Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | February 8, 2017

Popping the Bubble

This weekend I had the privilege of going to EcoPeace’s EcoPark in Ein Gedi along with a group of 22 Israeli teenage youth water trustees. Working in the office in Tel Aviv, I was becoming worried about getting stuck in a bubble where I’d see the issues that EcoPeace deals with, the talk of a peace solution, and most importantly, the future generations that they inspire, as separate entities, as hypotheticals. But being on the ground, amongst those kids, seeing the issues first hand, and witnessing them bond with people who would usually be seen as ‘the other side’ brought to life for me how real and how vitally important EcoPeace’s work is.  sophie-photo-for-blog-1

When we arrived the kids immediately threw themselves into the outdoor activities, and, worried about a language barrier, I threw myself into the fresh pita and tahini and my role as photographer. But, being the inclusive and outgoing people that they are the kids pulled me over and insisted that I join their team for one of the games. Being cheered on in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, is an experience I will never forget.

This same spirit of inclusivity carried over into dinner where they showed me videos of their favourite singers and tv shows, and tried in vain to teach me how to dance. It’s clear that no matter the language I’ve got two left feet, but if my terrible dancing could give them all something to bond over then maybe it’s a blessing after all.sophie-photo-for-blog-2

The next day they got to practice being environmental leaders by leading discussions and presentations on a nature hike. Despite not understanding a lot of what they were saying, it was clear that they were all passionate and invested in the future of the environment in the region. The walk not only exposed me to the incredible landscape of Ein Gedi, but it was also a great opportunity to talk with a lot of the water trustees, to learn about their lives and their aspirations to be doctors and singers and teachers, to laugh, sing, and compare languages.sophie-photo-for-blog-3

Growing up in England and America all of the news surrounding Israel is bleak. It’s rare to see any sort of good-news story about the region, and if there is one it’s usually viewed as a ‘feel-good’ fluff piece on a slow news day. If you’ve never been here it’s easy to be pessimistic about the area based on what’s served up as pure fact. It should be mandatory for anyone with this mindset to go on a trip with the Youth Water Trustees. These kids are incredible. Firstly, most of them can read and write in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, that’s not just three languages it’s three alphabets. Nobody needs to worry about the intelligence of our future leaders. Secondly, they’re invested in the issues that really matter. They were there to talk about the Dead Sea and its lack of water, it didn’t matter to whom or with whom they were giving presentations, just that they could make a difference to their environment. The presence of different peers certainly factored into the experience but it wasn’t the defining point of the trip, and the normality with which they treated their friendships amongst each other was incredibly heartening to me. Thirdly, at the risk of sounding cliché, they’re all just normal teenagers. On Friday night we turned the music all the way up and had a dance party. We talked about boys and added each other on Snapchat as if we were in any other part of the world. So I would say to anyone who’s never been here: the future is filled with incredibly intelligent, relatable, people who are perfectly capable of putting biases aside to deal with the real issues at hand. It gives me a lot of hope which you should have too.

Written by: Sophie Clark

Israel and the Palestinian Authority Re-establish Joint Water Committee

As many of our supporters may know, we have spent the past few years, via our Water Cannot Wait campaign, highlighting the lose–lose implications of prevailing water arrangements between Israelis and Palestinians. Though all the details have yet to be made public, the Joint Water Committee is now being re-initiated under njwc-water-dealew terms. This will help advance on-the-ground water supply and sanitation solutions to improve the livelihoods and environment for Palestinians and Israelis alike. The agreement however, still falls short of our objective to reach an equitable agreement on the fair and sustainable management of shared water and environmental resources.  An equitable agreement will have a transformative impact that will contribute to the building of trust and confidence between the parties. Read more about these developments here.


Regional Conference Proceedings

conference-proceedingsIn November 2016, EcoPeace held its annual regional water conference entitled “Water Security and Sustainable Development for our Common Future” in Jordan, as reported in our December newsletter.  The full Conference Proceedings are now finalized, including transcribed speeches and links to presentations and videos of all sessions.  They can be viewed here.

 

 National Teacher’s Seminar in Jordan

Our Amman office organized a National Teacher’s seminar at Sharhabil bin Hasseneh EcoPark  from January 5th to 7th with seventy teachers participating in the event.  The teacher-seminarseminar focused on best methods for knowledge transfer of environmental issues to students. Teachers shared experiences of working with students and were presented with the EcoPeace’s Resource Guide for Environmental Education’s methodology on how to raise awareness on water issues. With the help of our Community Coordinators, they became familiarized with the systematic approach of the guide before actively participating in activities outlined in the text.

 

Chinese Students’ Visit

chinese-groupOn January 17th our Community Coordinator from the Alexander Stream took a group of 60 students from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Beijing University on a tour in Emek Hefer. They were introduced to the issues that face the Alexander/Zomer Basin, and to EcoPeace’s activities in the Basin. Students were also given a presentation on cross-border environmental initiatives.

