website bought for $750,000

The new website, — “the official gateway to the Holy City”, which is said to be, as I was informed this morning, a “private initiative” — is already up and running, here but it’s official grand opening will be on 23 June.

The announcement of the opening contained this information: “Bought for $750,000, is the most expensive domain ever bought in Israel, highlighting the seriousness with which the site’s founders have approached the endeavor of representing the city as a place worthy of connecting to“.

That’s a lot of money — $750,000 — a nice deal. I just wonder who had staked out the site before, that is, who sold it?

UPDATE: It was bought from someone in the United States, I have learned from someone working on the preparations for the grand opening.

Nor, is it clear from the announcement, who bought this domaine name.

UPDATE: It’s a private initiative.  The manager of the project is Michael Weiss — “he comes from education, he was a journalist, and was born and is living in Jerusalem”, and he also is, or was, I was told, behind another website – Scoop, a Hebrew-language website here , see below for more.

Michael Weiss photo from

Michael Weiss, this photo + bio posted here

First, I was told that Weiss bought the website from Nir Barakat.  When I asked for clarification, the answer was “I’m not sure he [Michael Weiss] bought it from Nir Barakat — in the past of course, because now he’s the Mayor of Jerusalem, and I’m not sure how he [Nir Barakat] was formally involved”,   Now, I was reminded, the Jerusalem Municipality has its own website — as indeed it does, here, which focuses primarily on services to its citizens and residents.  But, I was told, “Nir Barakat was thinking about doing something like this”. I was also told that “every major city has a dot com [.com] address”. Jerusalem is a major city not because of its 780,000 inhabitants (just under 300,000 of them are Palestinian — Christians and Muslims), nor because it is one of the hottest political flashpoints on earth due to competing Israeli and Palestinian claims, but rather, as points out, because some “3.4 billion people around the world have a special place in their hearts for Jerusalem, seeing Jerusalem as the life-force of their religious faith. Some yearn for it, many pray for its peace (Psalm 122:6), and many others pray each day toward the city to express their faith. Many believe that out of Jerusalem the eternal words of God went out across the earth. Faithful pilgrims come to worship God and pay homage to Him”.

The announcement mentions that the Israeli Minister of Tourism will be present at the official launch, but it also suggests that the Jerusalem municipality is behind it: “ aims to play a major role in strengthening Jerusalem’s tourism and culture industries, which represent significant sectors of the city’s economy, both in terms of the city’s condition today and in terms of potential for ongoing growth”.

UPDATE:  It’s not their project, I was told, but the Tourism Ministry is “warmly welcoming” and “supporting” the project. Before and after his election as Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barakat has expressed the ambition to bring 10 million tourists annually to Jerusalem — a city where traffic is already unbearable most of the time, and where accomodation and services are not yet at a scale to support such numbers. The Israeli model is mass tourism, with groups of package-deal vacationers or pilgrims being herded around on tour buses, eating at buffets, accompanied by guides, virtually beseiged by sellers of cheap souvenirs waving fistfuls of currencies, and escorted where and when necessary by (armed, of course) Border Police jeeps with lights flashing. Currently there are not yet quite two million visitors annually, in a good year, when there is no Intifada or recent attack.

The announcement also says that “Finally, Jerusalem has arrived on the internet in the dynamic and wide-scoping manner that the city deserves, with representing the city as a religious, historical and tourist destination, offering a rich entry point to the city via hundreds of city guide pages, articles about the city’s ancient and vibrant trends, real-estate opportunities and its own social network that allows users to share favorite attractions, prayers and beliefs with each other”.

UPDATE: “It’s gonna be big”, I was told “much bigger, much more” than the Jerusalem municipality website.

