Wikimania 2011/Bids/Haifa/Q&A

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List of other conferences scheduled for the year 2011 in Haifa[edit]

It might be a bit early, but if already possible, maybe you could list other international conferences and events scheduled (or planned) to take place in Haifa in 2011. This could raise people's confidence related to security and capability of the city to host events like the Wikimania. For many people Haifa is not that well-known "conference city" if compared to the other bid cities.

It is a bit early to list conferences in 2011. Haifa is the home of the University of Haifa and the Technion, a technological institute of world renown. It also has large R&D campuses by international hi-tech companies such as Google, Intel, Microsoft and IBM.

Following is a list of conferences held in Haifa found through a very quick search in Google: The 2010 International Conference on Machine Learning, The 5th International Conference on Creativity in Mathematics and Gifted Children, The 2010 Conference on Learning Theory, The 3rd Annual Haifa Experimental Systems Conference (by IBM), the International Conference of Women Leaders, 2009 Haifa Matrix Theory Conference, The 2010 Haifa International Summit on World Health Challenges, The 2009 International Conference on Virtual Rehabilitation and The Fourth Software Encryption Workshop (1997) (after which the HAIFA type of cryptographic hash functions is named, and perhaps most importantly the Haifa International Film Festival which has been held in the proposed WM venue for the last 25 years.

Just to note that back in 1976, Haifa also hosted the 1976 Chess Olympiad.

Jury Questions[edit]

Does your team or its members have any past experience organizing an event?[edit]

What kind of event and with how many people?

Yes. In fact, this team organized quite a few Wikimedian and other events in the past. The two biggest Wikimedian events have been Wikipedia Academy Tel Aviv 2008, with some 250-300 attendees, and the Hebrew Wikipedia's 100Kth Article Celebration last January, with a similar turnout. There are also 2-3 regular conventions of Israeli Wikipedians every year. Deror Avi is the regular organizer of the Israeli Wikimedian meet-ups. These meet-ups take various forms, according to needs and preferences. They can be either semi-academic, outreach-oriented or friendly informal gatherings. Turnouts range between 50-150 attendees in each event. Deror Avi is also responsible for organizing the Elef Milim field-trips. Itzik Edri has valuable experience in organizing large-scale events as part of his army service (usually conferences about organizational issues with several hundred participants), and in his current work at the outreach department of the Israeli Kadima Party. Itzik Edri also organized the "Wikimedian aspect" of Jimmy Wales' recent visit to Jerusalem (in coordination with the organizers of the non-Wikimedian main event).

The Haifa Culture, Arts and Sports Company Ltd. (a.k.a "Ethos - Haifa" a non-profit corporation affiliated with the Haifa Municipality) has committed to full cooperation with the organizing team. This company is responsible for the organization of most non-commercial events, conferences and festivals in Haifa. The "Donitza PR-DMC" Company, that has been helping Wikimedia Israel pro-bono for about a year now, has also committed to help in the organization of Wikimania in Haifa.

Is your team or its members in close contact with organizations also interested in the free and open knowledge?[edit]

Are they prepared to cooperate with you in the organization and realization of Wikimania 2011?

Yes. The two major organizations of this kind with which we are in close contact are CC-Israel and The Israel Internet Association (ISOC-IL). There are also smaller organizations with which we are in touch. All are certainly willing and even eager to cooperate this time, just as they did in previous events like Wikipedia Academy Tel Aviv and others.

CC-Israel has provided us with a support letter (attached to the Bid page) and are planning to assist the organizing committee with logistics and volunteers.

Do you plan to implement any ideas to improve the experience of those participants that might not be particularly proficient in English?[edit]

Haifa is a multilingual and multicultural city. The main languages spoken in Haifa are Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian, and to lesser extent also French and other languages. Street signs are usually trilingual, written in Hebrew, Arabic and English, and shopping information is occasionally quadrilingual with Russian added as a fourth language. The local media outlets, whether commercial or public, are also available in these four languages, with some smaller publications in other languages. This linguistic diversity makes visitors from all around the world feel at home in Haifa, and Wikimania attendees won't be an exception. Most restaurants, banks and shop personell speak some level of English if not fluent English. Most restaurants have English menus.

Publications related to Wikimania can be translated and distributed in several languages with minimal cost and effort as it is easy to find local professional translators who are native speakers of various target languages. It is also possible and not too difficult to arrange simultaneous translation to the main talks, but it would be wise to outline in advance the linguistic background of the attendees in order to provide simultaneous translations to the most needed languages.

We have allocated funds in the budget for providing equipment for simultaneous translations, and are able to provide volunteers translating simultaneously from English to Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and French as required.

