Mapping brings to light the realities of spatial control, identifies issues of shared concern and provides the knowledge necessary for community members to connect, coordinate and resist.
Grassroots Jerusalem amplifies community voices by collecting stories and personal histories for online interactive maps and use in related initiatives. Information is collected and produced with partner organisations and projects through a series of community-based, capacity building workshops. In so doing, we engage partners through grassroots movements and local leaders and ensure that activities are participatory and follow a bottom-up approach to change.
In line with this, all of the information Grassroots Jerusalem collects and produces is available on the website for all to use. The website is designed to act as a virtual platform for Palestinian community leaders and active members to meet, to share knowledge, coordinate actions and resist the occupation - together.
In an age in which most maps are produced through satellites and computer generated algorithms, cartography is often viewed as an objective discipline that has overcome the political biases of its past. The case of Palestine, however, serves as a powerful reminder that modern maps remain a long way from objective and often, in fact, actively perpetuating colonialist practices.
Current tourist and textbook maps of Jerusalem consistently serve an Israeli colonialist agenda by not displaying Palestinian neighbourhoods and villages, as if they do not exist. Israeli cartographers often place the Israeli Parliament and government buildings front and center on maps while small-scale maps highlight Israeli commercial zones, promoting both the Israeli tourist economy and government.
Moreover, street names, public buildings, and landmarks are gradually re-labeled by Israeli authorities with Hebrew names. Textbook maps - used in schools, to inform political debates, or for tourism and historical references - serve the historic Zionist narrative regardless of on-the-ground reality. In other words, they represent the Palestinian areas as “a land without a people, for a people without a land.”
On the other hand, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) designs and provides a variety of maps to International Non-Governmental Organizations. The UNOCHA maps leave the West side of Occupied Jerusalem blank and unrepresented and do not display the Palestinian neighbourhoods and villages displaced during the Nakba of 1948 nor the Israeli colonies which replaced them.
None of the maps mentioned above nor many other available maps today appropriately represent Jerusalem the way Palestinians understand and experience the city. Many of the millennia or centuries old Palestinian communities of the Jerusalem district do not use relatively new terms introduced by modern colonialism such as ‘West Jerusalem’ and ‘East Jerusalem.’ These are not geographic references, but ethnic (East = Palestinian, West = Israeli), yet even these are inaccurate considering the mixture of populations in some areas. Furthermore, the ancient communities do not consider Jerusalem or the Jerusalem District to be defined by municipal borders, the Annexation Wall or the Oslo Accords.
Aiming to fill this gap, Grassroots Jerusalem provides Palestinians in Jerusalem with the tools to reflect their city on the map, preserving not only its Arab identity but also its shape and borders.
Amplify tools for Jerusalemites to tell their story: their history, their reality, and their vision and aspirations for Jerusalem. These tools include storytelling, mapping, media and social networks.
Map resources available for Jerusalemites to mobilise around their issues of concern and to turn their aspirations for their city into actual reality.
Make knowledge, information, maps and other resources we map available on our online platform for Jerusalemites to access and use. This platform is designed to be run and updated by communities and developed according to their needs and goals.
Grassroots Jerusalem has developed The Real Map of Jerusalem, the first and only community-based map of al-Quds, Palestine's capital city! Within you'll find a map of the entire Jerusalem District, zoomed in views of Jerusalem's economic and tourist center and another including only the Old City. We also have included contact inforamtion for 78 Palestinian organizations to help you responsibly connect with and support the grassroots movement across Jerusalem that is daily resisting the occupation and imagining alternatives.
Purchase it below for only $5! While you're at it, you can also check out Wujood: The Grassroots Guide to Jerusalem!
Watch a short introduction to mapping in Jerusalem by Valentina Carraro, GIS and Cartography Intern at Grassroots Jerusalem, November 2014 to March 2015.
Extracted from the conference: "Reformulating development geography changing communities" held on 24 March 2015 at 10:30 a.m. (GMT) at the Berrill Lecture Theatre, The Open University, Walton Hall Campus, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. No infringement intended.
To download the corresponding slides click on the image below.