Yuval Keshtcher

Israeli entrepreneur creates 'Swords of Steel' database for missing persons amidst Gaza war

Yuval Keshtcher's platform allows families to search for missing loved ones, following the rise in missing persons and casualties since Hamas’ surprise attack on Saturday.

Since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas on Saturday morning, the unprecedented magnitude of destruction has only begun to be felt; the infiltration of hundreds of Hamas terrorists into Israeli kibbutzim and cities, the murder of more than 800 Israelis including civilians, the abduction into Gaza of unknown numbers of hostages, including women, children, elderly, and entire families.
The harrowing events of the last two days have seen Israelis of all walks of life contribute and volunteer in any way that they can, with people across the country opening up their homes to displaced citizens from southern communities, collecting clothing, food and other necessities for them, and lining up at hospitals to donate blood.
Like so many Israelis, Yuval Keshtcher woke up on Saturday to the sound of rocket sirens. However, once he turned on the TV he quickly realized that this situation was unlike any other with “terrorists infiltrating the border, conquering kibbutzim, slaughtering people, burning them alive. We understood that something really crazy was going on.”
Keshtcher is an entrepreneur and founder of several companies including UX Writing Hub, an online UX writing bootcamp based in Israel, as well as a former combat soldier. He no longer serves in the reserves and was looking for a way to contribute, utilizing his skills and expertise.
“I thought to myself, how can we do a quick hackathon and think of solutions to our current problems?” Keshtcher realized that there were many people like him with tech backgrounds looking for ways to contribute, and began brainstorming with them via Whatsapp.
“There was so much chaos due to the surprising nature of events. We understood that there were lots of missing people, especially from the rave, and lots of Whatsapp groups for missing people. The first thing that I wanted to do was try to organize the chaos.”
Thus, “Swords of Steel,” named after the Hebrew name for the current war, was established, an online database where people can make inquiries regarding missing persons since the outbreak of hostilities, and search for loved ones. Working together with a small group of volunteers, Keshtcher and Stav Charkham, an entrepreneur and product manager, built the website on Saturday morning, only a few hours after the outbreak of the war.
The platform went live on Saturday evening and by Sunday morning it had crashed due to traffic following an article profiling the platform on Geektime. “I went to take a nap when there were 100 inquiries, and when I woke up there were 700, and it’s just grown and grown,” says Keshtcher.
There are now almost 3,000 inquiries, but Keshtcher notes that there are multiple inquires for the same missing person, requiring time to update and consolidate the data. They are working with Zaka, voluntary community emergency response teams, both to contribute data in identifying bodies and to update their platform. They have also shared their platform with the military to help provide as much data as possible.
Keshtcher, who has personally received hundreds of messages from people looking for loved ones as well as looking for ways to contribute, says that he feels extremely anxious like everyone, but that it “helps to be helpful.” He adds that he hopes to use the database to provide volunteering opportunities to support bereaved families and civilians in the future.
“We have high morale and we came to win. Everyone in this country is a fighter.”
You can find the link to the “Swords of Steel” platform here: https://swordsofsteel.org/