What are your biggest security concerns, and what measures will you be taking to try to avoid them?[edit]

Actually, we have less security concerns than one might think. This is for two reasons: (1) The crime rate in Haifa is very low. (2) Security measures in public places have been in place for many years, and are put in place by national, municipal, and venue authorities. Despite their intensity, by and large, security measures in Israel are not stifling or limiting. This is due to the longstanding experience of the relevant authorities. Unexpected calamities are always a concern. Last year there was a Swine Influenza alert in Buenos Aires shortly before Wikimania 2009, which was fortunately lifted. Such force majeures are beyond control.

Israel cities are safe in terms of homeland security. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict is limited to areas near the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Haifa is located far apart from these locations and is a great example of co-existence in the normal day to day life.

As for crime, security measures in public places are something taken for granted in Israel, and usually are the responsibility of the venue. The venue will provide guards at the entrances allowing only conference attendees to enter the premises. The 24 hours lounge located in Bet Hecht and the auditorium garden will have additional security to safeguard the valuables of the attendees. The venue has long experience in providing the appropriate security measures for international conventions and large public events (it has hosted, for the past 25 years, the Haifa International Film Festival, attended by large crowds). As we wish the venue to open 24 hours, Wikimedia Israel will provide the security for Bet Hecht in the late night, allowing 24 hour lounge, and a budget is detailed.

All hotels have security personnel ensuring the safeguard of the guests and the safekeeping of their valuables.

Has any member of the organising team attended a past Wikimania[edit]

Yes. Shay Yakir and Itzik Edri attended Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires. In addition, two veteran members of Wikimedia Israel, who closely follow the preparations despite not being part of the team, attended Wikimania in the past: Dror Kamir attended Wikimania in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and Harel Cain attended Wikimania in 2007.

Will there be a central space for attendees to gather in the evenings after the conference and dinner?[edit]

There will be two areas for the attendees to gather. The main lobby of the auditorium building, which also has WiFi and will be available 24 hours. The lobby has a coffee house, and is attached to the auditorium garden. While the lobby will be open to the public, the garden itself will be available for attendees only. Another lounge inside Beit Hecht will also be available 24 hours. This lounge (see pictures in the bid) will offer refreshments throughout the day. As it inside the Hecht building, only attendees will be allowed in this lounge, ensuring the safekeeping of the personal effects of the attendees.


You list quite a few potential sponsors to help with the financial costs of the conference. This is an important part of offsetting the costs for attendees and Wikimedia. Do you have any progress to report on sponsorships? If yes, could you either update this section here and/or send a detailled update to the jury? (we understand that some sponsors may not want to be declared as such until the bid has been selected). Thank you. notafish }<';> 09:54, 12 April 2010 (UTC)[reply]

Unfortunately it is impossible to give an update about this issue at this point, since the spring holiday season came early this year. Passover eve was on March 29, followed by collective leaves in many working places, now followed by two national memorial days, with the local Independence Day on 20 April being the last chord of this "sluggish working" season. Basically, what we are waiting for formal final approvals from the Ministry of Tourism who promised support, though they have not said yet if this includes financial support, and it would be too optimistic to expect further details from them before April 21, however we have received a letter from the Minister of Foreign Affaires on behalf of the Government of Israel (attached to the bid) assuring formal assistance, and from ISOC-IL (also attached to the bid). We have also approached other bodies shortly before the holiday season: one of the major HMOs for sponsorship of comprehensive health insurance to all participants, and Radio Haifa for financial support, and have yet to receive their answers. In-kind support, which is going to save quite a lot of money, is offered by Haifa University (office and logistic services), the Haifa Municipality-affiliated Ethos company (public relations, logistics) and others. Besides that, the Haifa municipality is assisting us in approaching more sponsors.

Further questions[edit]

Ecological footprint[edit]

Q: Have you thought about the ecological footprint of hosting such an event in Haifa (in absolute terms and in comparison to the three other bid locations) and have you considered measures to offset this footprint?

A: Haifa is a port city, and its port serves some passenger ships from nearby Mediterranean ports (especially from Greece and Cyprus) and some cruise ships. European tourists may choose to arrive to Israel through the Port of Haifa to avoid flying. We have planned that the participants arrive Haifa by train - a very good train connection exists between Ben Gurion Airport and Haifa. Inside the city, most participants shall live in hotels within walking distance from the venue. Those who chose to stay at the dorms will use the shuttles which will ensure efficient transportation. In terms of the total flying miles expected from the entire group of participants, Israel is closer than the other bidders for all non-American attendees, including those arriving from Europe, Asia and Africa.

Different lifesyles, religious habits etc.[edit]

Q:How well could Wikimedia 2011 in Haifa host participants with different life styles, such as eating habits, religous beliefs and same-sex orientation?

A: We assume this is a great advantage of such a multicultural city. Haifa is indeed a very relaxed, liberal and diversified city, with Jewish (mostly secular), Arab (Muslim including for example the Ahmadiyya movement and Christian of various denominations) and Baha'i communities. Unlike the rest of Israel, for example, it has some public transportation on Saturday (Shabbat), owing to a longstanding agreement between the secular and religious local communities, that worked so well that it was eventually recognized by the state. It is easy to find kosher, halal and vegetarian food in Haifa. The city has many synagogues, churches and mosques.

