Thursday, February 26, 2009

Hebron Lives

While it's been a challenge to coordinate our work using between OpenStreetMap tools and data produced as ESRI shapefiles, we have developed the necessary protocols to get this done.

Although the Hebron region (in the south of West Bank) was the first place to be mapped when we started operating in December, it was taken offline for editing and has been missing from our server for a month. We continue to work on the data offline to properly classify and identify the roads, but today we put the road system up on our FreeMap server.

Developing the data offline from our various resources has proved to be greatly efficient, and we have nearly completed the road system for the Tulkarem and Qalqiliya regions in less than a week.

Hebron roads (not classified)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ramallah Ramallah

Five weeks ago we moved our field teams from Hebron to the northern cities of Jenin, Nablus, and Ramallah. During this time they've worked with local volunteers and university students to map those districts. Within a week we expect to complete the field work in each of these regions, with the four smallest of eleven districts remaining. Our editors have been working with data collected from various partners, and we've begun to establish road systems at an excellent pace. This makes our field work much easier and more efficient, as the teams in the north need only to collect detailed waypoint data, verify roads, and identify missing road information.

Ramallah road system

Thursday, February 19, 2009


After signing an agreement last week with Atlas Corporation, we've begun to work with their existing road and waypoint data for the whole of the West Bank. Our editors in Bethlehem are hard at work organizing and updating the data, and are putting a system in place for coordinating with our field teams around Ramallah, Nablus, and Jenin.

Yesterday a team went to Qalqiliya (west of Nablus, adjacent to the wall with Israel) to get field work initiated there. Boundaries and borders continue to define our work. Mapping Qalqiliya was neither plan A nor plan B, but our intention to get started in the region just north of that area was delayed by the closure of the road and reports of arrests.

One JumpStart employee lives in Hebron but is working at the PCBS office in Ramallah. This morning she was unable to come to work due to the closure of Hebron checkpoints. It's not easy to move around in the West Bank, though we've been fortunate not to have progress hindered tremendously.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Partnership Agreement with Atlas

Today we finalized our agreement with Atlas Corporation to get their shape files for the West Bank in exchange for updating them with recent satellite imagery and field surveys. Atlas Corporation is a private company, the largest land survey and map-making company in the West Bank. We approached them a month ago with this idea and after obtaining a sample of their data and updating it for them as an example of our work, they were happy to approve the deal.

Even though adding this new data load to our already demanding timeline does not make things easier for us, it makes JumpStart's map much more accurate and improves our map-making protocol for future endeavors.

Jamal Jumaa, General Manager of Atlas Corporation, and Christopher Weaver, Program Manager for JumpStart

Monday, February 9, 2009


As we're now about halfway through mapping the West Bank, it's a good time to look at what we've accomplished. We have
  • >> created over 1200 job opportunity days in the community
  • >> mapped Hebron and its villages, Jericho, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Jenin
  • >> employed approximately 20 mappers
  • >> partnered with the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem to utilize their satellite photography and to help train our editors in ArcGIS
  • >> partnered with Relief International to access their computer labs around the country and train their volunteers in mapping techniques
  • >> partnered with Atlas Inc. to obtain and update their existing road map data
  • >> partnered with the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics to allow our mappers to access to the Palestinian Authority's maps to acquire official street names
  • >> begun working with volunteers from the GIS department at Al Najah University in Nablus
We expect to have a "rough draft" of the data completed during the next month. March will be dedicated primarily to editing and finalizing the data, and verifying information acquired in the field.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Back to Nablus

by Sarah

We went back to Nablus this weekend to evaluate some new mapping methods that will better our ability to cooperate with our partner organizations, ARIJ and ATLAS. The JumpStart team and volunteers have been mapping there for weeks, and on Saturday a dozen new volunteers came from the GIS department at Al-Najah University. The day went well, although a major difficulty was reached as we asked the mappers to take photographs of major buildings. Nablus folk were understandably wary of teams walking around with GPS devices, taking photographs, and writing notes, and the volunteers found they could not walk 100 meters without being stopped and asked what they were doing, why, and who they were. The solution JumpStart found is to provide them with identification cards as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately on Monday the suspicion of our mappers turned into a problem, as a pair of the GIS students were put in jail by the Palestinian police. They were quickly released after we were able to speak with the mayor, however operations will be slowed for a couple days while we communicate with the Nablus mayor and Palestinian Intelligence.

Returning from Nablus was long again, with an aggravating three hour wait at the checkpoint. We found it a good time to work on our laptops and connect to the free checkpoint WiFi, which was somewhat oddly available. “Nice, free internet… we should come back some time,” Jeff said.

The check points make the moving around a challenge, between cities and sometimes between villages. The soldiers, often victims themselves of pressure from their backgrounds, are often aggressive physically and psychologically, making life difficult for Palestinians and serving as a continual reminder that they’re under occupation, that they are not free.

There are around 630 check points in the west bank, usually made of some blocks of cement with a barrier, sometimes ditches, a cabin, barbed wire and some soldiers. There are even mobile check points that change position when they feel like it. “They want to surprise us!” commented Majd with a smile.

Children often sell chewing gum or other things to the cars waiting in the lines, in some check points they help bring people’s suitcases from one check point to another for a few shekels.

I admire the people here, I’m proud of them, when I see them stand up for what they believe, rebel to injustice, so often in nonviolence, demonstrate, perseverate, (one small but big example, here in Beit Sahour, since the beginning of the attacks on Gaza people have been meeting every day in the square at 6 pm with Palestinian flags and black flags in grief around a fire).

And we learn. Sure, coming from a cultural and social contest like ours in the west, it becomes difficult to understand, so we listen, we share, we ask, and once we identify and start to live the life here maybe we can understand a little, just a little, that feeling of impotence and frustration too, that strength that grows inside – “it’s probably the same feeling that superheroes feel in front of injustice,” I was telling Anas and Jeff yesterday after 3 hours and a half in a check point, "cause we all have a conscience".

When you see that you can make a difference in something or somebody, however small, you can’t pretend nothing happened. The hope for a better world is alive, but it must be fomented through concrete effort, and it starts from every single one of us, starting from everyday life, in Europe, Canada, America or wherever, from the way we spend our money, our attitude towards the weak and the marginalized, from the way we relate with other cultures and different religions… from our way of living in our world. For a different and more fair world, but if we don’t change direction and we don’t pass to new models that consider equality and justice in every level, it won’t be possible, but this, I repeat, starts from us.