who are often excused from service. "Even taking into account that expanding the draft to include these groups may have a marginal or even negative effect on the country's security, the latent national gains should be weighed against the security issues," Barkai concluded.

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