Comment: No direction home

Making street signs and road maps practically obsolete, the Israeli app Waze has changed the way we travel.

Waze starts pilot program (photo credit: PR)
Waze starts pilot program
(photo credit: PR)
We’re all usually running around this life lost, so what could be better than someone – or something – that can authoritatively tell us where to go? The Waze phenomenon has become such an entrenched part of daily doings that, like Google and Facebook, it’s now a verb as well as a noun.
Making street signs and road maps practically obsolete, the Israeli app has changed the way we travel – which, for two Oketz K-9 unit soldiers who accidentally strayed into a hostile Kalandiya Monday night and found themselves in the midst of a massive riot, didn’t work out so well.
But they’re not alone in their blind faith in technology. Numerous users unaware of the “avoid dangerous areas” setting on the app, have been directed to the shortest route between two points, which, in Israel, does not necessarily mean the safest route.
Last month, American singer/songwriter Peter Himmelman wrote in The Jerusalem Post of his family visit to Israel and their journey back to Jerusalem from Mitzpe Ramon. Waze directed them to turn off Route 40 north of Beersheba toward the village of Hura.
“But now the sky is black and overcast, we’ve gone too far to turn around, and almighty Waze has spoken,” he wrote. “The signs on the side of this narrow and dark road point to towns with which I am totally unfamiliar, towns like: Lakiya, Shim’a, Samua, Yatta, Al Fawar, and Al Tawani.
What I am familiar with, (too familiar with) are the many terror attacks that have happened on this very road.”
Himmelman and his family made it back to Jerusalem unscathed, as did the two soldiers on Monday night, who emerged miraculously unharmed. But the ensuing battle between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli security forces resulted in casualties, and once again brought home the realization that while Jerusalem may be united in theory, in reality, Jews will be killed if they stray into the wrong neighborhoods.
Our reliance on navigation technology is a symptom of the bigger problem of where exactly we think that we’re headed.
Nobody seems to have the answer to the route we need to take for a better future – whether it’s for Jerusalem, Kalandiya, Israelis or Palestinians.
The correct path might be more circuitous, involve some danger and include a number of detours, and it might require more than plugging in a city and street and driving on blind faith.
Right now, we’re running around directionless, with no road map, AAA Trip-tik or long-term vision. Waze can certainly help, but we’re going to need more than a fallible phone app to guide us out of this mess.