"Edit War" over Jerusalem - meeting with East Jerusalem mappers

Hi all,

tomorrow (Wednesday, July 27th) a meeting will take place between Israeli and East Jerusalem mappers.

Apparently, the East Jerusalem mappers complained to OSM that the default rendering of the node “Jerusalem” (http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/node/29090735) on the main mapnik layer is in Hebrew, and it is prominent even on lower zoom levels (because it is tagged as “capital”). The name tag of the node had previously been being changed back and forth (see history). I am not exactly sure WHY the current state of affairs constitutes a problem for East Jerusalem mappers (I can only guess), so the aforementioned meeting (organized and mediated by a third party representing OSM Foundation) will try to settle this “Edit War” (sic.)

If anyone wishes to take part, please contact me via private messages. It is important not to ignore this issue.


The meeting is taking place at the Independence Park (http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/way/4705691), today at 7.30 pm.


In the meanwhile, name: tag has been removed from Jerusalem node.

Sounds to me an extremely odd decision.

For sure its a odd decision. You can not just remove a capital city from OSM because its more highlighted than other places around !?!?!?

In yesterday’s meeting it was agreed that there will be two nodes, Jerusalem in Hebrew and whatever they want in Arabic (I suppose they will choose Al-Quds and tag it as capital). We didn’t know that by the time we began the meeting, the name: tag has already been removed from Jerusalem. I personally think that this is a violation of good conduct - hear the parties before taking any action, however temporary.
The two nodes will be displayed equally on all zoom levels, this will be worked upon by the mapnik team.

I am going to send an email to the Data Working group asking that the name be returned. I urge you to do the same (also perhaps starting a discussion on general OSM forums might be a good idea).



Are we seriously thinking of declaring AlQuds as an capital city of a country that doesn’t exist at this moment? Just because it is not shown in MAPNIK in the same highlight as other places?
I’m just speakless! And belive me, that I’m really not the person beeing against a palestine state!

please suggest a OSM forum for this topic… and we will continue to discuss there? maybe the official mailing list?

Google Maps:

They claim it is their capital. Obviously it is wishful thinking - they don’t have any official representatives and/or control there.

I suspect that all this thing with OSM is another instrument in their political struggle.

I strongly suggest that you send an email to the OSMF Data Working group: data@osmfoundation.org to force a public discussion of this. Some of them have already responded to my email, so we need to gain momentum.

In the meanwhile, see here:

Notice that all cities in neighboring Arab countires are shown in both Arabic and English, while the ones inside Israel+PA are shown only in English.

Sorry for not posting earlier.

Here’s my view of things.

We were 2 “Hebrew Language Mappers”, and 2 “Arabic Language Mappers” (to be as politically correct as possible…)

The 2 Hebrew Language mappers were dimka and myself, each have a few years experience mapping in OSM.

The 2 Arabic Language mappers were not actual mappers. They’re not even registered in OSM, and never mapped, and don’t know the basic stuff like: node, way, relation, tag, value, etc.

But we reached an agreement pretty fast (maybe 5 minutes)

They accepted my proposal:

We’ll have 2 nodes.
The first is Jerusalem in Hebrew, west of the green line and the old city,
and another node named Al Quds in Arabic, east of the green line and the old city.

Both nodes will have similar tagging (place=city, capital=yes)
Personally, I don’t care much about Arabic mapping east of the green line.
If someone wants to map Al Quds as their capital - I won’t interfere.

Personally, I care about the data integrity in the OSM database, and less about a particular renderer.

However, Mikel, who’s the head of the Data Working Group (an OSM Foundation body that regulates the data in the database) said that the Mapnik renderer is important,
and if we don’t solve this issue, then things will be kept as is.

The issue that he wanted to solve was: Which name would show in Mapnik low zoom level.
(Note: At low zoom level you see “Gaza Strip” and not “Israel”, and I don’t see Israeli mappers raising this issue as Mikel raised the Al Quds issue…)

I had 2 suggestions, which were accepted by the Arabic language people:

  1. Find a way to show both (as if they were in the same node)

  2. Don’t show any.

Mikel said that he needs to check these technical issues with the Mapnik developers, and until they solve this technical issue, then things will stay as they are now:

Hebrew Jerusalem doesn’t show. Its name tag is deleted, and if anyone adds it, then they will be banned from OSM.
(Mind you, the current Al Quds node has a name tag, and it’s showing, so things are not really equal right now…)

I suggested to put a date for resolution, as the Mapnik developers are volunteers, and we can’t expect them to have a quick resolve of this technical issue.
Mikel refused to put a deadline. He acknowledged that it could take many months. I expressed my dissatisfaction, but I’m in no position to tell him what to do.

