I met a friend of a friend from the internet today to do some cross-border mapping. We started in the Old City, where she hadn’t seen, getting suitably caffeinated for the walk to come. I took her to Shufat camp, as it’s not currently well mapped in the OSM dataset, and it’s a profoundly different place than Jerusalem, despite being less than 10 miles away. The change from Jewish West Jerusalem to Arab East, and then to the camp itself, is really striking. Language, religion, politics, and government services all shift over a short distance. We talked about the discontinuity as we walked around gathering road and point data.

Ein Kerem Panorama

Then we did a total turn around, and went to the “artists colony” at Ein Kerem. The tranquility of the lush valley hides an ugly past. It was an arab village that was “abandoned” in 1948, or so a resident said, making sure to point out that there wasn’t a massacre here as there was at Deir Yassin only a few miles north. But whether or not there was physical violence, people did not leave these beautiful houses without reason. The very reason the town has so much charm, and is now becoming trendy, is due to the vanished occupants. Those same families now live in places like Shufat, so far from their old homes.

Temple Mount
Herodian column

After that jarring experience, we decided to go for the full Zionist kick at the Western Wall tunnels. She had another friend who met us there, and we were wowed by the multimedia-archaeological spectacle. The tour guide expounded on the glory of King Herod’s engineering feat: leveling the top of Mt Moriah, the center of creation and the spot where Abraham prepared his son for sacrifice, and building upon it a glorious temple. The tunnel follows the western retaining wall of the temple mount, which is far longer than the small “wailing” section reveals. There are some massive stones down there, bigger than those used in the pyramids. Although, it was built 2000 years after Giza with Roman techniques, so let’s not get too excited.

Damascus Gate
Qalandia backup

I bid my new friend adieu as she went to the airport, and I headed back to Ramallah. There was a long wait at the checkpoint while the rush hour traffic cleared. There’s no actual check going out of Israel proper into the West Bank, but there was a backup nonetheless. Went out for drinks with other internationals, and discussed the relative dependence of Palestine on NGO funding over many rounds of Taybeh beer. The taste of the revolution, indeed.