The first time I was in Israel and the Palestinian Territories was July of 2009. (When I first met Waze).
Humanitarian mapping hero, Mikel Maron, asked me and Josh Levinger to host a cross border mapping party from Israel to the Palestinian Territories. Josh was already staying in Ramallah and I was eager to confront misguided assumptions created by Western media.
The result is a tour of Shu'fat Camp just across the border of East Jerusalem. The gps traces are on OSM, images and stories on Platial but is compiled here in Google Earth. This region is particularly interesting for those of us curious about borders; social borders, perceived borders, invisible borders, intimidating borders, physical borders. We'll be studying this simple few mile stretch and its border history for a long time to come. Its in border spaces that social mapping can be the most relevant. Geographic borders are untidy but the reality of cultural borders is a total and charming mess; dynamic, evolving, varying in size and shape based on interest, hobby or economics. So there are no distinct cultural boundary lines even where governments try to impose with walls, military and propaganda, but regions whose unifying interest has not yet have been uncovered. Social mapping can expose common ideologies, familiar places, ideas and perspectives so may be a tool for society to society diplomacy. Or more humbly, better neighborhood integration and shared resources within a single city. Each map created through border spaces becomes a bridge; an artifact to unite and identify sides.
Since it is very difficult for Palestinians and Israelis to cross borders, it seems important to put a face on what seems culturally remote. Its important to see the similarities as well as the differences; there are butchers, bakers and citizens living their lives. Our conversations and our travels can be inclusive.
I'll write more on this in other places but I wanted to share the work. Josh noted a project I had missed which was the Tourist Map of Gaza. Its a nice combination of maps for GIS Day and highlights neogeopgraphy as modest enabler of cultural diplomacy.