He said that when he thinks that it’s been taking long enough, then he’ll reopen the issue, and we’ll have to come up with a new agreement.
Which is strange, as we already agreed.

I really don’t know what to do right now.

I don’t like this situation, as there is an agreement on the data. There’s no “mapping war” (and there never was a mapping war! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t believe that there should be a city node with Hebrew Jerusalem west of the green line)

I really have no idea why the Data Working Group interfered in this situation, and I have less of an idea why Mapnik was brought to the table.


Hello everyone

Mikel here, the guy who is honestly trying to make OSM better for everyone. I’m happy to post here about what’s going on, there’s definitely a lot to talk about. Let me just say I’m travelling tomorrow, so might be delayed in my replies.

First of all, I did not start this issue myself, but only was made aware of it, and offered to help after understanding the issue. This is not my personal interest, and honestly, if East Jerusalem mappers would’ve been happy with the previous state of things, I would definitely had not gotten involved. They did not want to continue the dispute in the database, so I arranged a meeting. In fact, the first meeting we had, this was only supposed to be a minor note to a general conversation on mapping here.

The short story right now is that we reached an agreement on Wednesday, and I’m working quickly to see it implemented. The DWG was asked to place the same name tag restriction on the East Jerusalem node as on the Jerusalem node. They have not done so yet, and I’ve just sent an urgent reminder to DWG to do this. I’m following up on the rendering with the mapnik developers … if you’ve seen that thread, it’s a tricky problem, but Dane is taking it very seriously. He’s one of the brightest and most dedicated devs out there, so let’s give him a chance.

No I didn’t agree to a deadline to get the agreement implemented, and in retrospect I should have. It was a lengthy, difficult meeting, and I was admittedly short of patience at the end. I’ve already said so to dimka in a private thread. Let’s say 6 weeks to do this; and hopefully much quicker.

Let me clarify, I am not the head of the DWG. I used to be, but stepped down 1.5 years ago. The OSM wiki has been updated, and the OSMF wiki right now is unresponsive, so I can’t change it. Even if I had been involved in the DWG now, I would have excused myself from any decision making by the DWG, because I had been so involved in the mediation.

The rendering is important to the East Jerusalem mappers. It’s very important to many OSM users. The mapnik rendering is a resource provided by the OSMF … so there’s a responsibility there equal to the data. The rendering is not important to talkat, and dimka told me it is important to him. In the discussion last week, I had to make very certain that everyone understood what they were agreeing to. talkat and dimka have interpreted this as me pushing an agenda, and that is totally incorrect. Patience and care is needed, especially with complicated issues, and my only goal was to make sure everyone understood.

The East Jerusalem mappers are OSM mappers, but newer mappers, and not especially technical people. The OSM community should welcome people who want to learn more, not invite criticism because they “don’t know the basic stuff”. And the reason for this whole this is not “another instrument in their political struggle”, but their desire to make a map that everyone wants to contribute to. Residents of East Jerusalem wanted to see this reflected on the map. Jerusalem is a complicated place obviously, hence the meeting and the difficult decisions.

So like I said, happy to discuss more and clear up any misconceptions and concerns.


Update: the node in the East has had the name tag dropped and warning attached. http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/node/299937491

Hello Mikel,

I really don’t know where this discussion came from, but it is like it is. Currently we have the first real discussion on this kind of thing ever! A editing war ?!?! This topic says enought.
And that just because OSM tries to help and removes a capital of a country from OSM that is more highlighted than another place. Of course I think this step is strange and a kind of political.
Too political to just remove it, because somebody totaly outside of OSM and never probably mapped anything claims that the current rendering of just one renderer is not fully what they would expect.
By removing it from OSM you are removing it from all OSM people and renderers and OSM Maps around the world!

