TEL AVIV – A delegation led by US Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, is in Israel through Wednesday evening to witness latest local developments in emergency responsiveness.
The guest of Maj. Gen. Yoel Strik, commander of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Homefront Command, Lengyel's trip here is his first since assuming the National Guard's top job in August.
On Tuesday, the US four-star observed a large-scale exercise in Israel's northern theater of operations, where emergency responders trained in alerting and assisting civilians threatened by Hizbollah's arsenal of nearly 100,000 rockets and missiles beyond the border with Lebanon.
"As part of the very strong institutional and personal ties between the National Guard and Homefront Command, we are sharing information during routine times and, of course, during emergencies," Col. Ariel Blitz, Homefront Command's commander of Civilian Defense, told Defense News.
According to Blitz, Lengyel's delegation was briefed on latest technologies and procedures, including the locally-developed Personal Alert, a service which provides individual warning straight to one's smart phones, and a brand new National Alert, a central command and control system that activates and sends alerts across the full spectrum of Homefront Command warning channels.
"We're continuously improving our platforms and procedures, and this is of interest to our American friends," said Blitz, who recently returned to Israel after three years as liaison to the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
"They understand the severity of the threats we're facing from rockets and missiles; and they're interested in how we've managed to provide very accurate, almost pinpoint warning to civilians in distress," he added.
Developed by Netanya, Israel-based Evigilo, the software-development house for Homefront Command, the new National Alert system is a multiyear program worth tens of millions of shekels, said Lior Shalev, company chief executive officer. Evigilo delivered the system to IDF users earlier this summer, and it is now undergoing intensive field evaluations.
"Today, when it comes to Homefront Command technology, in one way or another, we're there," said Shalev.
On a recent visit to Evigilo headquarters, numerous uniformed personnel from Homefront Command were working alongside the company's civilian staff.
Retired Maj. Gen. Ami Shafran, a former director of the IDF General Staff's C4I Division, serves on the Evigilo board of directors. He noted that Evigilo capabilities have been proven to save lives in Israel – where its Personal Alert system operated reliably over 50 days during the 2014 Gaza War – and in Chile, where a National Alert system warned civilians of a 2014 tsunami.
"The first thing that the president of Chile said in a press conference after the tsunami was that the messages went out in time and undoubtedly saved lives," Shafran said.
And while Evigilo – Latin for "Be Alert" – has big plans to tailor its mass notification capabilities to other market sectors, Shafran insists that the company remains principally committed to its anchor customer in the IDF.
"The business opportunities and spinoff applications are vast. So as we cultivate these new markets, we remain dedicated to meeting Homefront Command needs of providing the most reliable early warning to support the citizens of Israel," he said.
Retired Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, a former IDF chief of staff and former Israel Defense Minister, is chairman of Evigilo's advisory board. In a recent interview, he, too, cited myriad industries that would benefit from the firm's precise mass notification system.
"First and foremost, Evigilo is committed to savings lives by providing essential early warning. But there's also a vast market out there for other purposes; and this company is unique because of its life-saving experience with the IDF," Mofaz said.
Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at www.opall-rome.com.