Image courtesy of Jerusalem.com
Jerusalem.com brings the stories of the Old and New Testament to life by providing people of all faiths with authentic 3D tours and maps of many of the significant landmarks in the holy city.
"What we wanted to do was bring Jerusalem to all those [people] who weren't able to come here themselves," Elisha Jacobsen, Director of Strategy for Jerusalem.com, told The Christian Post. "We wanted to offer them an experience to learn about and visit Jerusalem, and [also] offer them some kind of spiritual experience."
The company recently released an application for iPad and iPhone users that grants them access to a detailed virtual 3D tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Jacobsen, along with the Jerusalem.com's CEO Segev Shilton and Chairman Igal Lichtman, are also working on tours for the former site of Solomon's temple, the Dome of the Rock, and Jewish Quarter.
Users of the app can interact with various objects and places found on these tours by clicking on them to examine them more closely and learn more about everything featured in a map.
"The idea was to make something that fuses gaming technology with faith," said Jacobsen describing the idea behind their interactive tours.
In order to create these tour maps accurately, Jerusalem.com employs well connected citizens of Jerusalem and the old city who have access to areas that average visitors will never see. 3D renderings of famous places are created by the company's designers who are able to turn photos into interactive areas.
"In [terms] of technology, what we have are very talented [designers and developers] who do very good work with 3D environments and always think outside the box," said Jacobsen. "They are able to take [maps and pictures] that existed before and bring them to the next level and basically provide people with the only accurate map of the old city."
And utilizing the locals proves to work the best when trying to provide visitors with the most helpful facts.
"Our advantage is that we are in Israel, and Israel is a small country so you know a lot of people, and if you're dealing with the people who work there for 25 years, daily, they usually have lots of information [that cannot be found in books]," said Igal Lichtman, Chairman of Jerusalem.com.
Lichtman bases his decisions concerning the choice of which tour to create next on the website's visitors.
"The idea is to deliver useful stuff, not something we feel is great," he added. "We need to understand what is the priority, [it's] not [about] the way we want to do it, but the way the public wants us to show them."
He implements this strategy by recording statistics based on Jerusalem.com's visitors. Anyone on the site's interactive maps can click on a specific landmark including a church, synagogue, mosque, or other public place. By gauging what place visitors click on the most, Lichtman is able to determine the most useful landmark to create an interactive tour for.
"We don't want to create something people won't use because it's going to be wasted," said Lichtman.
Jerusalem.com strives to cater to the three major faiths of the region including Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The site plans on releasing interactive 3D tours of the Jewish Quarter, and the Dome of the Rock, a place where only Muslims can currently visit, in the near future.
"You can't go into the Dome of the Rock if you're not a Muslim, that's the part that makes [this tour] very unique," said Jacobsen.
The site contains several buildings and also once served as the area where Solomon's Temple was located, a place significant to both Jews and Christians. With the help of Jerusalem.com, all three major faiths will have the opportunity to visit the site from any place in the world.
Jerusalem.com's upcoming tour of the Jewish Quarter will cover the Wailing Wall and the underground tunnels since those are the most frequently clicked on areas on the site's maps.
Both tour apps should arrive on the iPad and iPhone sometime soon. Jerusalem.com also hopes to have all of its apps available in the Google Play market as well.