The IOF recently published an article about an orienteering project in Palestine (http://orienteering.org/map-project-in-palestine/), around the village of Battir in the West Bank. It made for interesting reading, but the last paragraphs are frustrating:
“After converting the orienteering map, Hervé Quinquenel hoped that someone could take the orienteering project in charge, but sadly he could not find anyone competent and motivated enough in the area. The hope is not lost though:
– My dream is to find someone that could bring orienteering to life in Battir certainly, but also in the surrounding areas. Imagine the old cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem for the World Orienteering Sprint Championships. They would surely be incredible places, exclaims Hervé Quinquenel.”
Battir (the blue circle on the map) is located right on the official border between Israel and the Palestinian Autonomy (the dashed line). Just across that border, 1 km to the north, is the map of Yad Kennedy, which has been used several times for orienteering events. Even closer, to the west, is the forest of Mavo Beitar, which was partially mapped in 2007, until the Czech mapper Tom Novak was attacked and injured by Palestinians (apparently trying to steal his car) and quit the job. He hasn’t returned to Israel since. Last week there was an orienteering event in Efrat, a Jewish settlement within the occupied territories, just south of Battir. And of course there are several maps in the western part of Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, unless there is a major change in the situation, there is little chance of cooperation with the orienteers in Battir. For us Israelis it is considered unsafe to travel into Palestinian villages, while they would need special permits to cross the border into Israel. There are several organizations that promote relations between Israelis and Palestinians and could probably set up some sort of cooperation, but someone would have to get them involved.
Meanwhile, we can dream. And maybe the next time we visit Roni’s relatives in the village of Ora, just north of Battir, I’ll open up Hervé’s map and a pair of binoculars and try some armchair orienteering.