When the seemingly useless Yo app raised over a million dollars from investors, it raised a couple eyebrows.  That’s because the app enables the sole function of sending the word “Yo” to other people who also have downloaded the app..yes, that’s pretty much it.  Initially, it was taunted as useless and frivolous (no idea why), a testament to how ridiculous and nonsensical our techie generation has become. Recently, however, the app has found a way to make itself useful and not remind everyone of how sad and pitiful our generation is.

As reported by The Times of Israel, the app is now being used in Israel to notify residents living in potentially dangerous areas about incoming rocket attacks from Hamas. After weeks of increased rocket fire from Gaza, Red Alert teamed up with Yo in an effort to reach a wider audience in Israel while the conflict continues.

Co-founders Ari Sprung and Kobi Snir launched Red Alert: Israel after increased rocket fire into southern Israel from Hamas in 2012, resulting in Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, out of fear that not all residents would be able to hear the emergency sirens that go off whenever Israel detects an incoming rocket sent by Hamas.  Now fast forward two years later, and Israel is once again drawn into yet another conflict with Hamas, with rockets from Gaza striking the country daily.

As co-founder Sprung told The Times of Israel, the app “has turned into a way for people throughout Israel and around the world to show their empathy for Israel.” Indeed, it has proven so.  More and more people from outside Israel, especially those who have friends and family members inside Israel, are downloading the app to their phones. To show solidarity with Israel, but also to be in the know of the security situation of their loved ones.

Whenever Israel detects an incoming rocket, a warning is sent out. The app streams this warning to other people with the downloaded app in the form of a siren sound, replicating the ones heard in Israel. However, because people are not charged for the app, with support coming strictly through donations, the app has faced some difficulties in reaching their desired audience capacity. For example, the app can be downloaded on Android phones only in Israel because it is stored on Israeli servers for the Google Play app store. Despite the financial drawbacks, the alert app is gaining in popularity everyday and allows for a stronger human connection between Israelis and people who empathize from all across the world. If you have a phone that can support the app, download it and gain perspective on what it’s like to live the routine of your life in the midst of war.

Contributed by intern Alexander Dumanis, a student at UMass-Amherst.

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