Ups and Downs Mapping the West Bank

We’ve become mappers in the West Bank.


It happened so quickly and easily but it’s not all that surprising — these are sharp young engineers! But even though I preach that OSM is easy and open to everyone, somehow I still think it’s a bit too complicated. So when these guys just start getting it full on, I realize how much the OSM approach rocks. It’s awesome! “Awesome” is one of the words we’ve exchanged with the Palestinians. Other slang: our meaning of “Killer” wasn’t really understood here. I’m not really keeping up my end of the bargain by learning any Arabic.

Banksy, not the wall

Such a turn from just a day earlier. Friday was our first day for editing, and the lab of windows boxes started restarted randomly. Turns out Kaspersky Anti-Virus is the most evil software ever, actually shutting down the computer if the license had expired. I about lost it, something so stupid disrupting our mapping. Totally dispiriting. The locals were way more laid back, having to deal with way more serious things then this on a daily basis. Cooler heads prevailed, the evil software was uninstalled, and our facilities looked ok. Things could only go up.

Jazz Band in  Beit Sahour

After a much needed beer (Bethlehem has a large Christian population of course, so easier to get a drink then other parts of the Arab world) we traveled to the neighboring town of Beit Sahour. Watched a great jazz band bang out a few tunes (“this one is for all the Palestinian women in Israeli jails”) in a the old part of Beit Sahour recently renovated by a full suite of NGOs and UN agencies, into a lovely intimate gathering place, lined with the lovely white stone adorning all the buildings here.

Military Based transformed into Park, Playground, Hospital

Then dinner, invited by the mayor of Beit Sahour, in the municipal park, part of the amazing Oush Grab project. Land that had been held by the Israeli military (and prior to 1967 by the Jordanian army) was abandoned and redeveloped by the local munipcality, with areas to barbecue, play sports, and children’s playgrounds. Adjacent to the park is an area planned for a hospital. Wandering around the playground, I was delighted to see grass, swingsets .. and then I realized, I’m walking around totally delighted by a playground! And the fact is, this kind of facility is so crucial to normal life, so taken for granted, but very very exceptional in this place. Military base transformed into a playground, dinner with great company and great food .. totally refreshed and restored my enthusiasm for our work.

JumpStart and friends

If I get a chance before leaving Tuesday, we’re going out there to fly some kites, take pics, and do detailed mapping of that place.

7 thoughts on “Ups and Downs Mapping the West Bank”

  1. Nice work! I’m very interested to hear what comes of it.

    Related thought – I have somewhere a huge book of old aerial photography (I think the British RAF took survey photos before WW2). Would it be worth approaching the people behind that book to get such old imagery up in some form of map server, so it can be overlaid with ‘what happened next’. For example, the book documents some villages which no longer exist….

  2. A good set of map data is of high importance for the redeveloping of war areas. Palestine have been battered again and again for so long that I doubt there is any good official survey data available (except for military maps parhaps, which might be graded material), so equipping young palestinians with GPS’s and sending them out to survey their own neighbourhoods sounds like a smashing good idea.

    Whenever I get myself a new GPS, I gladly donates my Garmin eTrax to any palestinian willing to survey for OSM

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