 

 

Youth Water Trustees at Ort Mekif Aravi Ramle School

youth-trustees-2On Monday, January 23rd, 37 students of the Ort Mekif Aravi Ramle Youth Water Trustee’s program inaugurated a new hydroponic system on the school’s grounds. All students will be able to use the system as a tool towards understanding water conservation and conducting experiments as part of the school’s environmental studies course. During the ceremony, the students described the system’s design to the National Environmental Studies Supervisor, Ms. Sarah Zaoui.

 

Then, on January 24th, Youth Water Trustees went on a field trip to the Yarkon Basin as part of the Good Water Neighbors Project. The day began with a tour of the Shafdan youth-trustees-1wastewater treatment plant, where students learned about reclaimed water. The plant currently treats 370,000 m3/d of municipal wastewater from a population of over two million in the Greater Tel Aviv area and uses its secondary effluent as irrigation water in the arid southern part of Israel. The group later visited Seven Mills in the Yarkon Park, where they learned about the history of the basin from the late 19th century until today, and visited the nearby constructed wetlands to learn more about the Yarkon Rehabilitation plan.

 

Honoring Jordan’s National Tree Planting Day

she-eventOn January 15th Sharhabil bin Hasseneh EcoPark hosted an event in honor of Jordan’s National Tree Planting Day under the patronage of His Majesty King Abdullah the II. Her Royal Highness Princess Basmah bint al Hassan led the event with the planting of a carob tree. The crowd was also fortunate enough to hear the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Khaled Huneifat, speak about SHE’s current reforestation initiative.

 

Attendees included the Governor of Irbid, representatives of the Jordan Valley Authority and the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, as well as many volunteers. EcoPeace Middle East is overjoyed that our EcoPark has received the attention of such influential figures, who will hopefully aid us in our next aim of registering the park as a Special Conservation Site.

Excerpts of Australian Intern Steven Brine’s Experience in Auja

auja-intern-1“…After years of watching countless stories of political conflict in the Middle East, I was amazed by the severity of the region’s environmental crises, the inspiring work of EcoPeace Middle East, and the enthusiasm with which Mr. Bromberg spoke. As Mr. Bromberg was whisked away by Departmental officials, I managed to briefly convey my admiration for his work. “Why don’t you apply for an internship?” he replied, “We’d take you tomorrow…”

 

“…  My experiences on these first few days would be repeated throughout my time in the Jordan Valley, continually eradicating any pre-existing expectations I may have had. I gradually began to understand a complex and contradictory atmosphere of cooperation and tension between auja-intern-2communities. On the one hand, the structural constraints of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank were unmistakable. On the other, cross border cooperation and coexistence inspired hope of change. …

 

“… Auja EcoCenter was a remarkable facility to learn about the region’s challenges  I wish Auja EcoCenter every success in the future in sowing the seeds of change in the minds of the region’s youth, and shining a light on local issues to its foreign visitors. Most of all, I wish for lasting peace, justice and prosperity in a land that means so much to all.”

 

To read more about the Auja EcoCenter, visit their website. A full account of Steven’s experience can be viewed on our EcoPeace blog

EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbors project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and USAID West Bank/Gaza.


Keeping the Dead Sea Afloat (in the news)i24-interview

This month, EcoPeace staff gave a full day tour of the state of the Dead Sea, its environmental challenges and its proposed solutions to journalists from i24 news, for their debut broadcast in the U.S.   EcoPeace aims to keep the ecological crisis of the Dead Sea on the front burner of the media’s attention.

Keep an eye out for their broadcast.

EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, including faith-based activities, are supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation.

 


 EcoPeace Washington DC Internship Opportunity

4.1.1EcoPeace is looking for interns to work in Washington DC in conjunction with our newest initiative: the Center for Water Security. This initiative works on expanding our work globally, taking our knowledge of practical consensus building around environmental issues to other crisis-stricken, troubled, and water-scarce areas.

 

The Center will offer training, educating, and consulting services to civil society organizations in different regions around the world with the goal of empowering civil society to resolve and respond to conflict issues over shared water resources.

This minimum 3 month internship is an opportunity for high-caliber international students and young professionals to gain first-hand experience in the emerging field of environmental peacemaking, as well as providing support for EcoPeace’s ongoing projects and programs.

More information on this internship can be found here.


 

Stay Tuned for our New Website!

EcoPeace is finalizing our new and modern website in the coming weeks.  Our new address will be http://www.ecopeaceme.org and will go online sometime in February.  Stay tuned!

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Upcoming Events:

EcoPeace will be an exhibitor at the annual J-Street Conference, February 25th-27th.

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DON’T FORGET!

Help Support EcoPeace through Amazon Smile

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Now, when you shop on Amazon, you can help EcoPeace receive 0.5% of the price of your purchase by using Amazon Smile. It’s an easy way to donate to EcoPeace!

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | January 30, 2017

Reflection on my experiences at Auja EcoCenter

My journey with EcoPeace Middle East began with a chance encounter with a friend who alerted me of Gidon Bromberg’s upcoming presentation at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. After years of watching countless stories of political conflict in the Middle East, I was amazed by the severity of the region’s environmental crises, the inspiring work of EcoPeace Middle East, and the enthusiasm with which Mr Bromberg spoke. As Mr Bromberg was whisked away by Departmental officials, I managed to briefly convey my admiration for his work. “Why don’t you apply for an internship?” he replied, “We’d take you tomorrow.” As the various arrangements fell into place, I soon found myself on the tarmac at Sydney Airport aboard a Turkish Airlines flight bound for Tel Aviv.