The website says that “Whether it’s the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Garden Tomb or the Temple Mount, is empowering believers around the globe to experience the sites that are holy to them…even from a distance of thousands of miles. We invite you to take a personal journey through the Jerusalem holy sites that are meaningful to you. Our website offers a live cam of the Western Wall [– n.b., there used to be one run by the Israeli Antiquities Authority during the hottest part of a controversy over the redesign and rebuilding of the ramp leading from the Western Wall Plaza up to the Moghrabi Gate entrance to the mosque esplanade of the Haram ash-Sharif, where the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque are located, but which Israel calls the Temple Mount, where the first and second temples are believe to have stood –] and virtual tours of different holy sites that can aid you to virtually visiting the host of unique and spiritual places found in Jerusalem. For the very first time in history, you will have the option of sending a vocal prayer to be heard in Jerusalem via special speakers located throughout the Old City. You are also invited to pray as you view a live, vivid image of a holy site that inspires you. Of course, you can invite family, friends, and co-religionists to pray with you”. This information is posted here.

Publicly broadcasting prayers in Jerusalem could make for a very noisy city — maybe they mean to develop a radio system rather than having public speakers at holy sites, which would be very “big brother-ish”, as well very noisy.

There are several types of prayer products being marketed: posted prayers, vocal prayers, and prayers broadcast at holy sites. The website gives the possibility of opening an “account” to pay for your prayers.

There are some “shared” prayers, some of which can be listened to, listed here

The list of sites at which the world public is invited, over the internet, to pray at is posted here .

The list includes: the Western Wall, Dormition Abbey, Church of Mary Magdalene, Tower of David, Church of All Nations, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Mount of Olives, Garden Tomb, Temple Mount (with a photo of the Dome of the Rock and some freestanding arches near Al-Aqsa Mosque — see below), and the Great Synagogue. No mosques are mentioned.

Here is the photo being used to illustrate the Temple Mount on the Holy Sites page:

Jerusalem dot com uses this photo to illustrate the Temple Mount

But, Muslims are not one of the target markets for this prayer product — perhaps because the website is not really geared toward the Muslim perspective (there is a section on Islam, however,
here, which can also be reached by clicking on the “Judaism and Islam” link on the website’s home page), and also because Muslims just don’t pray this way. [Having said this, there is an addition on a prayer submitted by someone with an Indian/sub-continental but non-Muslim name on this page here ]

UPDATE: The Mayor’s — or the Municipality’s — spokesman has not answered or returned a phone call made to his mobile phone on Friday morning.

And, coming back to Michael Weiss: a profile article that is posted here reports that “Michael Weiss, formerly a journalist at Maariv newspaper (second highest circulation in Israel), has launched a citizen journalism website,, designed to ‘give a voice to those outside the mainstream press’. The site has already recruited 400 citizen reporters. Weiss’s inspiration to launch the initiative came after attending Oh My News’s citizen journalism conference in Seoul in June 2005. Weiss explains that his site taps into widespread mistrust of the mainstream media in Israel: ‘The majority of the Israelis don’t trust the media coverage in Israel. Two or three key players have control more than 80 per cent of Israel’s media – and that gives a lot of people the feeling they read only what serves the interest of these players’ … Weiss said the following about Scoop’s approach: “We define news in a different way: news is anything people find interesting – not only what the editor-in-chief thinks news is. I think we have a huge advantage: everyone can write about everything, so if you were actually there and don’t think that’s the way it was, then you can write your own perspective about the issue.”

The “about us” page here, which has become difficult to find, explains that Jerusalem dot com has been “Launched by ‘Start-up Jerusalem’, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening Jerusalem, and Michael Weiss, a 34 year-old Jerusalem entrepreneur, is your gateway to the holy city of Jerusalem with easy access anytime and from anywhere…with just a click of the mouse. Our goal is to enable true friends of Jerusalem to become an actual part of the life of this unique city and help strengthen the significant role Jerusalem plays in our world”.

But, when you click on the link supplied for “Start-up Jerusalem”, this message appears: “The domain ( here) has expired. If you owned this domain, please contact your domain registration service provider for further assistance”.

Apparently, “Start-up Jerusalem” is no longer useful, and its now-dead-end website has become just another form of ethernet space debris.

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