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Miki Wainstein, manager of the Blue Wave Tashoot, a sailing club and school in Haifa, Israel, on April 16.Nathan VanderKlippe/The Globe and Mail

To a person who knows what to look for, the shape of water slipping past the rudder into a sailboat’s wake can indicate speed, a skill that can feel like an anachronism. Who, after all, needs to use such a rudimentary technique in the information age?

“For most sailors today, we know how to trust the GPS,” said Miki Wainstein, the Haifa manager of Blue Wave Tashoot, a sailing club and school.

That trust, however, has been broken by a war that has for many Israelis fractured a bedrock of modern life. It is a minor inconvenience next to the enormous death toll of the past six months, but one that reflects the changing nature of warfare and the real-world consequences of cybermeasures in conflict.

From the early days of its war with Hamas in Gaza, Israel’s systems for jamming and spoofing GPS signals have made satellite navigation impossible for the country’s south and north, the latter bordering Lebanon and the immense stores of rockets maintained by the militant group Hezbollah, which, like Hamas, is backed by Iran.

GPS jamming and spoofing are meant to frustrate the ability of drones and other projectiles to find their targets. In recent weeks, the threat of attack from Iran has brought much more widespread navigational confusion, with cellphones in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere also reporting that their users were situated in distant, improbable places. For some, it was Cairo. For others, it was the Beirut airport.

The disappearance of a reliable GPS signal has become for many Israelis a source of social anxiety and even danger. Ambulances have lost their way. On the water, sailors without GPS fear drifting into live-fire zones that are marked on maps but not on the waves.

Then there are the many ways that unreliable GPS has eroded the functions of modern life, a source of frustration that has raised questions about how much disruption is tolerable.

Mr. Wainstein no longer buys gas with an app that relies on location to start the flow of fuel at the proper pump. He doesn’t know whether the internet ads he buys are being displayed to people in the right places. Fear of getting lost has kept him close to home.

“If I want to drive to Tel Aviv or something today, I can’t,” he said. “I won’t do it.”

Across Israel, meetings have been cancelled because people weren’t sure they would be able to find the location. Food has gone undelivered. Prospective dates have withered with the realization that apps had matched Israelis with people who, in the real world, were on the other side of a practically impenetrable international boundary, such as the one between Israel and Lebanon.

The advent of GPS for consumer use is a recent phenomenon – the first Google Maps app was released in 2008, and that service didn’t reach iPhones until 2012 – but it has given rise to entirely new industries. It has also altered humans’ perception of the world around them and their place in it, said Dror Globerman, a broadcaster and technology podcaster.

“We’ve lost this very natural ability to locate ourselves and to navigate somewhere else,” he said.

He finds “awkward enjoyment” in the moment of human helplessness now facing many Israelis. “It’s kind of the punishment we deserve” for being so reliant on GPS, he said.

To cope, some have transformed phones into onscreen maps, using turn-by-turn directions without a live location. Others have returned to the way things were.

“There is a rise by hundreds of per cent in the sales of maps, atlases and similar items,” said Inbar Parnas, the chief marketing officer for Tzomet Sfarim, the second-largest bookseller in Israel.

The dispatch system used by United Hatzalah, a volunteer-run ambulance and emergency medical service, allows personnel to tap a button to receive directions to a call through Waze, the Israeli-developed map app that is now owned by Google.

But that’s of little use when GPS spoofing tricks the phone into thinking it is hundreds of kilometres away. First responders have raced to commit streets to memory, and response times have suffered, sometimes dramatically.

“It has put people in danger,” said Raif Hayoun, a medic with the ambulance service.

Other drivers are losing time and money. Herzel Levi, 73, now takes several days to deliver what might previously have taken one.

“It’s screwed up my life completely,” he said.

On the streets of Haifa, he regularly fields questions from people who moved to escape violence in the country’s north but are now lost without GPS in an unfamiliar city. “Everybody is angry,” he said.

Aviation and shipping have made their own adjustments.

Commercial aircraft stopped using satellite-based navigation in Israel after Oct. 7. Instead, air-traffic controllers direct their movement using radar to determine their location, a pilot with Israeli airline EL AL said.

Companies at the Port of Haifa installed ground-based sensors several years ago to provide precise location operation to crane operators after Russian forces using GPS jamming in Syria began to interfere with container handling, a person familiar with the port’s operation said.

The Globe and Mail is not publishing the names of the pilot or the person with knowledge of the port because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The new technology has protected the port from recent GPS outages, but it also illustrates the scale of vulnerability.

“Iraq is spoofing. Jordan is spoofing. Saudi Arabia is spoofing. Even Iran has been spoofing GPS in its area for the last month,” said Harel Menashri, who formerly played a key role in cybertechnology with the Israeli Security Agency, better known as Shin Bet, and is now the head of cyber at the Holon Institute of Technology.

Tests on commercial drones have shown that GPS spoofing is “very effective,” he said.

But the weekend attack by Iran showed that Israel, working with military forces from the United States, Britain, France and Jordan, was able to shoot down all the drones before they entered Israeli airspace. Only a few ballistic missiles, which are not reliant on GPS, landed in Israel.

That has many wondering whether Israeli GPS jamming is worth it.

Dr. Menashri said yes: “If you think it has some percentage of benefit to save lives, you do it.”

Other Israelis, however, have grown unhappy enough to look at technological fixes.

Gefen Altshuler, a 22-year-old software engineer, is working on an alternative that determines a phone’s location using WiFi signals and triangulation from cell towers. That capability is already built into modern smartphones but not typically accessible to users.

Ten volunteers signed up to help after local media reported his idea. “A lot of people are frustrated,” he said.

But Mr. Altshuler cautions that a land-based system offers neither the precision nor the speed of GPS. It’s unlikely it will work while driving, for example.

He has himself resorted to less digital measures to get around: He has called his mom when he needs to drive somewhere, he said, “so she can navigate.”

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