Update about the first 6 weeks
We are happy and excited to share with you this first report about the launching of the EcoME Centre. After 6 weeks at the temporary site in Almog/Jericho junction (mutually accessible to Palestinians and Israelis) we wish to express our deep gratitude for all the help we have received thus far. We are astonished how fast our experiment became a place for people to come in contact with each other, with themselves and with the healing power of nature. We are aware that without such wide support, this dream could not come true. Thank you, Toda, Shukran!
Let us celebrate with you some of the things that we managed to do in this short time and for more pictures to tell the story please go to:
We gathered local and international support and partners for the project. In addition to the 5 core group members who are the founders of the Centre many people joined in a committed way taking active roles in building and designing the vision and the place itself. An inspiring community was established between people from different countries like Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy, USA, Chile and UK. Almost every day we are visited by people who wish to volunteer in EcoME.
We are especially happy with the local support for the project. From the first week we are honored to host here guests (who later on became real partners of the project!) from Jericho, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron, Ramallah, Jenin, Kalkylia, Tul Karem and other places in the West Bank. Almost every night around the fire we experience simple and deep meetings between Israelis and Palestinians who have finally found a place that feels warm and welcoming allows for spontaneity and does not need necessitate travel permits or entering areas illegally.
We are building community: Knowing that social sustainability is the base for ecological sustainability, every day in EcoME starts with a common “morning attunement” in which we attune our bodies and minds together for the new day. After this, we are ready for the morning circle in which we share the information for the day and divide the work that needs to be done. The meals are another opportunity for the group to be supported by the knowledge and wisdom of the circle. Twice a week the core group members and the regular residents are gathered for an hour of “Forum” – a tool for building trust, transparency and truth in a committed group, inspired by “Tamera” community in Portugal. In order to create a safe and inclusive space we decided not to enter alcohol, illegal substances, meat/fish and weapons to the Centre.
We provide practical experience in ecological living. That’s why we decided not to be connected to the electricity grid, and to enjoy the electricity that we gain from the sun – thanks to the loan of solar panels from “GreenPeace Middle East”. We also chose not to be connected to the sewage system and built 4 compost toilets – and a compost recycling system for toilet and kitchen waste. The water in our showers and sinks is recycled for irrigation and we are putting efforts into designing and planning the architectural, economic and environmental aspects of the place according to the Permaculture design concepts.
We are bridging between cultures by hosting events and groups: After few weeks of cleaning and building we are now able to host events for up to 200 people with Bedouin tents that can sleep 80 people. More and more groups and organizations contact us in order to enjoy the accessibility and the message of EcoME. Here are some of the events that we were honored to host or organize in the last 6 weeks
Arava Alumni Social Networking Weekend – Just two weeks after arriving at the EcoME site we hosted some 80 graduates, current students and friends of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES) for a 2 day gathering. Participants came from Jordan Israel Palestine and abroad to connect, create new and nurture existing relationships and think of ways the EcoME Centre can serve the Arava Alumni Peace and Environmental network (AAPEN). Over 2 days the group took part in sharing circles, building/clean up and arts projects, a New Year’s Eve celebration, a hike to the Judean Desert and follow up discussions. The event was the outcome of the Alumni meeting in Jordan in Nov 2010 also organized by some of the EcoME founders (four of which are AIES alumni).
Inter-Generational Weekend – 60 key professionals and leaders from a variety of age groups and fields (social, political, business, environmental, citizen diplomacy, NGO’s etc) were invited to EcoME to hear about the project and help guide this unique project in its first steps. Over 2 days the EcoME core group shared some of their initial dilemmas and questions and received feedback on the next steps. In turn possibilities for future organizational collaboration were discussed and time was devoted to quiet and rejuvenation through 2 outdoor desert activities facilitated by the EcoME staff.
Sulha Tribal Fire – more than 120 Palestinians internationals and Israelis attended this monthly event. This time there wasn’t any need for asking for permits for the Palestinians to come, an often tiresome and challenging process for the Sulha team. Over the course of the evening, Palestinian/ and Israeli musicians performed together, and then participants divided into small groups to share about their lives and the things they would like to change. After the sharing circles, everyone ate together and enjoyed some fun time by the fire, before closing the event in a huge circle with a common prayer for peace.
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) Workshop – “Building Inclusive Community” – in addition to a 2 days’ workshop that the residents of EcoME went through in the issue of Nonviolent communication, we had the great opportunity to host here more 50 Israelis and Palestinians aged 15-60 for a 2.5 days’ workshop. Here they studied new ways of communication that take into account the needs of the other, and find win-win solutions where all needs can be met. The workshop as facilitated by Roberta Wall, Hagit Lifshitz and Hilia Zedaka and different breakout sessions focused on using NVC within family and professional relations, in Palestinian and Israeli Dialogue and for social change activism. It was a huge success, and following high demand a second workshop is being planned for March 2011.
In addition EcoME has been used by numerous NGO’s for meetings, such as the Sulha steering committee, the Wounded Crossing Borders – Palestinian uni-lateral meeting, Time is Now joint committee meeting, EcoTour debrief, Tich Nat Han Meditation and Peace Research Village intensive time. We have also several groups from various backgrounds sharing the vision of the EcoME Centre, and the success/lessons of these first weeks
We are proud to have a safe space for unique meetings between children – the next generation: In addition to Eden, our youngest resident (1.5 yrs. old) and the hearts opener of EcoME, we have been visited by more and more children from the West Bank and from Israel. To see them playing together, speaking with each other in Hebrew and Arabic – gives us hope and a family weekend is now being planne, where activities will be offered for children, women and men.
After the success of the first 6 weeks it is clear now that we will stay at this location at least till mid-May, whilst we continue to research the intricacy of such a unique Centre, clarify the vision, build and strengthen relationship and partnerships, support the core group process and look for permanent land. We continuously learning the complexity of creating such a project and the deep need it is answering.