I haven’t been to Israel in six years. That might not sound like a lot of time to some people, but might sound like an eternity to others. But with my 30th birthday around the corner, it means that the last 20 percent of my life has been Israel-free. In fact, I’ve spent significantly more time in Australia and Yellowstone National Park.
A few months ago, I became aware of a new app called “Israel365,” which delivers magnificent daily photos of Eretz Yisrael and Bible lessons pertaining to the photo of the day. However, I ignored it as I felt it would leave me yearning for a trip to the Holy Land that didn’t seem to be happening anytime soon. My grandmother says, “You never know,” and as it turns out I will be going to Israel this summer with Camp Lavi. So do I install the Israel365 app? Absolutely!
According to United with Israel’s Rabbi Tuly Weisz, who developed the application, “Israel365 promotes the colorful beauty and significance of Israel instead of the conflict-ridden black and white landscape the traditional media emphasizes.” He added that, “Using innovative technology, the Israel365 app brings the diverse vibrancy of Israel to life in a modern and meaningful manner.” For the most part this certainly proves true. Personally, I was not the biggest fan of a weeks worth of agricultural shots. But I get it, it was Tu B’Shevat, so it makes sense. I have enjoyed the nature shots of an ibex, a great close-up of a bee sucking nectar from a flower, an Ein Gedi waterfall, and one shot even has me restructuring my teen tour so we might be able to see the Banias Springs in the Golan.
Unlike previous apps I’ve written about, there is one simple reason why everyone with an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch should download this app: It’s free! Maybe it’s because I’m getting excited to get back to Israel, but I’ve found that this app can be a real pick-me-up. It’s somewhat exciting to see what image each day will bring, and I definitely enjoy the anecdote or history lesson that goes along with the image. A few of the Torah verses associated with the pictures might seem like a stretch, but the vast majority do a fine job of connecting the photo with Tanach.
One flaw I found with the app is that we are left guessing where a few of the photos were taken. February 5 featured a stunning shot of rays of sunlight penetrating a heavily clouded sky over a hilltop and body of water that might be the Kinneret. But I’m not completely sure, as there was no “About This Photo” section that the majority of the other images have. The app also doesn’t flip vertically, but you get used to using it horizontally. (The photos actually look better like that.)
Israel365 has a few other features of note. The Torah verses are both translated into English and transliterated. One can save the pictures onto his or her phone (a feature I particularly appreciate) or post them directly onto Facebook within the app. If one is especially enamored with an image, there is a link to order prints directly from SmugMug (prices vary based on size).
I enjoy apps that offer something new every day. It gives me something to look forward to. This app has gotten me excited to not only see its daily images, but to also experience them this summer.
The app is made available by United with Israel, and those without an i-device can still see the images and Torah/history lessons by visiting www.unitedwithisrael.org.