“Well, obviously,” he replied. “4square and its mayorships are the equivalent of marking one’s territory.”
“It’s not about religion or politics for me,” Ross said. “It’s just the technological realm. I could imagine, if they make a version in Arabic and Hebrew, people maybe wondering, ‘How is it possible this Jewish girl is mayor of Al-Aqsa?’ But I’m kind of an anomaly. I have a lot of types of friends—Arabs, religious Jews, soldiers, police…”
Despite being “very open-minded socially,” however, Ross—who is above draft age but still applied and “would drop everything” to serve, considers herself right-of-center when it comes to defense. “I’m cool with everybody but don’t mess with my nation. As long as you don’t try to kill me or my people, I’m okay with you.”
Asked whether she’d relinquish her Al-Aqsa mayorship if Muslims objected, she said, “They can just take it from me. If they go there often enough and join the website and check in, let them have it. But I’m not going to just give it up just because someone has a problem with it. My Muslim friends aren’t offended. They laugh. It’s like, ‘Oh, Ariela…’ That’s just who I am. It’s my personality to do things that are against the grain.”
So far, the local Arab community has been slow to embrace the new platform—”I don’t see any Arab-language locations on 4square in Jerusalem at all,” Abitbol noted. Still, he said it seemed “inevitable” that the territorial disputes that have been ongoing in the region for so long would play themselves out on the new application.
In fact, the technology may well introduce some new areas of disagreement. “The obsessives cheat,” Abitbol explained. He added that Ross had defriended him on Foursquare after he questioned several of her Al-Aqsa check-ins that he said occurred at times when the mosque was closed to non-Muslims. She says she removed him after a fight about her religious beliefs.
Still, Ross admitted to some minor fudging. She said her personal rule is that if she visited a location and couldn’t get wifi, it seemed kosher to check in later that day. As to her disputed Al-Aqsa check-ins, she said she has a lot of friends on the police force in the Old City. “I can pretty much get into any location I want to at any hour, because of the people I know.”
Interestingly, there’s no word yet on whether the Israel Defense Forces have gotten hip the new application. Military authorities recently used Facebook to prove that nearly 1,000 women who’d avoided the draft by claiming a religious exemption were not as pious as they seemed-updating on Shabbat?-but “I doubt they have a policy on 4sq yet,” Abitbol said. “Basically, if you’re on a mission behind enemy lines, it’d be really dumb to check in.”
He added, “Shlomo Jewstein is now mayor of Gaza City!”