David Joel came to Israel with a friend in 2000, right around when the Intifada broke out. Terror attacks were a daily occurrence, and David and his friend wanted to find a way to help. They approached various organizations such as Magen David Adom (ambulance service), as well as the police – both rejected them due to their poor Hebrew. The pair did not give up, and discovered that they could join the IDF through a yeshiva program. They were already enrolled in a yeshiva, but it did not have an IDF program, and so they began checking out the various yeshivas, but time and time again they felt that each place was not exactly right for them.
During this time, David and his friend went to a Carlebach concert. Outside of the concert, there was a man selling books. At random, he picked up a book called “An Israeli Settler Defends his Acts of Terror,” by Era Rapaport. Intrigued, David purchased the book. At this point in his life, he did not know much about Israeli politics one way or another, but this book ignited a spark in David.
One day, David was researching different military-tracked yeshivas in an internet cafe, and he found one in the town of Shiloh. He recalled the book, and immediately jumped on a bus to Shiloh. Shiloh was listed online in English because in the past they had had a program catering to Anglo students from the Southern Hemisphere. They no longer had that program, and David and his friend showed up unannounced at the yeshiva, barely speaking Hebrew, with no English speakers to greet him. The first person they met was Rabbi Shneur Katz, and they instantly fell in love with this yeshiva.
The pair joined the yeshiva and beginning in 2002, they served in the IDF Nachal Infantry Unit in Beit Lechem and Ramallah. 16 years later, David and his friend are both married to women from Shiloh, living in Shiloh, and raising beautiful families in their beloved town. One book at one concert changed the course of their lives forever in the most unexpected way.
In 2004, David joined the volunteer rapid response team for terror attacks. The following year, a security position opened up with the Ministry of Defense, and David eagerly joined. One year later, he got the job as Security Officer of Shiloh, and he served in that position for the next four years. After his time as Security Officer of Shiloh, David became in charge of the Situation Room for the entire county of Mateh Binyamin. He was given the job of upgrading the entire security and call center, where he worked for six years. He set out to coordinate all security activities between the army, police, ambulance services, civilian security forces, and anyone else available to help. He found that one of the biggest issues at the time was trying to pinpoint a person’s location.
At the time, smartphones were just beginning to become popular, and David realized that they would be an essential tool in solving the security issue; that smartphones would be the platform for the next level of personal security. He began inviting security app developers to his office to pitch their apps to him. Out of tens of programs, he chose Dominapp. This app is an all in one panic button – it calls the call center with your name and location, it takes a photo of you with your front facing camera, and a 19 second video with your back camera, providing all of the information necessary to assess a situation. It also sends a text message to two people of your choice, alerting them to your situation. Another great feature of this app is that you do not have to specifically open it to operate it. They realized that in many urgent situations, a victim might not have their wits about them enough to start looking for an app. Instead, one might call an emergency number – which will trigger the app and put all of Dominapp’s features into play.
They tested the pilot app for a year until 2014 when tragedy struck Israel once again. Three boys, one of whom was from Mateh Binyamin, David’s county, were kidnapped and brutally murdered by Palestinian terrorists. The boys were kidnapped at about 6pm, but no one knew about it. It was a phone call that David’s Dispatch Center received at 11pm, by one of the boys’ mothers that evidently alarmed David who then connected it to the correct security forces and search teams were immediately dispatched. After this horrific attack, the Regional Council decided to open the Dominapp to the public, an app that if one of the boys might have had, just maybe could have saved their lives.
Video clip promoting the Binyamin Security app.
Until this point, the developer of the app had worked on it voluntarily and it desperately needed funding to have it ready to work at full capacity. That is where The Heart of Israel came in – The Heart of Israel raised the needed funds to complete the launching of the app. In less than a year the app was available on both Apple and Android and thousands of people downloaded it.
David and his wife live in the beautiful town of Shiloh. They have been married for 14 years and have six beautiful children. David never planned to work in security – he actually studied architecture for a year and a half – but he became “addicted” to helping others, serving his community, his country, and his nation. In his free time, David enjoys mountain biking, ATVing, raising birds, dogs, and drone photography. He also meets with students from all over the United States to discuss life as a settler in the Jewish Heartland. Many of these students spend time in Palestinian towns, as well as Israeli, and David gives them the Jewish point of view of the conflict.
A revolutionary security app that will protect thousands of people. A full, happy life in a thriving settlement. A beautiful family, living free in Israel’s Heartland. The old friend who came with him to Israel is also living in Shiloh with his wife, raising a gorgeous family. All of this because of one book, all those years ago, outside of a concert.
*After the tragic murder of 11 Jews during prayer services this past Shabbat in Pittsburgh, it is more obvious than ever that anti-semitism is alive and well in today’s world. It is as important as ever that Jewish people know how to protect themselves, and heroes like David and his revolutionary app make security more accessible.
Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of the attack, and the entire Pittsburgh Jewish community.
We invite our friends from around the world to email us at [email protected] pictures or short videos of themselves holding a sign that reads:
We from ___ also stand together with the Pittsburgh community against terror, and we will send the pictures to the Pittsburgh synagogue with your messages.