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Israeli students’ Hackathon aims to improve the country’s image abroad

What do you have when you bring together some on the best young minds in Israeli tech? A giant brainstorming session which could give birth to amazing ideas. Well, this was the purpose  behind a 44-hour hackathon held at Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology last week. 80 top Israeli students participated at the gathering, and all of them were given one simple, yet complex, task: to bring technology, ideas and inovation together and find solutions to improve Israel’s image across the globe.

The students were assigned in teams and among them, one came up with the idea of creating a so-called diplomatic Iron Dome, an app aiming to protect the country from anti-Israel expression.

“Instead of a missile, it could be a blog, or negative articles or a speech, and our Iron Dome will comprise of a network of individuals and organizations who can respond. We would have pro-Israel activists around the world who are witness to these anti-Israel events and they would report them into the system,” said Ezra, a young man who brought his experience of working with the military to the table.

The threats will then be assessed and, depending on their level of seriousness, they might even require an ambassador to respond. Other low-level threats could be countered by the people’s own reactions.

“A negative Tweet then can be answered on social media, or by a professor that students can reply to. The people who respond are our interceptors,” added Ezra.

Another team presented an app similar to the more famous AirBnb and CouchSurfing.  It would match Israelis with visitors to the country, based on mutual interests such as hiking or other activities. The Israeli would not only host the matching tourist, but would also show them around the country.

Among those involved in the hackathon were 21 Technion students who had already completed a StandWithUs fellowship for public diplomacy leadership.

“We challenged our student Fellows to initiate a project to elevate Israel and they took the ball and ran with it”, said Michael Dickson, Executive Director of StandWithUs.

The event was even monitored by high level representatives of the state. The aim of the hackathon is to help students think outside the box, said Yair Eddie Fraiman, director of public diplomacy at the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry. He added: “in our world of social networks and technology, an idea that can really help Israel could really come from this.”

The hackathon was organised by Haifa’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and was held under the auspices of StandWithUs in collaboration with other organizations and companies such as Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the Student Union and the Entrepreneurship Center of the Technion. The best apps will become reality and be put to use through StandWithUs.

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