Fighting for Israel Online? This Hackathon Gives You 35 Different Superchargers

שיר אמסלם

A 26-hour hackathon at Afeka Academic College of Engineering yielded 35 tools and products to help us help Israel. Says the alumna who initiated the event: “Every product makes you go, Wow, how come no one’s thought of this before?”

Several days into the war, like most Israelis, Shir Amsalem felt an urgent need to act. Amsalem, a QA engineer at medical equipment firm Estar Medical, decided to enlist in the cause of hasbara (international explanation). “Someone mentioned on one of the Facebook groups that there should be a hackathon on it. I was immediately hooked on the idea.”

As an undergraduate alumna of medical engineering at Afeka, the Academic College of Engineering in Tel Aviv, Shir knew precisely where to start. “I’ve been part of several Afekathons – Afeka’s hackathons – and knew that they specialize in these kinds of events, in rapidly setting up this kind of thing. I also knew they’d throw themselves into this vital national effort.” Under the subject line of “Urgent” with numerous exclamation marks, she emailed Dganit Citrin Bar-On, head of Afeka’s Alumni Relations. From there it was a short step to the Tech Hasbarathon – a hackathon to develop tools for presenting Israel’s case worldwide.

The event drew 250 high tech professionals, entrepreneurs, and engineers with various specialties, some of whom formed teams as soon as the open call was posted, and others who were teamed up by the organizers. In 26 hours of intensive work, they put together 35 operational tools and products, most of them after PoC (proof-of-concept) and some already running online. These included, among others: a Grammarly-style AI-based site that adapts hasbara texts per target audience; an app to identify antisemitic post writers and automatically report to their employers; automatic generation of hasbara videos in multiple languages; and more.

The Tech Hasbarathon, sponsored by and with the participation of leading companies and various hasbara headquarters, is only the beginning: the teams continue to develop their products through a tech incubator and guidance from Afeka and Microsoft.

Shir describes the event, her idea-come-to-life, in magical terms: “Each project is more successful than the next. Every product gives you a sense of, Wow, how come no one’s thought of this before, and how essential it is to have. And although there was a panel that awarded first prizes, as a sort of action item, unlike other hackathons the idea this time around wasn’t to compete against each other but to encourage each other and help as much as possible. Ultimately, we all share the same goal – providing tools for online fighters, which is each and every one of us, in Israel and abroad, and helping the country in its most difficult hour.”

Photo: Nimrod Aronov

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