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Although some family and friends believed they had seen me for the last time, I arrived in Israel at the beginning of Shabbat amid an atmosphere of tranquillity. The drive to the city of Jericho was equally majestic as the car descended below sea level surrounding by sweeping barren sands and jagged mountains. My experiences on these first few days would be repeated throughout my time in the Jordan Valley, continually eradicating any pre-existing expectations I may have had. I gradually began to understand a complex and contradictory atmosphere of cooperation and tension between communities. On the one hand, the structural constraints of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank were unmistakable. On the other, cross border cooperation and coexistence inspired hope of change.

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Auja EcoCenter was a remarkable facility to learn about the region’s challenges. After all, it was in the Jordan Valley, rural, Area ‘A’, adjacent to a major Israeli highway, in proximity to Israeli outposts and visible from Jordan. Under Mahmoud’s supervision, I understood the complex political and ecological reality. Mahmoud’s gifted ability to convey the everyday reality to visiting groups provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop a robust understanding of concepts learnt in the classroom back in Australia. Some of the most valuable conversations would occur late at night over coffee on the front porch of the Center, as the moon ascended over Al-Salt’s glimmering lights in Jordan.

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The Auja Spring was a valuable water resource that allowed me to understand local water management issues. Auja’s residents conveyed stories of how the Spring had been depended on for generations, and had gradually dwindled through overconsumption.

Excursions to Bethlehem, Nablus, Jericho, Jerusalem and Amman provided a 360-degree perspective that enabled me to comprehend the severe water shortages faced by millions and collective sense of injustice.

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Time after time, people welcomed me with open arms. A 20-minute meeting with Jericho municipality turned into a 3-hour tour of the city’s water infrastructure. These instances were not isolated and I constantly encountered the kindness of locals.

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As the sun sets on my time in Auja, it is worthwhile to reflect and give thanks to Mahmoud, Mohanad, Ahmed and Nufus for their wisdom and hospitality. I wish Auja EcoCenter every success in the future in sowing the seeds of change in the minds of the region’s youth, and shining a light on local issues to its foreign visitors. Most of all, I wish for lasting peace, justice and prosperity in a land that means so much to all.

Written by: Steven Brine

 

 

 

 

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | January 23, 2017

A life changing summer

When I found that I had secured an internship with Friends of the Earth, Middle East and will be stationed in Jordan for the summer, I was really excited. This would have been my first time in the Middle East and I was looking forward to experiencing an all-new culture and learning about a completely different part of the world. Little was I aware that this summer would turn out to be one of the most enlightening experiences of my life. I will be saying less when I say that summer 2013 will always remain close to my heart.
When I told my friends and family that I was spending my summer in the Middle East, everyone’s first reaction was “That’s crazy!”. I guess, my desire to live the crazy life helped me secure what turned out to be the best experience of my life.
With English as my only medium of communication, I gladly packed my bags and hopped on to a flight from US and landed in Amman, the Capital of Jordan. Only when I arrived here did I actually realize that I had a challenging

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summer ahead of me in the Middle East! With constant support from the EcoPeace-Friends of the East, Middle East’s (FoEME) staff and unconditional love and welcome from the people in Jordan, my experience only got better with each day. Living in a country, surrounded by two countries having their civil wars going on, it was truly a very overwhelming experience. Having shared a roof with a few Syrian and Palestinian refugees and hearing their stories of how they had to flee from their country, quitting their education was heartwarming and overwhelming at the same time. However, this experience helped me overcome my inhibitions and associate with people from different nationalities, practices and religious beliefs.
When I was told that at FoEME, I shall be working on South Asian Cooperation Movement, a climate change and disaster risk mitigation effort to promote sustainable water sharing over the Hudiara drain between India and Pakistan, I gladly accepted it. Having given the responsibility to write a grant for this initiative, I learnt of the various catastrophic effects of climate change that have been affecting both the nations. Though it was overwhelming experience, it drew my commitment to climate change more than ever. I was involved in this project with people from different nationalities: namely Indians, Pakistanis, Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians. This initiative was a great life experience, which
taught me to appreciate and cooperate with people from different communities representing different interests, yet aimed at collective development. I have never visited Pakistan, but had always heard it is a beautiful country and places like Karachi and Lahore are definitely worth visiting. I always imagined Pakistan to be very similar to Lucknow, a Nawabi city in India and expected to see some of the beautiful architecture with the arches and red sandstone monuments in Pakistan too. I somehow believed that Pakistan and India were pretty much the same nation just divided by territorial limitations. Otherwise, both countries essentially shared the same undercurrents, ancestors and history. In spite of such an intertwined existence, the idea of writing a grant proposal for Indo-Pak collaboration and peace building was a challenging thought. However, little did I know that “Seeing is Believing”, one of the objectives of the Climate Change Initiative was truly going to change my outlook towards things. I saw a very implicit underlying connection between Jordan, Israel, Palestine, India and Pakistan. Even though Jordan, Israel and Palestine were greatly influenced by the Greeks and the Romans while India and Pakistan were influenced by the Mughals, I was able to see how the architecture, food, language, clothing, culture and beliefs seemed to be all stemming from a similar ancestry. It felt like all these aspects have branched out from the same tree, picking up variations along the way, incorporating new cultures and civilizations only to become more unique and  beautiful.

