City of David website wins global UN award

The website lets you experience Jerusalem as King David did 3,000 years ago.Israel may have missed out at the Oscars in Hollywood, but an Israel website, www.cityofdavid.org.il, won first prize at the UN-sponsored World Summit Awards (WSA) in Venice recently. …

The website lets you experience Jerusalem as King David did 3,000 years ago.Israel may have missed out at the Oscars in Hollywood, but an Israel website, www.cityofdavid.org.il, won first prize at the UN-sponsored World Summit Awards (WSA) in Venice recently.

Selected as “the best in e-content and creativity in the category of e-culture,” “this outstanding website brings remote visitors face to face with the protagonists and locations of the living Bible,” the WSA stated in its laudatory citation.

“Its fabulous visuals and rich description of the site – in English, Spanish, Hebrew, French and Russian – bring to life the only place on earth where the only guidebook needed is the Bible itself.”

More than 167 countries competed in the contest, held every two years. The WSA was started in 2003, within the framework of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Ilan Dray, the young Israeli-French designer of the “cityofdavid” site, and his team at Inkod-Hypera, along with Udi Ragones, director of PR for Ir David, were invited to Venice to receive the prestigious award.

The “cityofdavid” website has also won the British FWA (Favorite Web Award).

Dray, 33, earned a BA degree in Visual Art from the High School of Art and Industrial Graphic Design in Paris. Since he founded his company four years ago, he has rapidly gained international recognition. His clients include e-bay and MTV.

“I wanted to give the feeling of actually being in the City of David, a brief experience of Jerusalem where King David, himself, roamed 3,000 years ago,” said Dray.

Zooming in, the exhilarating experience begins on the “cityofdavid” homepage with panoramic views and stunning photos. History becomes alive as the virtual visitor learns how King David conquered the hilltop, selected Jerusalem as the unified capital, and envisioned the building of the First Temple by his son King Solomon on Mt. Moriah.

Visitors can click on an interactive aerial map of the city to visit key sites and explore ancient hiding places and secret tunnels: The Gihon Spring and Shiloah Pool, its water source; a section of the wall (from the time of the Patriarchs) used to fortify the city.

Click on the Royal Quarter and view a video. In it, you see a red seal used by the king’s own scribe. Visit King Hezekiah tunnel, an engineering feat, where the city’s water source was diverted to protect it from the Assyrian enemy in the 8th century BCE.

On the “Virtual Tour,” you can see a powerful image of the cistern/pit where the prophet Jeremiah was thrown when he predicted that the city would be overthrown.

Exciting new findings (click “News and Updates”) reveal life in the city 2000 years ago. In March 2008, archaeologists digging in a drainage channel found a half-shekel coin, minted in Tyre in 22 CE. The coin was the annual “head tax” all Jews – rich or poor – had to pay, towards the building and upkeep of the Temple.

“Although it had the head of a diety on one side…, it was accepted for its value,” explained Professor Ronny Reich of the University of Haifa, who conducted the dig with Eli Shukron of the Israel Antiquities Authority. “It is possible that it rolled out of someone’s pocket,” surmised Reich.

According to Josephus Flavius, the drainage channels were also used to hide and escape from the Romans.

“Archaeologists have found particularly exciting finds in the past year, all clues in the city’s dramatic narrative,” said Ragones. In December, Reuters reported on the discovery of walls thought to be the palace of Queen Helena, and artifacts (seals, coins, inscriptions), found beneath a parking lot. A road built by King Herod, the creator of the magnificent Second Temple, was found earlier.

The fascinating interactive website gets more than 3,500 virtual visitors a day. “We are constantly making it more dynamic,” said Dray. “Japanese will soon be a language option,” he added.

“I hope that the website will also entice viewers to pay an actual visit to the real City of David which is once again teeming with life,” said Ragones.

Meanwhile, as Israel begins celebrating its 60th birthday, and Jerusalem 40 years as a united city, the winning website offers an exceptional virtual experience.