Investigate terrorism from your armchair using NEWOCR.COM

fight terrorism from your armchairAbout a year ago, someone showed me a clever cloud based service called NEWOCR.COM

OCR or optical character recognition, is the art of clever software scanning a page of printed writing and convert into text.   This is a complex process to turn an image into actual blocks of text that could be edited in  a regular word processor later.

This software has been around for 20 years or more, but never accurate to be accepted in a real life work place.

The beauty with NEWOCR is it works with all kinds of languages include non Latin alphabets.   You can then feed the results into Google translator.

I think this system could be tweaked further and used for police or anti-terrorism work.

I’ve just seen this news article about a training manual recently found for members of HAMAS, the terrorist group who control the Gaza strip.

fight terrorism from your armchair2

fight terrorism from your armchair3

fight terrorism from your armchair4Open a new tab in your browser, and go to the site.   You can either A) upload a picture saved on your computer or B) use the URL of a specific image you have found on the internet.

Be aware, this will work in languages like Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Russian, Chinese etc.   I’ve even made it work with text at 45 degrees.   The text needs to ideally be large, and text with different images or patterns behind it might cause problems.  Click the blue Upload button.

fight terrorism from your armchair5

Now use the corners of the boxes show to adjust which parts of the image you want to scan.   Then click the blue OCR button

fight terrorism from your armchair6Ok Yalla!! – You can now translate your text.

Please don’t expect brilliant translation quality.   Also the NEWOCR site seems to be short of bandwidth and sometimes not always available.

I’d be curious to see how the police and anti terrorism departments could make of this.

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Jericho – 2. Jericho’s town centre

This fountain stands in the middle of the square in Jericho.   As it was close to or exceeding 40c today, I really wanted shove my face in it, with lots of people around I decided to be civilized I opted to soak my hat instead.

Right by the fountain, I spotted this old Arabic coffee flask, now this bus service I like, I am not certain, but it seems customers riding on this bus get some Arabic coffee before they hop on.  Even if this at extra cost, I think this is a great idea 🙂

Two things you see in Palestinian cities, butchers shops with mostly whole animals in the windows, and bright yellow taxis with green licence plates.

This logo seems to appear on cars and buildings owned by the Palestinian Authority.   I don’t like this at all, this eagle symbol reminds of another force from history…. Oh never mind.

We took a quick look in this phone and computer accessories shop.  My friend Jeremy wanted to get a case for his iPhone, this shop has these odd looking speakers which seem to be aimed as playback of music from a phone via USB or Bluetooth.  I notice Arab people often play music on their phone in the street, and probably use them to play Islamic prayers and teaching material.  By the way we were here a few days before the start of Ramadan.

The news seems to show all Palestinians as poor, but there is plenty of shops in the main cities like Jericho, Nabulus, Bethlehem, Ramalah and Gaza seem to have all type of businesses selling all the same goods you can find in Israeli cities.

I found the people of Jericho to be extremely friendly, not just the people that were trying to sell us stuff, people outside of shops and fast food places wanted to chat to us as we didn’t look Arab, so it was pleasant to chat to folk that we (well my two friends were on holiday from England, I didn’t mention about my reason for being here) and I didn’t see anyone else obviously foreign.

This particular iPhone 4 case here is distributed by a Palestinian company (you can just about make out the .ps domain address)

Apparently Jericho only has 20,000 people so it is quite a lot smaller than I thought it would be bigger being the oldest city in the world with a consistent population.

Soon! The mount of temptation where Jesus went to pray and fast, and I got to visit an old tree that had could of had some very special significance from the time of Jesus!!

1. Crossing into the oldest city in the world2. Jericho’s town centre3. Church on the cliff4. View of Jericho’s plain –  5. The tree

Palestinian archeologist at Hezekiah’s tunnel

I will add a few more articles on my trip around the Galilee very soon.

I went with some friends to Hezekiah’s tunnel in the City of David museum in Silwan, a volatile Arab neighbourhood close to the Dung Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.

There is over a mile of tunnels you have to walk through in darkness and in water upto your knees.

I have been here before actually, you can see my original article here.

This plastic pipe seems to be a temporary replacement for the modern drainage system which was removed with this area was dug up.

At the back of the museum is this place, dug up not so long ago.

This places was once a source of water, from the museum web site:-

In June of 2004, municipal workers who were repairing a sewage drain in the City of David were shocked to discover a staircase deep underneath the ground.  Salvage excavations done at the site revealed that the stairs are part of an ancient thoroughfare, leading from the Shiloach Pool – the major water drawing source in Jerusalem from Biblical times, to the Temple Mount over 2300 feet to the north. Excavations conducted by Eli Shukron are discovering the original stones walked upon by the Jewish people as they made their pilgrimage to the Jewish temple most notably on the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Succoth.