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While in Jerash, Irbid, looking at a small piece of carving, which highly resembled the carvings on the walls of temples of South India, I felt a rush of belongingness flow through my veins. In that moment, what struck me made me believe in my cause more strongly than ever before.

If Jordan, Israel and Palestine could share similar food, architecture, monuments, ancestry, cultural beliefs and language with India and Pakistan, then why can’t India and Pakistan follow Jordan, Israel and Palestine on lines of environmental cooperation and build amicable ties over water resources, similar to what the Middle East adopted under FoEME’s guidance? Jordan, Palestine and Israel are known to be mother of all controversies and problems and in spite of the acrimonious past, these countries are peacefully involved in the Good Water Neighbor’s project. This should be taken as an inspiration by India and Pakistan to initiate peace building efforts. With an encouraging mentor like Yana, who was always willing to provide insightful guidance at all times and constant help and empathy from Abeer, my experience at FoEME was made very memorable. I was able to overcome all the difficulties that I faced in settling in and at work. Our Director of Amman office, aka ‘Boss’ was very welcoming and was willing to help the interns in any way possible to make their stay in Jordan comfortable.  I made very good friends with my co-workers, Abdullah and Hana whom I was directly working with besides having struck an amicable relationship with every staff member in the office.
Another experience I thoroughly enjoyed was the henna party that I attended at Dana’s (my co-worker and very good friend) cousin’s wedding. Attending this ceremony, I was able to witness the traditions of Jordanian weddings and see all the beautiful women adorned in the most exquisite attire. It was a fun and memorable night that I shall always cherish.

Along the course of my work, I got an opportunity to go on many field visits to communities of South Ghor, North Shouneh, and South Shouneh. Interacting with these communities on various issues was a very enriching and fun experience. It was enriching because, this was the first time I was involved in community based work where I got to interact with community leaders and discuss their issues and find probable solutions to their problems. I learnt a lot about the Middle East and the Arab culture and have grown very fond of it. I also managed to learn a little bit of Arabic, “ shweiya shweiya” to be precise. It was equally fun because we used to drive through the scenic Jordan valley for each field visit accompanied by my amazing colleagues, and of course, I got to finally witness the miraculous Dead Sea! Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful water bodies I have ever seen!

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The field visit to SHE Eco park was however one of the highlights of my stay and my favorite field trip. Spending an entire day amidst nature made me feel closer to myself than ever before. Walking on the trails, looking at the Beduin camps and seeing the solar installation was very impressive. FoEME has done an excellent job at preserving nature and bringing it to man kind at its untampered best.

Outside of work, I was able to do a lot of travelling over the weekends. Petra, Wadi Rum003 and Wadi Mujib are by far the three most enigmatic places I’ve ever visited in my life.  Over the three weekends that I spent in these places, I felt close to nature and developed a lifelong bond with strangers whom I met during the travel. Besides being a life changing experience, it has made me realize how much I enjoy doing community related work and has made me believe in this cause.

My fellow interns and also my roommates were a vital part of my stay in Jordan. I have built a very special bond with Brittany and Eddie and they feel like family to me. During our little struggles, multiple adventures and learning experiences, we were together in it all. I shall forever retain this bond with them and hold on to the memorable experiences we had together in Jordan.

On my last day at work, I was given a T-shirt signed off by everyone and got the opportunity to take a group picture. Undoubtedly one of the sadder days in Amman, as I was leaving that day. But I know for a fact that I will definitely go back to Jordan one day as the country has mesmerized me. I have nothing but positive things to talk about the country and feel like I have found a second home there.

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My experience in Jordan and the Middle East has been life changing one. I left the country with a new spirit and deepened passion to make a difference to the world.

I was amazed by King Abdullah for believing in peacemaking efforts, I have due respect for Queen “Laila” for saying “Educating a woman is educating a nation”, I am surprised by the awareness and efforts Jordan is taking towards Environmental issues. The
beauty and expanse of the country and all the enigmatic adventure travel has a lot to offer to its tourists. I am still in awe of the Arab culture.
To end, I would say that summer 2013 has been by far the best summers of my life and forever shall remain close to my heart. I hope I can retain this passion to do meaningful work and make a difference to the world.

Written By: Anusha Lagannathan

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | January 22, 2017

Community coordinator regional staff meeting – 16 January 2017

This week’s meeting at Auja EcoCenter provided an opportunity for EcoPeace Middle East’s community coordinators to enhance the skills that have enabled them to successfully implement their grassroots campaigns.

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Once everyone had arrived, EcoPeace Middle East’s co-directors outlined some recent achievements, including advocacy efforts that doubled Gaza’s water supply and renewed the Joint Water Committee.

