Palestinian citizens become agents of change in their own community in East Jerusalem

The Palestinians living in East Jerusalem pay the same taxes as the Israeli citizens. However they are living under an Israeli discriminatory law which means that the Palestinians are not receiving the same level of services as Israeli citizens in terms of basic infrastructure, education and housing.

©Louise Skaarup Sellau
Students participating in one of Grassroot Jerusalem's mapping workshops.

Thousands of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem have been demolished by the Israeli authorities and people are continuously forced out on the street.
The Israeli occupation of Jerusalem also means that the official maps available to the community of Jerusalem are all from an Israeli perspective; e.g. the names of the streets are in Hebrew.
Since 2011 Grassroots Jerusalem has been working on mapping the streets and communities of Jerusalem with the correct names.

Mapping the streets of Jerusalem

In these weeks Grassroots Jerusalem is holding a series of 5 mapping workshops targeting 17 students from the communities of East Jerusalem, where they are going to map two communities in East Jerusalem; Wadi Al-Josh and Sheikh Jarrah. At the workshops the participants discuss and develop ideas on what kind of map they will design, e.g. a tourist map, holy sites map etc. as they are receiving training in how to map the streets of the communities.
By using a participatory approach the workshops are designed to develop capacity of the students to become active citizens in their own community: “By mapping Jerusalem the participants become the voice of their community” says the workshop coordinator Amany Khalifa from Grassroots Jerusalem, who explains that the power of the mapping workshops is that the participants are empowered to show how they see Jerusalem. The maps therefore reflect the people of the community’s vision of Jerusalem and its future.

Creating agents of change

The aim of the mapping activities is to develop an online map, where community members continuously add historic landmarks, street names and new developments e.g. house demolitions, new settlements etc. in order to document violations of the Palestinians' rights in East Jerusalem.
The mapping therefore represents a key tool in creating change on the ground. Amany Khalifa explains: “Through mapping workshops the Palestinian community members become aware of their own power as individuals to become agents of change – they are getting inspired and start asking themselves how they can do more in reclaiming their history and rights”. In that way the workshops ensure that the Palestinian story and vision of Jerusalem will be represented in the future.

A strong and united Palestinian community in East Jerusalem

The workshops are taking place at Markaz Al-Kul; a center that Grassroots Jerusalem established in 2011. The center provides local Palestinians, grassroots organizations, human rights defenders and community leaders with a platform where they can shape how they see the future of Jerusalem: “The power of Markaz Al-Kul is that it is a safe, quiet and equipped space that provides activists with the tools and resources they need to execute their actions. It is a workspace and meeting point for anyone active in the Palestinian community who needs a free, comfortable and quiet sanctuary where they can think and plan” says Manar Idris from Markaz Al-Kul.
By Louise Skaarup Sellau, communication employee at DanChurchAid in Jerusalem