Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | May 5, 2014

May 1st, 2014 – EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East – Environmental Peacemaking Newsletter

This newsletter is published at a time of great uncertainty as to the future of Israeli – Palestinian peace negotiations. Periods of uncertainty are unfortunately not new to the region or to the work of our organization. It is the belief of EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East that the draft Framework Agreement be made public. Relative to other final status peace process issues, advancing our shared water and environment issues remain “low hanging fruit” that can help build the trust needed to advance other issues of the peace process. Solving cross border water and environment issues can directly improve the lives of many in the region, helping to create the constituencies needed to move political will forward on other peace process issues.

EcoPeace / FoEME remains certain that now is the time to expand and increase support for our approach developed over two decades – of bottom up community education and top down advocacy – to achieve the objectives of peace, prosperity and sustainability for our region.

We remain grateful to our many supporters.


Lower Jordan River / Faith Based Campaign activitiesMay 1

EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East continues to inspire action and inter-faith understandings through its Faith Based Campaign to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River.  This month, FoEME’s Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli Directors met with the senior advisor to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and co-hosted an interfaith event for Muslim and Jewish community members in the Wembley neighborhood of London.  The events aimed to encourage the use of FoEME’s Water, Ecology and the Jordan River sourcebooks to educate faith communities about the river’s importance and inspire communities around the world to raise their voices in efforts to rehabilitate the Holy Jordan River.


May 2In the region, FoEME continues to undertake numerous study tours along the Jordan River to raise awareness firsthand about the importance of the Jordan in the three Abrahamic traditions.  To read more about an interfaith study tour conducted in partnership with the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development please visit our blog.  We will be holding several more tours, so if you are a faith based leader and would like to join, please contact for further details.


For recent press coverage of these unique faith based activities to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River please visit our Jordan River press page.



Delegates from the Israeli / Jordanian Lower Jordan River Rehabilitation Committee visit the East Bank of the Jordan River Valley

On April 9th, FoEME organized a tour for delegates of the joint Israeli / Jordanian Lower Jordan River Rehabilitation Committee along with representatives from the Jordan Valley Authority (JVA), to visit the North Shouneh Waste Water Treatment Plant and the Bakoura / Peace Island.  FoEME staff explained the organization’s efforts to create a Jordanian National Park here, as a precursor to the vision of combining both sides’ National Parks into a Transboundary Peace Park.May 3

The Peace Park will ensure regional environmental cooperation between the countries and be of great importance for tourism, biodiversity protection, and peace – where experts from both countries will work together towards a unified vision of a healthy Jordan River, managed and shared jointly and equitably by the neighboring countries. The delegation was very impressed with the natural beauty and cultural value of the area, and encouraged the need for better ecological and environmental management of the site.  Read more in our blog.

This tour, and FoEME’s faith based activities are part of the Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Osprey Foundation


‘JR SWIM’ Consortium Meeting in Amman 27-28th April

EcoPeace/ Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) together with consortium partnersMay 4 from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and Global Nature Fund held a key project meeting this month to advance the NGO regional master plan project for the Lower Jordan River.  During the meeting final amendments to the project’s baseline study were discussed, key social and environmental projections presented and summaries of the public stakeholder meetings that took place in Ramallah and Amman were presented.

The project team is now focused on the development of detailed interventions all aimed at advancing peace, prosperity and sustainability in the Lower Jordan River Valley.  Additional public stakeholder meetings are planned to take place next month in Israel and Palestine.

This meeting, as part of the Regional NGO Master Plan (SWIM-JR) Project, is supported by the European Union’s Sustainable Water Integrated Management (SWIM) Programme.


Empowering Cross Border EcoCenters

FoEME’s “Green Economy Initiatives” project, that aims to promote cross border “green” initiatives,May 5 is also working to upgrade our EcoCenters as ‘anchors’ towards this development.  With the tremendous potential in the private sector for fostering cross border ecotourism and green initiative partnerships, it is important that our own EcoParks have as high a capacity as possible.

To this end, a 4-day staff training took place for staff from Auja’s EcoCenter and our SHE EcoPark in Jordan, and was held in the SHE EcoPark. Topics covered included hospitality, procedures of visitors’ management, ecological site rules at the EcoParks, appropriate terminology with guests, hygiene standards, dress codes, first aid, general safety measures and procedures, management simulations of crisis, HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), communication skills and tour guiding skills.

The “Green Economy Initiatives” project is supported by USAID’s Conflict Management & Mitigation program.


Sulfuric Acid allowed into the West Bank for use in Hebron Tanneries

We are happy to report that the Israeli Civil Administration is now allowing Sulfuric Acid into the West Bank “under tight coordination with the security services and according to a system of supervision”. Why is this important?… FoEME has been extremely concerned with pollution of the Hebron Stream, the largest of the region’s cross-border streams, and one that runs through several of our “Good Water Neighbors” communities. May 6

The Industrial Zone in Hebron includes 13 tanneries, where Sulfuric Acid was always used for treating Chromium, which is used during leather processing. Chromium that is not absorbed by the leather and remains in the wastewater of the tanning process can transform into a carcinogenic substance once released into the open environment.  The Sulfuric Acid, pertinent for extracting the Chromium from the sewage of the tanneries for reuse, was banned by the Israeli Government to Palestinian areas since 2005, due its potential dual use as an ingredient in explosives-making. And the unused Chromium has been flowing untreated into the Hebron Stream ever since…..  After years of work on this specific issue, FoEME is very pleased that the ‘environmental time bomb’ we feared could develop, can now be averted!  Read more in our press release.


