Posted by: EcoPeace Middle East | June 7, 2016

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

Jordan River Faith-Based Regional Tour Guides Training
EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation team led a 3-day “Regional Jordan River Tour Guide Mira guiding3 at Tour Guides TrainingTraining” for 20 Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian tour guides this past month.  This is the 2nd such training held by EcoPeace; the 1st one was in February on the East side of the River (Jordan); this one was on the Western side (Israel / Palestine).
We had a full 3-day schedule, visiting religious, historical and cultural sites along the river to understand the shared value of this iconic river for the three Abrahamic traditions and learn JR tour guide taining groupabout the sacred religious sites associated with it. 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 the efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River.  Click here for a set of photos from the training.

New Publication “Come Together at the River”
“Come Together at the River” was distributed at the training mentioned above, and Come_Together_at_the_River_JR_Tour_Guides_Guideprovides tour guides with take-home useful information so that they can educate tourists in the region to better understand and appreciate the majesty of the River and its surrounding areas… but also the challenges faced. It specifically covers sites of religious interest – Christian, Muslim and Jewish – in an effort to teach about the importance of the river to all the faiths that care deeply about the river.  It also explains the impacts that human actions have had on the shared water resources of the region, and how, in sharing the stories of the Jordan River Valley, ancient and modern, tour guides are able to inspire others to care for its protection.

EcoPeace’s agenda getting popular with Tour Agencies

German group1
This month, EcoPeace was asked to give several talks / tours to visiting groups in the region, ranging from University students from the U.S. who are here on leadership programs and to learn about the geopolitical challenges in the region; to a German academic delegation; to visiting faith leaders, and more.
Mira guiding group at Dead SeaThis type of outreach is important not only for raising awareness as to the complexities of the region’s water situation – but also to highlight the interdependencies that can be capitalized upon in order to reach sustainable solutions and foster regional stability.

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

Cross Border Youth Activities

GWN youth1
On May 30th, Israeli and Palestinian youth who live around the Alexander / Zomer watershed participated in an afternoon outdoors to experience their local and diverse array of flora, fauna, and marine life as well as learn about the environmental threats to the basin and discuss the shared responsibility to protect common resources. Students toureGWN youth2d Israel Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center where they learned about the turtle’s habitat, they then took their own chemical tests for water quality, and discussed how their communities impact one another. At the end of the day, the students made posters showing their joint support for a cleaner watershed which will be presented to the Head of the Regional Council in June.

Additionally, the two municipalities of Baka Al Gharbia and Baka Al Sharkia had two busy Baka Bakadays on May 30th and 31st. Youth from Baka Al Sharkia attended a cross border event in Baka Al Gharbia and took part in clean-up activities, planting vegetation and learning more about local environmental issues. On the 31st, our local Community Coordinator organized an environmental conference for the local area with mayors, school principals and teachers in attendance.

New Cultural Landscape Forum holds Cross Border Meeting in Battir
The cultural landscape of the Jerusalem-Bethlehem Region, portrayed by dozens of mountain sprSorek forum picings and kilometers of dry stone terraces, has been a prominent part of EcoPeace’s activities in recent years. A cross-border meeting in Battir was the highlight for Israeli activists and decision makers as they met Palestinian counterparts to discuss their shared landscape. The Sorek basin participants represented a recently established group which follows the model of the Springs Forum of Mate Yehuda and is jointly administered by EcoPeace, the Bioregional Forum and SPNI, as a “Forum for the Cultural Landscape.” The framework aims to:  empower cooperation between local initiatives and activists; facilitate professional support; create consistent strategies and categorization; initiate landscape surveys and mapping; ensure teamwork among stakeholders, and work towards crossborder collaboration and sustainability.

Watershed Identity Branding Forums
EcoPeace has been working hard on continuing to develop the different watershed branding campaigns. This past month representatives from 2 watersheds, Sorek Dead Sea branding/ Sarar and Dead Sea / Al-Karak, met to discuss their ‘branding & identity’ ideas for each of their respective watersheds. Many came from the tourism field as well as local municipalities. These forums aim to develop a vision and brand for what a shared watershed will look like and are early stages in a series of meetings, with the goal of presenting the plans at a regional conference in November.

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

Dead Sea Challenge
Dead Sea challengeEcoPeace Directors Gidon Bromberg and Munqeth Mehyar met with Kimberley Chambers to discuss the upcoming event; “Dead Sea Swim Challenge”.  Both Ms. Chambers and the Jordanian Director will be participating in the event this November. This international swim event will include crossing the sea by a group of Jordanian, Palestinian, Israeli and international swimmers. In order to do so, swimmers must wear a special mask protecting their faces from the unparalleled salt content of the sea. The aim of the event is to raise awareness of the Dead Sea’s demise and encourage decision makers to take corrective actions that deal with the root causes of the problem.

Director’s Present EcoPeace in California

On a trip to California at the beginning of the month, Directors Munqeth Mehyar and Gidon Bromberg were invited by the Harvey J. Fields Institute to speak at a lecture series in Los Angeles. Their lecture series titled “Water and Bay areathe Middle East: Perils, Politics and Possibilities” explored issues related to access and allocation of water resources, challenges facing the Jordan River and Dead Sea and the possibilities to move forward first on water and environmental issues in the peace process.

In the Bay Area the EcoPeace Directors spoke at several locations, including the home of Varda Rabin, the Caldera foundation and the ‘Kitchen’ synagogue. The imperative to reach a final agreement on water issues was at the center of discussions.

Read our Huffington Post Op Ed and Watch our new Video

Ahead of the June 3rd Paris meeting on Israeli Palestinian peace – EcoPeace needs your help to remind our governments and the international community that water issues are not only the most solvable but can no longer wait.


From Our Friends at Neve Shalom – Waha al-Salam Village
This fall, in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts-Boston, the Jewish-Arab community of Neve Shalom-Waha al-Salam will be hosting a Master’s Program in Conflict Resolution.  The program will be taught by UMass-Boston faculty in collaboration with Israeli and Palestinian experts.  To find out more, go to this page to fill out a contact form.

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