Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | June 3, 2014

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

“Protecting Ground Water” Project International Conference

On May 27th – 29th, the Dead Sea played host to the second international conference of the “Protecting Groundwaterju1(PGW) project. Officials from the Water and Environment Authorities as well as Mayors and other representatives from 28 participating municipalities in Jordan, Palestine, Israel and the County of Malaga of Spain attended the conference.

The conference featured the launch of the Hazards Prevention and Protection (HRP) Implementation Plans, developed by all participating communities to reduce and prevent environmental hazards which contaminate their groundwater. The implementation plans include: establishing proper wastewater treatment systems for domestic sewage and specific pre-treatments for industries effluents; prevention of illegal dump sites; reducing over usage of fertilizers and pesticides which infiltrate to the groundwater; rehabilitation of groundwater springs for preservation of their cultural and natural heritage and for ecotourism purposes. Short video films were also screened that discuss groundwater protection efforts from each of the participating countries.

Read more in in this Jerusalem Post article, and others, in our PGW / press coverage webpage

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“Protecting Ground Water” – Mateh Yehuda Springs Conference

The PGW project also held a local conference this month in the Israeli Mateh Yehuda Regional Council. The project established a “Springs Forum“, comprised of multidisciplinary professionals and representatives of agencies, ju2organizations and residents, with an interest in maintaining and preserving the springs in a wide variety of aspects such as ecology, archeology, hydrology, planning, tourism and education. A survey was conducted to collect information on the springs in Mate Yehuda, Beit Shemesh and Abu Ghosh. The information gathered will be the basis for formulating a master plan for the springs.

The conference shared 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 concluded the conference.

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

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Jordan River Peace Park Initiative “Charrette” Design Workshop

This month EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) together with partners from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, the Yale Urban Design Workshop and the Old Gesher Historic Site, undertook a three day design workshop to create proposals and recommendations to develop the Old Gesher site as the future southern gateway to the proposed ju3Israeli-Jordanian Jordan River Peace Park.

Architects, designers, economists and planners came together to create detailed documents to streamline planning in the Old Gesher area.  Today the site offers visitors the unique experience of walking along the banks of the Lower Jordan River and looking out across the sites’ three bridges where people and goods traversed the river for thousands of years.  Among the short term interventions, the planning team envisions the development of a small exploration and interpretation center, a Jordan River promenade, a craft workshop and more.

For more details, please visit our Jordan River Peace Park web pages.

FoEME’s Jordan River Peace Park Initiative is supported by the Crown Family Foundation.

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Lower Jordan River Faith Based Campaign activities

On the occasion of the first visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land and Jordan, FoEME sent out media releases and social media posts to bring attention to the shared significance of the Jordan River to all faiths in the region, and the need to garner support to rehabilitate the River from its current polluted state.  The importance of environmental protection and sustainable water use is an integral component of FoEME’s Faith-based campaign to encourage religious groups to ju4educate and advocate for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River in their congregations and communities. As the Holy Father visited Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, three countries that share rights and responsibilities for the Jordan River, FoEME hopes that efforts to develop a healthy and living River will provide an opportunity for communities across the region to rally around. Read more in this blog

On the 6th of May, 2014 representatives from FoEME led a Muslim tour to the Jordan Valley. The tour is a part of the faith-based campaign launched by FoEME that targets religious leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths to raise awareness to the degradation of the Jordan River and the need for its rehabilitation. The tour included Imams, Muslim teachers and preachers, and aimed at educating about the importance of following the best environmental practices in Islam, and to raise awareness of the status of the Jordan River as being sacred in the Quran. Read more in this blog.

 

ju5FoEME undertook an additional study tour for Christian congregational leaders from the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem, together with additional participants from UNESCO, UNICEF, Hebrew University, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Anglican International School Jerusalem and more. The study tour visited sites along the western bank of the Jordan River and aimed to educate and empower Christian communities in Jerusalem to champion the rehabilitation of the Jordan River. In the evaluation of the activity study tour participants reported high levels of new understanding about the need to rehabilitate the river as well as deeper understanding about the importance of the river for all three Abrahamic traditions and expressed their commitment to undertake practical steps to contribute to regional efforts to rehabilitate the river.

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

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FoEME was pleased to be invited to provide a study of regional water politics to the annual conference of the European Network of Conflict Research (ENCoRE). FoEME staff introduced participants to the complex geopolitical and ju6environmental issues that surround the region’s transboundary environmental resources through an in depth look at the Jordan River Valley and the Auja Spring.

Throughout the site visit FoEME highlighted how sustainable management of the region’s natural resources can serve as a catalyst towards wider peacemaking efforts and how cooperative management frameworks can be part of a future settlement between Israel and Palestine.  Following up on the tour, the chief organizer said: “The tour left a significant impression on all participants. We learned a great deal and it helped to put many elements in context. I think that the work of FoEME is inspiring.”

