Tourists "visit" Gaza sites from Tel Aviv streets

Fri Oct 16, 2009 4:12am EDT
 
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By Sangwon Yoon

TEL AVIV (Reuters Life!) - Itai Shimon stood transfixed, with his mobile phone pressed tightly against his ear, listening to descriptions of the enormous crater of debris that had been a 10,000-seat soccer stadium in the Gaza Strip.

"Let's walk in through the gates of the national football stadium and the home of the Palestinian football team. In the dead of night in April 2006, the stadium was bombed by Israeli fighter jets," says the voice in his phone.

But Shimon is not in Gaza. He is in Tel Aviv "meta-touring" the Palestinian enclave with You Are Not Here (YANH), a "platform for urban tourism" offering users virtual audio tours of cities in conflict zones to foster understanding.

The Gaza Strip, controlled by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, lies on the coast about 75 km (45 miles) south of Tel Aviv. Israel is blockading the territory and Israelis and most foreign nationals are forbidden from visiting.

You Are Not Here, a play on words of the map marker 'you are here', was first launched in 2006 by Israeli artist Mushon Zer-Aviv in New York, allowing people in the city a virtual audio tour of Baghdad.

He partnered with Gaza-born journalist Laila el-Haddad to launch a Tel Aviv-Gaza version.

Users of www.youarenothere.org download a double-sided map, featuring Gaza City on one side and Tel Aviv on the other. The map features 20 sites in Gaza City.

They can then visit the corresponding location in Tel Aviv and dial a free number on their mobile phones to listen to a description of the Gaza site.   Continued...

 
<p>Israelis hold their double-sided maps against the sun during their virtual audio tour of Gaza in Tel Aviv, in this undated picture released by You Are Not Here (YANH). YANH, a "platform for urban tourism", offers users virtual audio tours of cities in conflict zones to foster understanding. Users of YANH download a double-sided map, featuring Gaza City on one side and Tel Aviv on the other. They can then visit the corresponding location in Tel Aviv and dial a free number on their mobile phones to listen to a description of the Gaza site. REUTERS/YANH/Handout</p>