EcoPeace’s Jordanian Director, Munqeth Mehyar addressed the considerable opposition that community coordinators face when striving to convince the public of the need to collaborate with one another. “What do we do in this situation?” asked Mr. Mehyar, “We face them by emphasizing that regional cooperation to protect the environment is in the best interest of everyone!” he added.

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EcoPeace’s Israeli Director, Gidon Bromberg then illustrated the organisation’s core values with the same enthusiasm that has secured countless achievements over 23 years.

Next, participants engaged in Mohammad Biadsi’s, community coordinator for the Hadera/Abu Nar basin, outdoor training (ODT) activities, which highlighted the importance of planning, communication and patience to ensure that collective efforts continued to produce results.

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The day concluded with planning sessions that provided community coordinators with the tools to ensure their regional cross border activities were successful.

The day’s events stressed the indispensability of working together to promote cooperative efforts that bolster the region’s environmental sustainability and advance the common desire for peace.

 

Written by: Steven Brine

 

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | January 15, 2017

January 1, 2017 – EcoPeace Middle East Environmental Peacemaking Newsletter:

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND SEASONS GREETINGS TO ALL OUR READERS

Join us in wishing that 2017 will be a year of peace, prosperity and good health!

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 EcoPeace, KAS and INSS – Water Conference

inssIn cooperation with the German foundation ‘Konrad Adenauer Stiftung – Israel’ (KAS), and the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), EcoPeace Tel Aviv held a roundtable event entitled “Can Water Bring the Political Process to A Safe Shore? Water Issues; from Source of Conflict to Vehicle for Regional Cooperation and Stability” at the INSS, in Tel Aviv.

The event brought together Israeli water experts and international stakeholders to discuss the benefits of moving forward on water, and included panel discussions together with the keynote speech by Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation, Ayoub Kara.  One of the conference’s highlights was a statement made by Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen, Head of the EU Delegation to Israel: “We’ve spent too much time promoting an Israeli-Palestinian solution that is all or nothing, (…) We have got to revise our approach to the peace process, which would allow us to address the issue of water and a number of other issues also (…) What we need to do is build up basic confidence on the ground through an approach of small steps.” This change of approach has the potential to bring about new and more effective policies to advance the resolution of Israeli-Palestinian water issues.

Click on the hyperlinks for a video of the speech made by EU Ambassador Faaborg-Anderson, and for a Jerusalem Post article about the event.

 We thank our long-standing partners KAS and INSS for assisting us in creating the occasion for such a needed discussion.

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Jordan River Regional Tour Guides Training in Jordanjr-tour-guides

EcoPeace’s Jordan River project held its 3rdCome Together at the River” training in early December.  These regional trainings aim to bring together pilgrimage and religious tour guides from Israel, Jordan and Palestine to acquire a greater understanding about the regional context of the area’s rich sites, highlighting the case of the Jordan River and sacred religious sites associated with it.

Alongside visits to several sites along the eastern bank of the Lower Jordan River, participants were introduced to the Jordan River’s rich cultural and natural heritage. EcoPeace staff also explained the impacts that human actions have had on the shared water resources of the region, and how people – even visitors and tourists – can participate in efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River. Participants were encouraged to discuss the role of tourism and how sharing the stories of the Jordan River Valley, ancient and modern, can inspire others to care for its protection.  Click here for a Facebook photo album of this training.

EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, including faith-based activities, are supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation.

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Cross Border Regional Youth camp youth-camp-she

A regional youth camp took place at our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan as part of the MEDFORVAL Project Program. Participants from Jordan, Israel and Palestine had the opportunity to gain and share knowledge about Forests Protection and Biodiversity. On the first day, after engaging in social activities, participants learned about the unique bio-geography of the region. On the second day they went on a lengthy tour of the EcoPark and learned how to undertake an ecological survey witnessing first-hand the EcoPark area’s habitats and biodiversity.  On the last day the group was taught how to differentiate between exotic and endemic species.

Women’s Empowerment at Kaser el Yehudgirls1

A group of Israeli female ‘Water Trustees’ came to meet Palestinian female ‘Water Trustees’ at the Kaser el Yehud baptism site on the Lower Jordan River.  The girls were divided into 3 groups, and each was assigned to study a different time period of the River: past, present and future.  The ‘historians’ learned that the water in the River Jordan was once so abundant that boats were lost in its strong flow! The group researching the present saw pilgrims at the site being baptized in polluted water and were shocked that this is permitted,  and the ‘fortune tellers’ drew a picture of the river slowly coming back to life.

girls2The girls presented their short research to a group of tourists who were visiting the site, ending with the song written a few months earlier “We Will Change It“.  Holding hands in a circle before their farewell, each participant choose a word that she will take with her from the day: hope, love, trust, cooperation, friends, future.  What a nice way to say goodbye!

Read more in our blog “Girl Power at the Jordan River”.

Cross Border Youth Visit between Hebron and Bsor communitiesyatta

In yet another cross border activity this month, this time focusing on the Hebron / Be’er Sheva watershed, youth from the Negev area in Israel braved the rainy weather forecast and greeted their Palestinian counterparts from the upstream village of Yatta.  Luckily, the skies cleared up, and the group was able to visit the wastewater catchment facility located near the Green Line, between their communities.