  • Nobody have claimed that the Gaza airport is on this zoomlevel so big that its covering two diffent courntries:

  • Nobody claims about the Gaza phenomen that talkat wrote about before.

  • And talking about the mapnik renderer we have no fix for the right to left languages rendering issues for Israel and all Arabic states for years and those bugs are still open.

Personally I also don’t understand how we can define capital cities without any kind of political background.
Currently there is no state of Palestine (maybe there will be in September that is maybe accepted by the UN). So there is also no capital city of this state.

If the street starts with the housenumber 2 and there is no housenumber 1 in this street you would also tag it this way in OSM.
You would not tag housenumber 1 and skip it. You would tag what is currently a fact of the current situation.
Currently Jerusalem is the capital of just one country. And don’t understand me wrong: I’m personally not against or for the suggestion to make Jerusalem a capital of a future Palestine state.


Beside that (and please don’t take it personally) you have visited some years ago the palestine area and did a great job with a several palestine mappers in that area.
Having this in my mind I would personally say that this whole situation stinks a little bit.

Besides the two Arab speaking amateur mappers there were other people on their side. One of them was Elaine Moller from Grassroots Jerusalem (http://www.grassrootsjerusalem.org/ushahidi/), another one was Micha Kurz, founder of the organization called “Breaking the silence” (http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/) - extremely controversial figure in Israeli society with a clear political agenda. Many believe its final goal is deligitimization of Israel in the eyes of the international community. I am sorry to finally bring the politics unconcealed, but it was inevitable. Had I known beforehand that he is participating, I would have declined the meeting.

The role of others - I don’t know exactly. Mikel - do you care to enlighten us who these additional people actually are? And why they were participating in the discussion? Are they mappers? I would really like to know. (Notice how the map on the website above is centered at Jeruslaem. They must have probably been very unhappy with Hebrew in the center of it).

Now if somebody convinces me that all the pretext isn’t political, I’ll eat my hat.

I am sorry, but this is unacceptable to me. I came to OSM not because of politics, and don’t want to be forced into it.

Mikel, I was really starting to believe you are impartial with this, please don’t disappoint me. You can threaten me by banning etc., but if the Jerusalem node is not reverted back, I will not keep this just inside OSM but would take it to organizations whose political views are quite opposite of those from Breaking the Silence. OSM would surely not gain any points from this.


By the way, I’m very curious why the tile

doesn’t get updated despite continuing attempts to submit it for re-rendering (http://c.tile.openstreetmap.org/16/39183/26663.png/dirty). And why the status is “clean”, despite the fact that Al-Quds shouldn’t be displayed there.

For me, OSM is about making common data available to everyone. Where data is under dispute, OSM is not the place to resolve it.
Please don’t try to resolve political disputes here, bring your political agenda, or threaten to involve politics.

I did not attend the mentioned meeting, and I might be behind on a thing or two. It only helps me focus on what is important for me here, hope you share my view.

My suggestion is to resolve it by setting the rules, sticking to the reason OSM is here. From the previous posts, seems like we are letting the political agenda (ours or not) set the rules. Let’s stop that.

So how disputes should be handled? Democracy is for the common good, but what do we do when there’s no agreement?
The fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel (perhaps not internationally recognized, but for the majority of Israelis it certainly is) is common data which should be made available via OSM, is it not? Doesn’t the attempt to conceal this fact bother you?

But I didn’t invite Mr. Kurz to the meeting, did I? Also, it was I who was implicitly threatened in the first place by Mikel to be banned if I touch the name: tag of the Jerusalem node.
The rendering issue was not brought in by us at all, both talkat’s and my primary concern is about the data. I was at a loss to explain why they care so much about the rendering, and now I understand why.

I absolutely share your view. You probably noticed that my activity within OSM is aimed at improving the map and not political at all. But I felt that I couldn’t ignore this specific issue, that’s why I came to the meeting.
You think that it is better not to notice? And let actions like removal of name: from Jerusalem be carried out without our participation?

How? What rules? Come on, make real propositions that we can discuss.


Update: it’s now OK.

So why the DWG acted impatiently and removed name: from a node which hasn’t been touched for over half a year?