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

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Good Water Neighbors – Teacher’s seminars

As part of our “Good Water Neighbors” project, two national teacher trainings took place in Israel during the month of ju7May: a local teacher training in Gilboa and Beit She’an that included local educators, administrators, youth coordinators and teachers.  The training began with a “Neighbors Path” tour along the Gilboa Mountains where the teachers learned about the transboundary waters in the area. Several observation sites featured the geography of the water conflicts, followed by a walk down to the Kishon stream, the shared water resource here between the Palestinian Jalame region and Gilboa. After a locally produced vegan lunch the teachers ended the day by practicing some activities from the new Resource Guide (see separate item on the Resource Guide below), such as the “Right to Water” and “From conflict to opportunity for change“.

ju8Another national teacher training was held this month for leading Environmental Science High School teachers. This training was organized in coordination with Supervisors of the Environmental Science Department from the Ministry of ju9Education. This training also began with a Neighbors Path tour, this time along the Lower Jordan River, as well as a visit to the “Peace Island”, followed by a simulation from the Resource Guide. In the simulation, teachers needed to identify solutions to protect their water resources regardless of the neighbor community. This simulation reflects the water reality in the region, highlighting the fact that there is no solution – other than cooperation – to solve all sides’ interests.

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Good Water Neighbors “Resource Guide for Environmental Education”

The Good Water Neighbors “Resource Guide for Environmental Educators” is the natural extension of the book, ju10“WaterCare”. Taken together, they constitute FoEME’s educational program on the topic of water as a shared resource for neighboring communities. The program includes experiential activities which allow youth of junior and senior high school ages a learning and familiarization process on topics related to the resource of water in order to promote conservation, shared responsibility and interests in regional management of this resource.

The Resource Guide is also geared at developing tolerance and openness among neighboring communities in Israel, Palestine and Jordan, and understanding the vast, inherent potential of the environment and of water as a tool of mediation and connection among these communities.

It has been produced in 3 languages, English, Hebrew and Arabic, with the Arabic book in 2 different versions (for Palestinian youth and for Jordanian youth).  Click on the links below to access them:

Resource Guide in English

Resource Guide in Hebrew

Resource Guide in Arabic (Palestinian version)
Resource Guide in Arabic (Jordanian version)

The “Good Water Neighbors” project is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

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SHE EcoPark hosts a group of Columbia University Students

This month, a group of students and professors from New York’s Columbia University came to the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark, to learn about FoEME’s environmental education work in the region.  The group hiked throughout the EcoPark ju11receiving explanations about the wetland, the water purification system, the solar power system, solar cooking, composting, as well as the many recycling efforts being implemented. These include eco-friendly building techniques such as using tires to make benches, using plastic bottles as planters, using plastic bottles to make a birdhide, and more. The visitors learned how all these practices can contribute to “green economy” opportunities.

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FoEME’s “Green Economy Initiatives” project is funded by USAID’s Conflict Management and Mitigation Program.

 

 

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More SHE EcoPark News: Olympic Truce Peace Campaign Network – “Train the Trainers” workshop

FoEME recently hosted 27 youths from around the world for a workshop at our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan. The workshop included young people from India, Nepal, Taiwan, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom, as well as from our own region; Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians.ju13

The workshop was organized by the Olympic Truce Peace Campaign Network (OTPCaN), an international effort to bring peace to warring countries before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.  It brings a powerful blend of using both sports and environmental cooperation to work towards peace. The hope is that the attending youths will return home with the confidence to train their peers in the same skills. Read more in this blog and see this video clip produced by one of the participating youths.

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Auja EcoCenter news: Workshop and Youth visit

ForumZFD Academy for Conflict Transformation, a German organization that offers qualification courses and trainings on issues of civil conflict to people with life and professional experience, delivered a training course to several of ju14FoEME’s Palestinian staff.  The training, entitled “Conflict Sensitive Project Cycle Management in Palestine” took place at our Auja EcoCenter over the course of several days, giving staff knowledge of the importance of including sensitive conflict issues into project development. Staff that completed the workshop received Certificates.

 

ju15Also in our Auja Environmental Education EcoCenter this month, more than 100 students, from the communities of Baka Gharbia, Yatta and Jenin, visited the EcoCenter receiving a full environmental education tour.  Outdoor “stations” include information and hands-on activities about recycling, composting, sustainable agriculture, climate change, grey water and other water conservation methods, and more.  Sounds interesting?  Contact our staff to arrange a day and time!

 

The Auja Environmental Education Center is supported by the Drosos Foundation.

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JStreet / U.S. congressmen Tour

On May 16th, FoEME was pleased to be invited to give a tour to a delegation of US congressmen and representatives from “J Street” – an American Jewish advocacy group that supports a Two-State solution to bring an end to the Palestinian- Israeli conflict.  The tour, which began at the mouth of the Jordan River, described the complex geopolitical and environmental issues that surround the region’s transboundary environmental resources through an in depth look at the Jordan Valley.  The group also heard explanations about the Gaza water and sanitation crisis and its detriment to peace in the region.ju16

The Secretary General of the Jordan Valley Authority who accompanied the tour as well, highlighted the importance of cooperation between governmental bodies and NGOs, and commended the important role FoEME is playing in the region regarding transboundary water issues. Read more in this blog.

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).

 

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