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Same yet different - WLM from the Israeli Point of View
All good things must come to an end, in this case it is this year's Wiki loves monuments contest.
Last year Israel decided to join the international competition. The effort was organized by the Wikimedia Israel volunteer Deror Avi, whose astute leadership and exceptional understanding of crowd sourcing transformed the format of the world's largest photography contest into a far reaching grassroots outreach initiative.
This year we decided to expand on the success of last year. Our chapter conducted tours to distant heritage sites spanning the country in an effort encourage people to upload more photos of these sites onto Wikimedia Commons. With 40 tours, roughly 400 people took place on the tours across the israeli country side.
Israel boasts a large number of cultural heritage sites. Despite the abundance of monuments, the organizers faced an unusual challenge when they first organized the competition. Until now there were no official lists of sites or monuments. This is in stark contrast with most developed destinations on the globe where preservations and national heritage sites are properly recognized.
Wikimedia Israel volunteers have been working diligently for the past two years on creating and updating such a list. Our chapter prides itself on the compilation of said list as an achievement second only to the contest itself.
To differentiate the heritage tours from the standard fare offered to tourists, emphasis was placed training the tour guides. Tour guides were briefed prior to the the heritage tours and provided with an extensive understanding of the competition's goals. Time was allocated for photography and emphasis was placed according to a site's historical value.
To provide our amateur photographers with additional skills, Wikimedia Israel arranged photography workshops conducted by Galitz Photography. The school embraced the movement's free and open culture and opened its doors free of charge to the public.
In somewhat shocking fashion, the highly polarized Israeli media embraced Wiki loves monuments, providing broad and in depth coverage on the competition. Dozens of articles were printed and broadcasted in all variety of media outlets. Radio channels, TV shows, websites, and local newspapers across the country provided coverage. The media seemed to show particular interest in the way the competition gave the public the immediate ability to contribute to the universal data base of Wikipedia in relation to national heritage.
We chose to hold the awards ceremony in Tel Aviv in a building that has been designated for preservation. The winning photographs were announced and the prizes awarded to the jubilant laureates. Sponsors, partners, Wikimedia Israel members, the winners and their families took part in the event. Following the gala's conclusion, the 10 winning photographs in the exhibition were transferred to a public exhibit at the "Dizengoff Center," one of the country's most lively shopping centers. The mall estimates about 720,000 people have seen the exhibiting during the past month.
At the closing ceremony, Wikimedia Israel Chairperson, Itzik Edri announced that "Wiki loves monuments is not just a project for the benefit of Wikipedia, but is now a project which harnesses the Wikipedia community in favor of raising the international awareness of our cultural heritage and our history."
Indeed, Wikimedia Israel is proud to have been a part of an international project of this importance. We thank all the organizing teams of international volunteers as well as our volunteers who invested countless hours to make this competition possible. We wish the ten finalist and everyone else who participated the very best of luck. See you next year.
Chen Davidi, Activity Coordinator, Wikimedia Israel