Haifa is an open-minded city and there should be no problem whatsoever for same-sex couples to walk together in public, stay at the same hotel room, and display affection publicly. Though Haifa doesn't have a very active LGBT community, rather a small one, it has gay parades since 2003 ([1]).

i'd like to add: in general israel is one of the most liberal countries in the world in terms of LGBT rights. see w:LGBT rights by country or territory#Western Asia. Daniel B 14:42, 5 April 2010 (UTC)[reply]


Q:Given that Haifa is now within the range of rockets sent from Lebanese soil, do you have a contingency plan for Wikimania in case of a breakdown of ceasefire?

A: Haifa was targeted with rockets four years ago. This was an unexpected and unusual event, as Haifa has been enjoying local stability and peaceful life even in times of conflict, let alone in normal days. Haifa is not very close to the Lebanese border, or, in fact, to any other border, and therefore the risk of getting hurt is not high even in the worst case scenario, and very unlikely in normal situation. The Lebanese border has been very quiet in the past four years, a situation that both Lebanese and Israelis welcome and wish to maintain. Haifa has not seen any attacks, by rockets or otherwise, in the past four years. It is impossible to expect the unexpectable, and each location in the world has its own particular risks, natural or man-made.
In the unlikely event of breakdown of ceasefire on the Israeli-Lebanese border, the following steps will be taken:
  • If things deteriorate before the conference begins, we will immediately inform the US-based organizers and consult them whether to move the event to another location in Israel, postpone it, or to pursue any other solution. We are exploring possibilities of insuring various expenses related to the conference, such that the money spent can be recovered in such an event - mainly the flight tickets. We expect that attendees from abroad can be compensated as part of their travel insurance. For services not rendered (catering, tours and the like), we expect that no payment will be required anyway.
  • Should the organizers learn about a risk during the event (Israeli authorities are usually capable of warning citizens at least two days in advance). The attendees will be taken to southward to Tel Aviv. In such cases, airlines increase their outgoing flight capacity. All buildings in Israel, the conference venue and hotels included, are equipped with shelters designed to withstand rocket attacks. Automatic warning systems give several-minute alert in the worst case scenario, and instructions are published in several languages.


Q:This would be the second Asian Wikimania conference. Do you plan to allocate resources to ensure high participation rates from other countries on the Asian continent that are geographically far away?

A: We would be happy to see many participants from Asia. The scholarships committee will in due course also take into account the geographical distribution of the scholarship grantees. One should point out that being the biggest continent on earth, there is a huge distance between eastern Asia and its west-most edge, where Haifa is located. Nevertheless, there are direct almost-daily flights connecting Ben Gurion International Airport with Bangkok, Hong Kong, Beijing and Mumbai, and three flights a week from Seoul. There are also frequent flights connecting Israel with various locations in Russia. Beside direct flights, Istanbul, Turkey, also serves as a connection point between eastern Asia and the Near East, including Israel. There are frequent flights connecting various Asian cities with Istanbul, and several flights from Istanbul to Tel Aviv on a daily basis.

Q:Wikimania 2008 in Egypt had a rather poor participation rate from Israeli Wikimedians, despite the geographic proximity. Is a high participation rate from neighbouring countries a priority for this Wikimania bid?

A: Yes, we are very much looking forward to seeing a high participation rate from neighboring countries. Wikimania in Haifa should be appealing to Palestinian and Jordanian participants, as they can easily get there by bus or their own cars. Palestinians do not enter Israel with passports, but rather with a special entry permit, which we can help them obtain in case of problems. Jordanians should obtain a visa from the Israeli Embassy in Amman, and we will do our best to help them too. As for participants from countries that do not have relations with Israel, as stated on the bid page and this page, we will make our utmost to facilitate issuing visas for such participants, by using our connections with the Israeli Ministry of Interior. This will not be a first time that participants from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel visit international conferences in Israel.
Unfortunately, borders in the Middle East tend to be harder to cross than those in Europe or North America. Low participation from neighboring countries could be the result of internal laws and limitations unrelated to the Israeli policy. We expect some attendees might choose to keep a low profile, not be listed on any public listing and not be photographed. We will cater to these understandable requests, and much like with attendees from mainland China in Taiwan R.O.C, we will even hand out "Don't photograph me" stickers or anonymous conference name tags if needed. The border authorities will not stamp the passports of visitors who do not wish to have Israeli stamps on their passports.
Haifa has an attested reputation of being a tolerant city and a symbol of coexistence among its various communities. Haifa is one of the two centers of the Israeli Arab community (nearly fifth of the local population, Nazareth being the other main center). Services in Haifa and its surroundings are available in Arabic, so despite the possible difficulties, these attendees should feel at home in Haifa.