In places, the pavement was broken, revealing an underground drainage channel filled with whole pottery vessels and coins. Josephus Flavius, a famous historian of that period, describes this very place as one where the Jews unsuccessfully attempted to hide during the Roman Revolt in 70 CE.  For over 2,000 years this road has secretly laid, hidden from the world. Today, in the center of Jerusalem, in the historic City of David, we have the unique opportunity to once again reveal this road before the eyes of the world.


Sign here say that this ground on the surface is a cemetery for Arab children.

What surprised me was there was a Palestinian man working in the museum who had a love of history.  Silwan is quite a troubled neighbourhood and often Palestinian groups and their supporters around the world, try to show this part of the world as stolen land, despite the wealth of historical information that shows its been occupied by many different groups of people; Roman, Byzantine, Jewish, Arab, Crusader, Ottoman, British Mandate etc, that have lived here.

This man showed some coins he personally found himself, this coin to the left can be clearly seen as being Roman, the one to the bottom right has a Christian cross on it.

He told us he had his car set on fire by other people in his neighbourhood for working with Jews.   He told us he was not religious and not interested in politics, only liked working at the museum and finding discoveries from past.

  

With the large numbers of Christian visitors that come to this site every day, I am hoping the most of them will be praying for this man, for his safety and for him to find his Lord and saviour.

One we were out the rear entrance of the museum, I found myself in a Palestinian community.

Next to this simple sandwich shop is this fruit tree which I think has plums on it, far from ripe of course.  House opposite has a Palestinian flag on it.   We got a ride back to the main high street in this blue VW taxi van.

Web site of City of David museum and Hezekiah’s tunnel

Jerusalem bus stop two weeks on:

I rode along the north part of Jaffa Street up to the bus station and saw my friend Dave along the way, actually its very easy to accidentally see anyone you might know in this city.

I think when Jesus returns here, it won’t be too hard to find him, even without a cellphone. 🙂

I visited the place where the bomb happened a few weeks ago:

Everything seems strangely normal, the man is still running the kiosk selling cigarettes, newspapers and ice cream, people are waiting for the bus, and some chap was using the phone box as well.

In fact nothing really looked any different apart from two wreaths left for the Christian woman who died, one from Israel and one from the UK.

Today, I was working home towards the bus (it was raining and I don’t like to ride my bicycle in the wet)   a short distance from work I saw a large crowd of people and some Magon David paramedics dealing with someone on the floor, they were doing resuscitation on this woman, there was a drip rigged up, and I could see a set of electric pads as well.  I prayed for this woman here that she would live, and after a while I noticed she was coughing, although the ambulance staff were still having to push her chest hard, I didn’t stick around too much longer, but will check the local news tomorrow.

You can see how fragile life can be from things happening on your street in any place, I must stress that I do feel very safe here, there isn’t a problem with alcoholism I see in Portsmouth, and there are occasional terrorist threats in the UK like the ones that happened on 7/7 on the London tube network in 2005.  Police and military are often around here in Jerusalem so security issues are spotted in almost all cases very quickly.

Along Hevron Road – from Jerusalem to Bethlehem

After my trip to Rachel’s tomb I took some pictures on the way back….

The white sign shows a welcome to Jerusalem

New house construction in progress.  This was stopped for a while during the building freeze which was during talks with the Palestinian Authority.

Houses are far to expensive here, new builds all around the country are necessary to provide for growing Jewish and Arab families. (its common for both types of families to have 5-10 children)  Other cities like Karmiel pay about 40% less rent for a similar apartment than Jerusalem residents do.   I don’t think of the houses as a settlement, but as part of the regeneration of the sovereign nation of Israel.   There is a new school, police station and shops in this district when I went there about 2 month ago.

I stopped outside this church on the Hevron Road.   Its a Greek church, and has very pretty gardens.

Everyone had just left when I arrived, I spoke to priest who had tradition Greek Orthodox Christian garb on, asking if I could look around but he said he was just locking up.

There are Arab Christian families on the way back to their cars.    I am not sure if these Arab people live the main west part of Jerusalem or if they come across the border that is about 2Km down the road where I have just come from.

Left: There is small cafe and plenty of picnic tables, and looks like a nice place to fellowship with people after the service.   I need to come back here another time I think.  Right: Poster for Taybeh, a Palestinian beer, on a table in the garden.

