Posted by: maiklh | December 6, 2009

Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian Youths Become “Eco-builders” at Kibbutz Lotan

Over the past weekend (3 – 5 December 2009), FOEME held its third “EcoBuilder  Workshop” which brought together 120 youth and FoEME field staff from 17 communities across Israel, Jordan and Palestine. Participants all had the chance to get completely covered in mud and share a great time together, while learning how to build with mud and recycled materials, create geodesic domes and dance Dabke-style. By the end of the weekend everyone was sad to be saying goodbye to new friends but at the same time excited to go home and get started on building projects with friends in their own communities, putting into practice the skills learned during the workshop.

The workshop was held at Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava. For most of the young Palestinian and Jordanian participants this was their first visit to Israel and many were both anxious and excited for this experience. On the first evening, the youth gathered together in a big hall with everyone sitting quietly, waiting to hear about their activities for the weekend. After a short discussion about the workshop and listening to students from the nearby Arava Institute (where Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians are engaged in academic environmental studies together), the drums began to beat and the Dabke dancing started. It didn’t take long until the entire group was hand in hand, swirling around the room together in concentric circles, some had mastered the steps, others were just enjoying the “hafla” (meaning “party” in Arabic). Friendships were formed, anxieties were overcome and for the rest of the weekend the socializing did not seem to stop.

Over the next two days participants split up into smaller groups and had the chance to work closely together in a range of eco-building activities. Some of the highlights included the construction of a wall using old tires and discarded plastics which were covered in mud prepared by the youth; decorating mud walls with original designs that will stay behind at Lotan to mark the event; building a geodesic dome from date palm fronds and discarded irrigation plastics; making mud bricks and learning about the use of different materials for different types of bricks; and a hike through the beautiful desert to see the kibbutz’s constructed wetlands (which provide a natural treatment process for sewage water) and to discover bird life and wild animal tracks.

Probably the most rewarding activity was the building of a small archway using the mud bricks prepared by the youth, which was so strong it could support the weight of more than three people! When the construction was complete, people piled on to the archway and seeing that it supported their weight, the youth let out loud cheers of excitement and the sense of shared achievement was palpable.

The workshop was rounded out with a boat ride in Eilat where both the FoEME staff and youth danced the night away overlooking spectacular views of Aqaba, Taba and Eilat. By the end of the camp, many of the youth expressed their desire to keep in touch with one and other and their excitement to go home and begin working on eco-building projects in their own communities.

This activity was part of FoEME’s award-winning “Good Water Neighhbors” project, which builds trans-boundary environmental cooperation between Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian communities with shared water resources.  Click here for more information about GWN.

This post was written by FoEME intern Michael Hershan.  Michael is based in FoEME’s Tel Aviv office.



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