“Good Water Neighbors” Cross Border Youth Visit

On April 19th, a group of girls from the Israeli city of Baka Gharbia met a group of girls from their neighboring Palestinian community of Baka Sharkia. The girls from Baka Sharkiya first hosted their guests on a tour of their school, where each one planted a flower as a memory gift for the other.May 7

In efforts to learn of their neighbor’s environment, they then toured Baka Sharkia’s Neighbors Path that recognizes the challenges between the economic and environmental aspects of Baka Sharkia’s coal production industry – necessary for the local economy, but also an aggravation for the community’s environmental health.  The girls expressed deep satisfaction with their meeting, and hope for a reciprocal visit soon.


“Good Water Neighbors” Cross Border Youth Camp

Youth “Water Trustees” from 6 Good Water Neighbors communities (3 Israeli, 1 Palestinian and 2 Jordanian), gathered at the Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark for a 2-day regional youth camp, one of many held throughout the year. May 8

The youth engaged in multiple activities taken from our new “Water Resource Guide” and were acquainted with the Jordanian Bedouin life style by paying a visit to the Bedouins living near the EcoPark. After a long hike to Wadi Ziglab, they then learned about the different eco-facilities at the EcoPark and how each one showcases a different method of water conservation.  Read more in our blog.




“Good Water Neighbors” Teacher Training event

During a conference entitled “Jews and Arabs, Between the Ocean and the River – Past, Present, Future” FoEME staff introduced the Good Water Neighbors educational program to a group of 21 Early Childhood Education students studying in Israel’s Seminar Kibbutzim. Following the viewing of our 14-minute video (a good introduction to the project), our new ‘Water and Environment Resource Guide for Teachers‘ was then presented to the group. May 9

The new Resource Guide is a culmination of several years’ work in environmental education.  The group chose to do one activity from the Resource Guide; “Whose Water Is It Anyway?”, and then did a simulation exercise, discussing water allocation between people who live around an aquifer, a stream or a spring.  All participants were excited to learn about this new environmental education guide for teachers.

The “Good Water Neighbors” project is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the European Union’s Partnership for Peace Program (EU PfP) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).


“Protecting Ground Water” project will hold a “Springs Conference”May 10

Mark your calendars!  On May 14th, the “Protecting Ground Water” project in Israel will be holding a conference
about the Springs in the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council area.  The conference will share updates about the Master Planning process being undertaken, with speakers presenting the mapping & survey process of the springs, their ecological uniqueness, and suggestions for methods to ensure their future protection.  A stakeholder’s panel on how to establish a planning policy will conclude the conference.

Click on the flyer to read more details. The conference is free, but requires prior registration.





“Protecting Ground Water” project held a film screening in Jordan

FoEME’s Amman office held an event last month that included the screening of a documentary film May 11produced about the 7 Jordanian communities participating in our “Protecting Ground Water” project.  The film highlighted the critical water situation in Jordan, including the lack of proper sanitation infrastructure for Jordan Valley communities.  It also described the measures that the PGW project has undertaken to help communities monitor hazards to their groundwater and the development of concrete implementation plans on how to deal with these challenges.

50 representatives from different government agencies, embassies as well as the participating municipalities attended the event. All parties were encouraged to play a more active role in protecting our shared groundwater.  Read more in this blog.

The “Protecting Ground Water” project is supported by the European Union’s ENPI CBC Mediterranean Sea Basin Program.


Earth Day 2014 – Water Cannot WaitMay 12

FoEME used the occasion of this year’s Earth Day to put out another call to our regional leaders to address the water issue, with an even greater sense of urgency.  See the full press release here,

For recent press coverage from the Jerusalem Post, Bloomberg News, and more, visit our Water Cannot Wait / Press coverage page.

FoEME’s Water Cannot Wait Campaign is supported by the Skoll Global Threats Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).





Environmental Protection and Working for Peace around the Dead Sea

After their successful workshop on Solar Cooking last October in Hennef, Germany, 8 high school students of the May 13Städtische Gymnasium Hennef and their teachers, visited the Ein Gedi & Auja Environmental Centers in April.

Ursula Schmitt, board member of the German-Israeli-Society (DIG), accompanied the group to the Dead Sea area, where FoEME staff gave an overview of the main causes for the drop of Sea level and the development of sinkholes. The students also worked creatively with mud in both EcoParks.

May 14Another highlight on the trip was Battir, where the group learned about its ancient irrigation system and terraces, as well as the threat of the Separation Barrier slated to be built here, that would damage this unique landscape and important cultural heritage site.


This trip was made possible with the support of FoEME and the German-Israeli-Society (DIG).


Insight Collaborative with FoEME

Kartik Sameer Madiraju is a Fellow with the non-profit conflict management firm, Insight Collaborative. Through Insight Collaborative’s Fellowship Program, Kartik is able to study and practice negotiation and effective communication while pursuing related humanitarian contributions around the world.May 15

Combining his environmental justice and renewable energy background, Kartik is devoting three months to working with FoEME staff in Israel, Palestine and Jordan.  He will be providing customized training and advice to staff members on issues of handling difficult conversations and improving strategic relationships, resolving conflicts, and delivering messages effectively. Contact him at


FoEME joins in mourning the untimely passing of a giant peacemaker – Dr. Ron PundakMay 16

FoEME’s relationship with Ron was mainly through the Peace NGO Forum, of which FoEME has been a part since
its establishment.  We knew Ron to be always optimistic, sure that peace is just around the corner – if not via the Oslo Accords that he helped orchestrate, if not via his many years of work in the Peres Center, then certainly via Civil Society….  His leadership of the Peace NGO Forum was his remarkable way to state that We, The People, Count.  And that People Make Peace.  This was his legacy.  And that is what we will strive to do.


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