The second part of the day took place near the Beer Sheva Stream, at the Freedom Bell Park, where participants heard the bell ringing and reflected that it sounded like a call for “every one of us to take part in the rehabilitation of the River”.

EcoPeace’s GWN staff –”Top 50 Social Activists” by Israeli Daily Newspaper biadsi_yediot

We are delighted that our Good Water Neighbors Community Coordinator from Baka el Gharbia, Mohammed Biadsi, was named 1 of the “Top 50 Social Activists” by the leading Israeli Daily Newspaper, Yediot Aharonot.   Indeed, EcoPeace can confirm that Mohammed has been working tirelessly on environmental education in his community for as long as he can remember! Congratulations to Mohammed on the recognition!

 

EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbors project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and USAID West Bank/Gaza.

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EcoPeace participates in an IUCN / PANORAMA Webinar; “Transboundary Protected Area Solutions” webinar

IUCN and GIZ invited EcoPeace to present our “Good Water Neighbours” (GWN) program as a transboundary solution on their series of webinars on Protected Areas. EcoPeace’s Marina Djernaes presented our efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River through transboundary cooperation in the GWN program.

The presentation identified how areas outside of the region could use the program to raise awareness of their communities’ shared water reality based on EcoPeace’s methodology of utilizing local interdependencies to develop dialogue and cooperation for sustainable water management, and ultimately to advance peacebuilding. The webinar had more than 140 people signed on with the audience positing questions & comments following the presentation.

Click here for the video recording of the webinar, and here for all the presentations made during the seminar.

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  • These projects and others have been made possible thanks to the generous support of our friends and donors.
  • To make a contribution to EcoPeace Middle East efforts please visit our website’s donation page.
  • For more information on ways to support EcoPeace please contact Resource Development at michalr@foeme.org
Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | December 29, 2016

Girl Power at the Jordan River

Out of the rain and into the sunny Jordan Valley a group of Israeli female water trusstees came to meet Palestinian female water trusstees.20161216_110904

Alumni from both sides lead the ice breaking games and laughter soon echoed at the quiet Baptism site named Qaser el Yahud.

To start the activities we linked arms, closed eyes, and passed arround a full glass of water, trying not to spill it. Reflecting on the metaphor, the girls said that the water felt very precious and they needed to communicate without words and cooperate to make sure they didn’t waste any water.

At the river, pilgrims dressed in white robes went into the Jordan for the most spiritual experience of their life, into water that is far from being the holy water that they fantasized about for years, brown murky water.20161216_111304

The girls divided into 3 groups. Each group studied a different period of the river – past, present and future. The historians found out the water in the river was once so abundant that boats were lost in its strong flow. The group researching the present time found that the pilgrims are dunking in polluted water and were shocked that this is allowed. The fortune tellers drew a picture of the river slowly getting back to life.

We presented our short research to a kind group of tourists who were visiting the site with the Auja Ecocenter and ended with the song we wrote a few months earlier “We will change it“. The tourists applaued the ecopeace singers who presented real girl power!

We continued to the nearby Monastery Dir Hijla, where Sandra, Palestinian participant guided the girls in the church and its surroundings, explaining in English the stories and traditions.20161216_134212

After lunch we finished with the tale of two donkies who are tied to each other and each donkey tries to pull to a different side to eat, untill they got to the conclusion that they can eat together.
The girls quickly understood the connection to the need for cooperation over our water sources. We need to find a solution together, that both sides will benefit.

Holding hands in a circle before farewell, each participant said a word she will take with her from the day – hope, love, trust, cooperation, friends, future.

Written By: Amy Lipman-Avizohar 

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | December 15, 2016

December 1st, 2016 – EcoPeace Middle East Environmental Peacemaking Newsletter

Seven Hour Swim across the Dead Sea

November 15th was a historical day as 25 swimmers swam across the Dead Sea for the first dead-sea-swimtime in recorded history in order to raise awareness about the environmental damage facing this shrinking body of water. EcoPeace, along with the Tamar Regional Council and the Ministry of Regional Cooperation, organized the event that garnered a record number of news releases and dead-sea-signextensive media coverage. The team of 25 dedicated swimmers from around the world swam the 17-kilometer (11-mile) challenge in seven excruciating hours from the Jordanian to the Israeli shore with the help of special full-facial masks that prevented salt from entering their eyes and lungs. A video of the event can be viewed here and press footage can be viewed on our website.

 

EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, including faith-based activities, are supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation.

 


 

Annual International Conference: Water Security and Sustainable Development for our Common Future

EcoPeace held its annual International Conference on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan conf-plenaryfrom November 22nd-23rd under the patronage of the Jordanian Minister of Water. The event, titled Water Security and Sustainable Development for our Common Future, discussed water and peace issues in the region and is one of the only public gatherings where Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian ministerial participation takes place. Over 250 high level regional and international officials, local leaders and activists attended the two day event. Topics of discussion included thebasin-commissioenrs-dr-megdal water and sanitation crisis in Gaza and the promotion of a Palestinian/Israeli water accord. The second day included presentations from international experts on transboundary water management relevant to the plight of the Lower Jordan River; from the Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers in US &Mexico, from the Sava River in the Balkans, from the Rhine River in Central Europe and from the Orange-Senqu River in Southern Africa.

