Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | July 9, 2012

Reflections on my internship with FoEME

During the first six months of my student exchange program from Germany I worked on an independent study completed in cooperation with Dr. Fischhendler from the Institute of Geography in the Hebrew University. It was, in fact, Dr. Fischhendler who suggested that I contact FoEME, after highlighting some of the major problems with water distribution and treatment in this region.

Working in the Bethlehem office

I began working with FoEME in Bethlehem in January 2012 just as they were establishing a new project on protecting groundwater in the Mediterranean Basin. FoEME is teaming up with the province of Malaga, Spain in order to promote sustainable groundwater resources in the Mediterranean Basin. Communities in the Jordan Valley and the Palestinian Authority and other communities in Israel lack the necessary sewage treatment facilities and suffer from pollution, due to cesspits.

The Jordan River, the border line between Israel and Jordan

Together with Malek Abulfailat, the Palestinian Project Coordinator, we oversaw all the preparations for the signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding between FoEME and the project communities. I helped to set up training sessions in GIS (a computer program for creating maps) for municipality workers. We held meetings in different communities which gave me the chance to get to know the various issues relating to the project. We also worked on mapping hazardous zones within the areas of concern using the GIS system.

One of the highlights for me was a tour in Battir. FoEME staff, field researchers, UNESCO experts and local environmentalists came together to discuss and get to know the unique cultural heritage and landscape of the Palestinian village. FoEME staff, environmentalists and local people are working to reinforce the capacity of local authorities and stakeholders in the field of natural and cultural landscape management and of participatory governance, through the development of a model of sustainable use of the territory and stopping the destruction of the cultural landscape.

I also enjoyed the Signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding, held in Auja, FoEME’s Ecocenter in the Jordan Valley. This was a major milestone for our project. The ceremony saw a large press presence, as well as EU representation.

Tour in Battir

Interning for FoEME offers you a great opportunity to dive into the fields of environmental protection and conflict resolution. The FoEME team in all three offices will give you a very warm welcome and they will treat you like a full member of the team, giving you real work to do. What will I take home with me after these 5 months? I made great friendships, inspired by witnessing achievements accomplished by FoEME and its allies – achievements both for people and this sensitive environment, in such a conflict-driven region. This gives me hope. Thanks!

This post was written by FoEME intern Lena Siedentopp. Lena was based in FoEME’s Bethlehem office.

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