The problem here seems to be, that the people that would like to create new facts are caring only political and do push the correct buttons.
On the other side, you see israeli power osm mappers, that do care about correct data without taking too much care about a rendering engine. And we do not that much care about politics.

so you see that we are not taking it into the politicals. Its osm that took political concerns and created new facts- then asking what need to be done to solve the conflict.
As we heared before there was never a osm editing war! never!

I agree with dimka that we should take this very seriously.
If we dont find a way to solve that in a neutral way we will have to active our political activists.

i, as a osm mapper dont want to be involved in such a messy discussion.
And i think osm should also keep out of it (what will be hard after deleting first)

In that case, I would be very happy if someone from the DWG would step forward here, and explain the recent actions that were taken by the DWG.

I would be happy to know whether anyone from the DWG would be willing to defend the current status (city west of the green line but without a name), and say that the data we have now in the OSM database is factual and 100% correct.

In the beginning of the meeting you (Mikel) said that “OSM is like Wikipedia, but without editing wars because we have facts, and there’s no dispute that there a street here (pointing at Agron street)”

However, in your actions you deleted a fact (that the city in the west of the green line is named Jerusalem), and that’s a big issue in terms of the data.

Mikel, you approached the DWG, and there was no discussion.
The DWG haven’t heard both sides. They only heard you, presenting things as you see them.
Remember, you admit that you “had been so involved in the mediation”, so let’s try to make things more fair, and let the DWG hear mappers with different opinions.


Hi everyone

Well a lot on the plate here. Can you guys just calm down a second please :slight_smile:

dimka, Mr_Israel, I said we’re moving on this. Why not have a little patience? Why are you making threats? Just take it easy.

The role of others - I don’t know exactly. Mikel - do you care to enlighten us who these additional people actually are? And
why they were participating in the discussion? Are they mappers? I would really like to know. (Notice how the map on the
website above is centered at Jeruslaem. They must have probably been very unhappy with Hebrew in the center of it).

These were folks from Grassroots Jerusalem. They introduced themselves at the start of the meeting, you missed this because you were late. They are mappers and are teaching people how to map. You call them “amateur” mappers, and actually that’s right … anyone involved in OSM is an amateur by definition, we’re not supposed to be elitist.

You hit it on the head dimka. There were unhappy with only Hebrew name of Jerusalem on the map. They feel the Arabic name (and they mean Al Quds) should have equal prominence. They were really not pushing for a particular solution in the data … it would have been fine to also just give the name tag both Hebrew and Arabic, as it has been made in the past by Esparanza and others. But talkat objected to this, and it was talkat who proposed the solution of two capital nodes, and that’s we got to.

Yes, their primary concern is a rendering one, because if that rendering issue is solved it allows them to more easily involve more people on the East side. This is just practical, not political. You don’t have to believe that, but really, all they are asking for is Al Quds in Arabic on the map, as well as Jerusalem in Hebrew. Or Jerusalem in English. But not only Jerusalem in Hebrew. Yes, we’re talking about the rendering here.

  • Nobody claims about the Gaza phenomen that talkat wrote about before.

  • And talking about the mapnik renderer we have no fix for the right to left languages rendering issues for Israel and all
    Arabic states for years and those bugs are still open.

Mr_Israel, both legitimate. If you guys aren’t happy with how Gaza Strip is rendered, there’s an easy fix and I wouldn’t expect any complaints. As for RTL languages, I dearly hope this can be fixed. The first need is actually some test cases … can you show examples where the rendering is incorrect, and the goal for what it should look like?

The fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel (perhaps not internationally recognized, but for the majority of Israelis it
certainly is) is common data which should be made available via OSM, is it not? Doesn’t the attempt to conceal this fact bother

dimka, there is no attempt to conceal this. There is only desire to show both names of the city.

Also, it was I who was implicitly threatened in the first place by Mikel to be banned if I touch the name: tag of the Jerusalem

I didn’t threaten you implicitly. It’s explicitly in the decision of the DWG.
Now you’re threatening to be purposely disruptive. Are you sure you want to do that?

Jerusalem is an edge case to everything. Why not let the process play out, and then we can move on and get back to mapping?


I’ve just received the following answer to my email message from DWG:

At least we have “two-something” solution after all. Or don’t we? Let’s finish this now.

Who will answer from the other side?