 

 

Joint Palestinian-Israeli Youth Environmental Training Dayyouth-activity

On November 25th Palestinian and Israeli youth from Auja and the Lower Jordan River participated in environmental activities at the Baptism Site on the River Jordan. This event is part of EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbors project and a new initiative funded by the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. Participants had the opportunity to partake in outdoor training activities and learn about the Jordan River and about water issues through direct interaction. The group also participated in a humus workshop to learn about “virtual water” in food.

 

 

EcoPeace Participates in International Conferences

EcoPeace Bethlehem staff participated in two significant international conferences this past month.transf-conf

The first involved a network of 7 youth organizations that came together to present the results of their collaboration initiative: the Mediterranean Youth Climate Network (MYCN), aimed at uniting the young climate community of the region. The event also included the official signing into effect of the MYCN’s Charter and Governance system.

In addition, EcoPeace participated in the First Palestine Resilience Conference in Amman, Jordan from November 24th-25th. The conference was organized jointly by the Government of Palestine and the United Nations Development Program of Assistance to the Palestinian People and provided the setting for practitioners, donors, government actors, non-government actors, and the private sector to meet and discuss ways to influence resilience-based programming across Palestine.

 

EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbors project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and USAID West Bank/Gaza.

 


 

Roundtable in Cooperation with Oxford Universitybritish-council-project

On November 13th EcoPeace held a national roundtable in cooperation with the University of Oxford for the Defining Food and Water Security in the Levant (DeFWS) project. The meeting was held at the EcoPeace office in Tel Aviv with participants from the Office of the Quartet, Ben Gurion University, Israel’s Water Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture Extension Service, the Ministry of Regional Cooperation and the Ministry of Economy.

This research-based project aims to produce new knowledge on achieving sustainable agriculture and water sectors in Jordan, Palestine and beyond, which balance food and water security as well as sustainable regional development.

This project is in partnership with the University of Oxford and supported by the British Council UK.



 Conference on December 8th in Tel Aviv

Can Water Bring the Political Process to A Safe Shore?

ISRAELI and INTERNATIONAL ROUNDTABLE Event:
Water Issues, from Source of Conflict to Vehicle for Regional Cooperation and Stability


logos-inss-conf

 

The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
40 Haim Levanon Street, Tel Aviv

 

Click here to register

EcoPeace Participates in Women Wage Peace March of Hope
march-of-hope_2

This past month was busy with EcoPeace staff participating in the Women Wage Peace March of Hope. Israeli and Palestinian staff, forum members, and alumni joined thousands of participants at various points along the route including Naharayim, Neve Shalom Village, the march-of-hope_1Baptism Site on the banks of the Jordan River and in Jerusalem.  The events included speeches from Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, prominent politicians, and peace activists, as well as performances by Israeli and Palestinian singers. The two week march which started in Rosh Hanikra was a call to government leaders to start working with respect and courage towards a solution to the ongoing violent conflict, while including the full participation of women. The march culminated in Jerusalem in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence with thousands of participants demanding a restart to peace negotiations.

 

EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, including faith-based activities, are supported by the Swedish International Development Agency and the Osprey Foundation.

 


 

Another Year at YOCOPAS!

Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian alumni and Youth Water Trustee’s from our Good Water Neighbors project participated for a second year in the Regional Youth Conference for Peace and Sustainability (YOCOPAS) held from October 26th to 28th at tyocopashe Eastern Mediterranean International School on Hakfar Hayarok, a youth village and educational campus in the center of Israel. On the second day of the conference, EcoPeace Community Coordinators, from the three offices, led a workshop and simulation exercise about shared water resources between Palestine, Israel and Jordan.  The students were divided into three groups simulating the three parties and discussed each side’s water allocation and water demands while taking into consideration the other’s needs. This helped the students learn of creative but realistic solutions to meet the needs of the region but still suit the lifestyles of those involved, providing a win-win situation that aids in peacebuilding efforts by sharing common resources.


 

Alumni Hard at Workisraeli-alumna

Good Water Neighbors alumni are taking their work to the next level. A jenin-alumnaformer Youth Water Trustee and now participant in the alumni program established her own group of Youth Water Trustees in Jenin. She has been working hard at garnering interest and participants in her community and has held 3 meetings so far. She even contacted the village council to get permission to work in the council’s hall and garden with the trustees.

Additionally, an Israeli alumna participated in the Women Wage Peace rally and spent the day with Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee. She gave an insightful lecture and discussion about EcoPeace while traveling to the different locales throughout the day.

 

Palestinian Office has signing ceremony

On October 19th a delegation of municipal leaders from the Madaba Municipality in Jordan travelled to Obediya in Palestine for a signing ceremony of a twinning agreement under the invitation of H.E. Mazen Ghneim, Head of the Palestinian Water Authority. Additional side meetings were held besigning-ceremonytween Jordanian and Palestinian stakeholders of the Madaba/Obediya watershed. Additionally, H.E. Rule Ma’ay’a, the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, visited the Jordanian delegation to discuss Jordanian-Palestinian cooperation in relation to tourism development in the area.