King David Museum, Hezekiah’s tunnels and Silwan troubles

At the weekend I went around the outer parts of Jerusalem’s old city walls.   Outside of the dung gate, is the south east corner, you head around the corner to see Absalom’s tomb and the Mount of Olives.

Here there is a junction which contains a volatile mix of neighbours.   On the corner is an archaeological dig, containing artifacts that date from King David’s time.   On the same street this is the entrance to the Arab town of Silwan.   This is a much troubled district, and the name Silwan often comes up when there is news of conflicts in this city.

On the news this week you may have seen a picture of a car with a boy in the air upside down in the air having being hit by a car in Silwan after stoning this particular motorist, it seems the Subaru driver sped up or swerved to avoid being hit by the youths.   Seems strange there happened to be someone with a camera who did such a perfect shot of this moment.  http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=190682

A few houses from the corner is this Arab shop with political message outside.

About 3 or 4 more houses across is The City of David museum which has a cinema with a 3D film of biblical history of this place and a guided tour of the buildings and a chance to go under Hezekiah’s tunnels.  I went here last year its well worth a visit.   The tunnels are a mile long of walking – in complete darkness; and, upto your knees in water. 🙂   I didn’t get a picture of the exact front part of this as there armed guards in front.   But looking through the windows you can see the nice decorations outside.

Looking behind back to the old city walls and there are about 40-50 soldiers in uniform getting off a bus.  (not visible, but just around the corner)  Glancing back to the museum front, there is a lone security guard, armed, but unusually (that I have never seen someone holding a handgun out of a holster) he has a pistol in his hand.   Again, I glance down the street to see a group of Arab kids gather outside a shop.  There is nervousness on both sides and the police and army are on alert from recent troubles.

Below you can see the green flag which has a logo representing Israel’s national parks and historical places.  Heading down this street as a foreigner to see the museums is safe but because extra security measures in place, but just a short distance down here, not past the museum where this barrier is.   Beyond this there are rowdy children throwing rocks at the fence where the historical digging is, there is rubbish everywhere and some of the cars look vandalised.

But here in the unpredictable middle east, throwing rocks can be a prelude to starting a war where each side retaliates.  This is one of the many contested bits of property here, ironic given the historic sites and archeological digs that showed who lived here long ago.

I can’t emphasise enough “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” and I do feel sorry for the Arab people that live here and are given different messages by different authorities, I hope and pray that Arab people will find their way out of darkness of the regime that governs them (Hamas and Hezbollah)  into the loving arms of the Father.

Driving on highways through the West Bank

On the way back from Beit Shemesh after seeing the kids at the summer camp school, we had to take a road which goes through the Palestinian territories.

This journey is not a currently hugely risky one, but incidents do sometimes happen on rare occasions.  So roads are designed to cope with potential sources of terrorist threats.

These blocks are there, so if you hear gunfire, you stop your car in behind the concrete blocks.

Here this wall with canopy is there as motorists often face stones being thrown at their vehicles.

The roads that interconnect with Jerusalem have a few tunnels due to large number of mountains meaning roads in this country are rarely in a straight linear direction.

Of course going in and out of these parts means going through border controls, coming out of Jerusalem is simple, coming out of part of the West Bank means usually just driving up to a solider at a kiosk and a few questions are asked, I think people in vans are more likely to searched or have more questions asked.  Cars with green licence plates (Palestinian authority)  are not allowed out of the West Bank.

If this sounds like a hugely scary experience, its important to realise attacks on motorists are rare and you are only really likely to encounter hostile encounters in risky places like Hebron or Ramallah.  This road is major route and I have been through these roads quite a few times now.  More concern for safety for motorists is from accidents as the standard of driving is worse than a western country.

ex-Hamas terrorist who finds Jesus stays in the US

Really pleased (some of our bible study group prayed this week)  that Mosab Hassan Yousef an ex-Hamas terrorist who turned to Jesus will be allowed to stay in the US, this is brilliant news, as it gets a chance for Arab people that have come out of the darkness of Islam to really tell the truth about what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza and example of the love of Jesus to touch both Jew and Arab.

Sderot in Israel, Gaza’s nextdoor neighbour

Where as Gaza is getting plenty of attention in the news of late, there isn’t so much sympathy for the people of Sderot, an otherwise seemingly quiet town with neat gardens at the side of the roads but has to put up with regular Katusha rocket fire from terrorists in Gaza.

