Gaza and Google Translate: Covering the Conflict When You Don’t Speak the Language


How do New York Instances journalists use know-how of their jobs and of their private lives? David M. Halbfinger, bureau chief for The Instances in Jerusalem, mentioned the tech he’s utilizing.

You journey into Gaza and the West Financial institution on your reporting. What tech devices and apps do you employ on task in these areas?

My digital gear is pretty easy. I carry two iPhones, every with an Apple case that doubles the telephone’s battery life (I’m not that pleased with these as a result of they disintegrate after a few yr, however I haven’t shopped round); a MacBook Professional; battery backups; Bluetooth headsets, keyboard and mouse; and a small bag jammed stuffed with cables, plugs and cigarette-lighter adapters.

I generally additionally carry an Iridium satellite tv for pc telephone, and I at all times journey with an influence strip in case there aren’t sufficient shops the place I’m. I attempt to maintain my backpack mild in Gaza. Different objects — armor-plated flak jacket, Kevlar helmet, fuel masks and spare filters, and a trauma package — add numerous weight to my load.

In all probability essentially the most very important tech device I carry is the lightest: a paper clip to modify SIM playing cards. I’ve been right here lower than a yr and at last bought a neighborhood quantity from the Palestinian supplier Jawwal, which has good protection throughout Gaza and could be rapidly replenished at numerous retail outlets. For months I used to be managing with Israeli cell service close to the border and a New York quantity that had respectable protection in Gaza Metropolis over the Wataniya community. However now I juggle the Gaza and New York telephones relying on which has the stronger sign.

What tech instruments do you employ to navigate the language barrier in Hebrew and Arabic?

I rely manner too closely on Google Translate, each for work and in my private life. For correct translations I depend on a wonderful assist workers, however in scanning social media I routinely flip to automated translations — excess of I’d like.

My spouse and I really feel like captives of Google Translate in making sense of Hebrew-language messages on native WhatsApp teams, financial institution statements, utility payments and so forth, however it’s satisfactory, and it continues to enhance — specifically by way of its digicam interface. As iPhone, not Android, customers, we sit up for the day when WhatsApp will allow us to translate throughout the app, somewhat than copying and pasting into the Translate app.

Partly due to the confusion of the language barrier, but in addition due to the complexity of the beat, I report extra telephone calls on this job than I’ve in different assignments. TapeACall Professional makes that so simple as making a three-way name, and produces a recording seconds after I hold up. I additionally use TurboScan to ship paperwork from my telephone, and CamCard to scan the enterprise playing cards of latest contacts.

What about simply plain navigating?

To get round in Gaza, I work with an skilled driver, however in Israel and the West Financial institution I drive myself utilizing a mix of Waze and Google Maps.

Waze is great in Israel, the place it was invented. Virtually everybody makes use of it, vastly enhancing the standard of real-time visitors data. However it’s just about ineffective in Palestinian territory: When you plug in a location in Ramallah, it’s going to warn you that your vacation spot “is in a excessive threat space or is prohibited to Israelis by legislation,” after which take you to the purpose on the map the place you cross into Palestinian-controlled territory, however no farther. Google Maps at the very least will navigate you all the best way to your vacation spot, however its routes usually don’t account for one-way streets going the fallacious manner.

An even bigger drawback in getting round in Gaza and the West Financial institution is the dearth of Western-style avenue addresses. Many streets haven’t any names, not to mention home numbers. Essentially the most dependable solution to get someplace is to have somebody at that location share the map coordinates after which get there with Google Maps, permitting further time for fallacious turns., a crowdsourced app that lets you obtain maps and use them with out cell service, additionally appears to be like promising.

Waze is nice at flagging radar traps, velocity cameras and visitors jams, and my youngsters took over the voice prompts, so I hear them giving me turn-by-turn instructions. What none of those apps has but mastered, although, is the flexibility to pinpoint the placement of the creeping pupil drivers who appear to clog visitors on each block of my neighborhood in Jerusalem. There must be an app for that.

What steps do you are taking to safe your communications given the customarily delicate nature of your reporting?

I take advantage of WhatsApp an increasing number of, partly due to the encryption, but in addition as a result of it’s easy, it’s quick, and it makes it simple to arrange advert hoc teams for particular assignments or locations. I additionally frequently share my location on WhatsApp with a safety adviser and a few different colleagues in case anybody must retrace my steps. For significantly delicate communications, I take advantage of Sign.

How do Israelis use tech in another way than individuals in the US?

People don’t have to fret about rockets being fired from Canada or Mexico. However Israelis who dwell close to Gaza or within the Golan Heights have to know the moment that the army detects incoming rockets; as a rule, civilians have about 15 seconds to get to a bomb shelter. A number of apps, together with one in English — known as, merely, Crimson Alert — immediately convey alerts about incoming hearth to customers primarily based on their areas. I get alerted to all of them.

Extra innocuously, I’ve used parking meter apps in the US, however none of them was as simple to make use of as Pango — and that’s saying one thing, because it solely works in Hebrew and I’ve to translate the alerts it sends me. It payments me as soon as a month, it doesn’t cost me when it shouldn’t, and it normally is aware of when I’ve pushed away from my parking spot however forgotten to show off the meter.

And I can also’t dwell with out Gett, which is mainly Uber however for taxis, and can be accessible in London, Moscow and different locations. It makes it seamless to order a taxi and pay with a bank card, and receipts immediately arrive by e-mail — a significant function when submitting work bills for reimbursement.

What tech do you employ quite a bit in your private life or that your loved ones makes use of quite a bit at residence that you just don’t at work?

Israel doesn’t have Yelp, sadly, nevertheless it does have TripAdvisor, which is an honest substitute for eating places and resorts. My household makes use of Moovit to get round city by metropolis bus.

Apart from that, we don’t get a complete lot extra bold in our household than watching reveals on Netflix or iTunes. Although I’ve additionally began to make use of Johnson & Johnson’s 7 Minute Exercise to get the blood pumping in a more healthy manner than simply from the adrenaline of deadline strain.


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