Looking for the nearest synagogue? Need to know if there is an open mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) in your vicinity? Navigation program Waze can help. The application, designed for smartphones, will soon be able to assist observant Jews and others in finding worship facilities in their immediate surroundings.
Israel's Religious Services Ministry has been negotiating with the company that designed the application, which was recently purchased by Google, and a final agreement is slated to be signed in the near future. Under the agreement, initially, the program will provide a list of 1,000 mikvehs across the country. In addition, the program will list the locations of 130 religious councils that provide marriage license services and burial services. In the second stage of the deal, the addresses of thousands of synagogues will also be added to the program's database.
The contract between the ministry and the company is currently being finalized. Under the agreement, the ministry will pay Waze about 100,000 shekels per year for the service.
The service will reportedly become available in three months and will include an option to type in the word "mikveh" in the search field and get an exact location, hours of operation, and even the name and phone number of the mikveh operator. In addition, the program will list a wide range of details on the various religious councils.
Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan told Israel Hayom on Sunday that "bathing in a mikveh is something that is very discreet. If a woman travels from one place to another and needs a mikveh, she shouldn't have to ask on the street and expose herself. She can simply use Waze and the application will take her there. It will be much easier to get to the religious councils as well."
Remarking on the integration of synagogue locations, he said that "it is more complex because there are tens of thousands of synagogues in Israel. But we will get to that too. Our goal is to provide better service to the citizens and using Waze is the most cutting edge thing today. We are using it to harness technology to serve our purposes. That is precisely the vision of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, who said 'the old become new and the new becomes holy.' We take something new and infuse it with holiness."