Meaning Boulevard in Hebrew, Sderot is a place I visited last September during my first season in Israel, not part of my normal job, but when given the chance to go there I thought it would be interesting to see a place closer to conflict than Jerusalem and to see things as they really are without the aid of television or internet.

Getting there we would be met by a local man who is actually in British but has lived in Israel for 30 years and in Sderot for most of that time.   He played this audio track of some wailing on his mobile phone, this was the sound to expect if there was a rocket attack, when this happens the people in this town have 15 seconds only to get to a bomb shelter.   People are allowed to drive their cars without seatbelts in Sderot to give them a chance to get out and run to a shelter (on bus stops) next to a street if necessary.

Outside the police station here in Sderot, most of the rockets are collected and are on display for people to see.   A lot of these are thought to have been manufactured in Iran.  There are some larger more sophisticated ones which have hit a large radius like the neighbouring cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon.  Without adequate security around Gaza, much more powerful weapons would get in (and probably do through the tunnels) and threaten the whole country and could hit Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, which is why roadblocks and strict inspection of trucks is a very necessary business.

Here this town is otherwise very pleasant and clean looking place, the regular threats seem to give people a more community spirit I guess.


This a typical bomb shelter, a public one.   Some of these you see attached to peoples houses as a home improvement, not unlike people getting a conservatory built back in the UK.

Because of the regular attacks here, although deaths or serious injuries from rockets do happen but not that often, children cannot sleep in fear, and mental health disorders are common, as well damage to people’s houses and cars.  Unemployment is high here, but no Olympic sized swimming pools or fancy restaurants which Gaza has.

The Katuysha rockets are fairly crude by modern day weapons  in the fact they are not accurate, and so fired indiscriminately not at a specific target like a military installation.  In fact we were told that often the most common time the rockets happen is during children going to or from school.   At least a basketball ground here as a concrete roof on top, just like this school here on the left.

Our aim was to help decorate some peoples houses here and as Christians show love to this neglected community.  The first people we helped was a large static caravan which was on a farm which was in quite poor condition which we painted up.   The next was for a young Orthodox man who was about the same age as me and was disabled, we painted and plastered his house.  I got a chance to learn and practice plastering holes in walls which is quite fun and easy once you get used to it.  Later once we finished painting, we got a chance to watch a movie ‘Don’t mess with the Zohan‘ a comedy filmed in Israel starring Adam Sandler.


Without being hasty and under the expertise of our local friend, he took us out in his car up to the border with Gaza, this was a very interesting visit that no normal tourist would ever get to see.

Here there is a small military base to watch for rockets and other terrorist activity.  A small blimp (Zeppelin type balloon, not pictured) is up high tethered to the ground, this is not manned but has a camera and solider on the ground is alerted if a rocket is fired and the alarm is sounded to warn the people in the town.  On the right is an interesting peace monument (sorry I can’t remember who provided it) in the form of a musical instrument.  The buildings in the background is Gaza.  There is also a water reservoir close by.

Really no community in the world would ever put up with rockets fired on them regularly over the last few years, I think Israel shows a lot more restraint that many other nations would if treated like this.

If you lived or been to my home city of Portsmouth UK, Sderot and the Gaza strip are as close together a Gunwharf Quays and Gosport, this is less than a mile in between.

Before we went home on the last day, the man we stayed with took us out for a meal in a restaurant on the pier on the nearby biblical city of Ashkelon.

This was an interesting weekend and I would like to do it again sometime this year maybe.

As this is a sensitive subject please note hateful or provocative comments will be deleted and reported.

Bethlehem – journey to birthplace of Christ part II – nuts on Christmas

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Ok, which food reminds you of Christmas?   Turkey? mince pies? Christmas pudding?  Ok, some of these will depend of regional customs that different Christians celebrate Christmas, ie: Christmas pudding is largely a British thing I think.

Now think which food really actually could be found in the Holyland during Christmas?   I have blogged before about Pomegranates before, but how about nuts?

More specifically almonds.

One of the group pointed out this tree, its got ripe nuts on it!   So after shaking it quite a bit, most of the nuts fell onto one of the metal shelters next door (duh)   after a few times, I got a few on the ground, and after breaking them open with a big most of them were quite nice.

Before leaving the grotto park, the garden also had strangely lots of small holes and tunnels in the ground.  Didn’t see if these were natural quirky bits of geology or if they made by someone.

Below Christmas is in full swing here, decorations were mostly quite discrete and tasteful.  Tourism from Christians of course is the life blood of the economy of Bethlehem.

more soon….

Parts 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5