 

EcoDesign Workshop at Auja EcoCenterauja

Our Auja EcoCenter hosted an eco-design workshop from October 28th to 29th organized by the ökoRAUSCH Think Tank of Germany. The workshop in Auja was part of a kick-off event that started in Israel and ended in Palestine for Eco Design Forum International which involves designers, artists and creative thinkers from all over the world who want to explore green ideas and develop sustainable products.

 

Biodiversity Workshop at EcoPeace’s Sharhabil Bin Hassneh (SHE) EcoPark

From October 26th to 27th, EcoPeace conducted a workshop at the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh (SHE) EcoPark in relation to forest and river restoration and sustainable development. The workshop was supported by MEDFORVAL which helps protect, manage or restore forested areas of high ecological value. Discussions and presentations included different medforvalsuggestions for educating communities and decision makers on the ecological and economic value of forests as a means to advance cooperative protection efforts and achieve rehabilitation of forest habitats in the Jordan Valley. The first day included presentations and discussions, and the second day offered participants the opportunity to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna in an outdoor excursion.new-toilets

New Additions to SHE

EcoPeace has continued the momentum of expansion at Sharhabil Bin Hassneh (SHE) EcoPark in Jordan. We have now incorporated private bathrooms into the twelve older cabins on site. These twelve cabins have air-conditioning and wifi, two are wheelchair accessible, and now all have attached bathrooms. This significant expansion allows guests to stay comfortably for a longer period of time and enjoy local eco-tourism along the Jordan River. Come check us out by reserving rooms here!

 

EcoPeace Directors Participate in a World Council of Churches Event

The three EcoPeace Directors participated, via Skype, in a World Council of Churches event in Geneva to celebrate and welcome their induction into the “blue community,” meaning world-council-churchesrecognition of safe and clean drinking water as a human right. The renowned water activist Dr. Maude Barlow delivered the keynote address and the “water man of India” and Stockholm Water Prize laureate for 2015, Dr Rajendra Singh, addressed the gathering as well. Our directors underlined the importance of human rights in relation to water access in the Middle East and discussed water as a means to help work towards peacebuilding efforts.

EcoPeace’s Good Water Neighbors project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).


New Project in the Kidron Basinkidron

EcoPeace is participating in a new project in cooperation with UNESCO-IHE to assess the state of the Kidron/Al-Nar stream which flows from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The stream is considered an environmental and public health hazard due to the disposal of untreated wastewater into its waters. The project involves faculty from Al-Quds University and the Hebrew University, local authorities and grassroots organizations working together to develop practical and innovative wastewater management schemes while building trust and people-to people relations.

 

This project is supported by UNESCO-IHE


 

DON’T FORGET!

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Now, when you shop on Amazon, you can help EcoPeace receive 0.5% of the price of your purchase by using Amazon Smile. It’s an easy way to donate to EcoPeace!

Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | November 2, 2016

Water not war, but Water is Peace

The context of complexity in the middle east where four countries collapsed due to recent revolutions, where ISIS has taken control and destroyed development throughout the  MENA region. With bad water management practices and lack of political will in Palestine/Israel where the occupation is taking place is a good reason to justify conflict, clashes, and tensions between both sides.

Water knows no borders, between Palestine and Israel it can be used as a tool to enrich people’s lives with projects for good economic growth leading to a tremendous decrease in unemployment provided both sides agree to promote development projects in water, sanitation, solid waste, agroindustry, cultural heritage, and optimizing tourism in the Jordan Valley.

In 2015, EcoPeace succeeded to publish the first ever Regional NGO Master Plan  for sustainable development in the Jordan Valley, with 127 projects and an investment cost of 4.6 billion USD . The Plan can bring prosperity and sustainability for all residents of the three countries and create more than 1M job opportunities, playing an important role in decreasing unemployment and increasing GDP from an estimated $10 billion annually to $72 billion.

These accomplishments will never be achieved by improving military technology or by promoting conflict, but by a good willingness to achieve and improve the performance of dialogue and negotiations from all governments in the region and support of the international community.

People ask me “Is there hope for peace in this area where Israel is occupying a majority of the Jordan Valley?” My answer is “Yes, It is the hope”. We can contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in our region and end poverty when all partnering countries play a role in the development of agro industrial projects that will employ many Palestinians and Jordanians. It will take the region to a more stable situation and develop people’s confidence that the land belongs to them. We want to develop our land for the sake of our next generation.

Our people can cooperate over water, sanitation, and other vital components of development in the Jordan Valley. We can all cooperate to achieve and implement what is needed.

EcoPeace ME success to create the base and guidelines for the government to restore the Jordan River and protect water quality and quantity sustainably while developing viable livelihoods, human well-being, and socio-economic development in a climate of peace and political stability for current and future generations. Now, the ball is in the government’s court to lead in the implementation to a more prosperous and peaceful future.

 


Written By: Malek Abualfailat – EcoPeace – Bethlehem

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