April 2015

“Green Economy Initiatives” holds seminar on EcoTourism Business Development

EcoPeace’s “Green Economy Initiatives” (GEI) project held a 2-day cross border meeting this month with Israeli Professor Dr. Uri Mayer Chissik – who leads an education program on food heritage and community involvement – and staff from our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark (SHE) in Jordan. A partnership is being explored between the two, whereby Dr. Chissik would like to give training workshops to the SHE EcoPark staff on “food foraging”, an activity that can then be incorporated into the environmental education programs offered at the Park.

Also this month, the GEI project held the Final Seminar of the business consultant project phase at the Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan. This seminar concluded the first stage of developing the cross-border touristic itineraries between Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian Tour Operators and Tour Guides, choosing the best programs that will now continue on to the marketing phase. We are delighted that 4 itineraries can be marketed shortly, benefitting the regional partners as well as the selected green initiatives in the local communities. To see more photos from the event, please click here.

In addition, many one-day youth seminars took place this month in our 3 EcoParks; in Ein Gedi in Israel, Auja in Palestine and Sharhabil bin Hassneh in Jordan. The seminars aim to increase environmental awareness, instill environmental responsibility as well as teach ‘green economy’ principles. Youth site visits to the nearby touristic sites on the Jordan River or Dead Sea offer a good venue to further discuss the benefits that eco-tourism initiatives could bring to the local population.

Triathlon / Duathlon at Sharhabil Bin Hassneh (SHE) EcoPark
On March 28th, 100 participants ran in a triathlon / duathlon at our SHE EcoPark in Jordan. The Triathlon combined open-water swimming, on and off-road cycling and cross-country running. The Duathlon consisted of a cross-country run, a cycle leg and a second cross-country run. Check out more pictures on ourfacebook page!

Have you seen the physical improvements in our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan?
Come to the Park to see the new outdoor dining area – we are leveling the ground and tiling it with interlocking outdoor tiles, erecting a new kitchen structure and building low stone walls to lock it all in place. We will soon be serving and enjoying our meals in this new setting. Come by and visit!

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

“Good Water Neighbors” share their “water messages” on both local and global stages
Many Good Water Neighbor youth events coincided with World Water Day this year. Youth Water Trustees met and toured their joint water basins of the Alexander/Zomar stream, Abu Nar/Hadera stream, Lower Jordan River, the Soreq stream and the Yarkon stream. They learnt about hydrology, the ecological history of the streams and enjoyed the blossoming nature of the spring season. You can see what the Water Trustees have to say about water on the international “Water messengers” site. To see some of our Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli and water messages, follow the links!

Over 1000 residents living along the banks of the Jordan River attended the “Streaming the Jordan” event on March 21st – an event hosted by EcoPeace Middle East, the Kinneret Drainage Authority, and the Jordan Valley Regional Council. The event brought together residents to educate them about the changes to the river, to bring people back to the river to enjoy its natural surroundings, and to empower the community to be part of the rehabilitation and the future maintenance of the river. The event included a 4.5 km walk along the banks of the river as well as music, food, and natural art activities for children.

Also this month, two of our alumni water trustees held a “cross border water” activity for youth and represented EcoPeace in the Emek Hefer Regional Council’s Annual March. In the activity prepared by the alumni, youth were instructed to carry a glass of water along a “stream route with no borders.” On the way they encountered many obstacles: oil, hazardous chemicals (red syrup), and salt, that were put in the glasses of water. A “farmer” even asked for youth to pour their now-polluted water on his plants. The activity illustrated that joint efforts are needed to keep our shared water clean.

In line with the Good Water Neighbors project’s new “basin approach”, EcoPeace together with the HaBesor / Shikma Drainage Authority held a round table discussion aimed at creating a full picture regarding all sources of pollution of the Hebron / Besor Basin, and to better understand the responsibility of each stakeholder in the basin. Participants included: HaBesor Drainage Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Environmental Protection, representatives of the local Farmer’s Association of Bney Shimon RC and representatives of the sewage treatment department in the Water Authority.

Battir’s WATCH DAY event!
Battir’s inclusion on the World Monument Fund’s (WMF) Watch List last year helped to bring attention to the unique landscape of the village. This action, along with many other efforts, made possible the listing of Battir as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This month, EcoPeace partnered with the Battir village in a special Watch Day event in the context of the WMF Watch List; it was a great day packed full of educational and fun activities that showcased the beautiful landscape of the area.
This event was partially sponsored by the World Monuments Fund Watch Day.

“Good Water Neighbors” in Bosnia off to a good start!
News from our friends in Bosnia, from the Center for Ecology and Energy, tell us that youth are already learning how to monitor the water quality in the Spreca River, and are looking forward to sharing and comparing their results with their neighboring community soon. Click here for more photos.

This comes after a rocky beginning though, where one school suddenly backed out of its participation in the program, fearing their reputation from making contact with the ‘other’ ethnic community, while another school that was then approached, jumped at the opportunity to join, citing it as the best way to build bridges across their ethnic divide. This is an all-too familiar scenario for EcoPeace, and we say BRAVO to the CEE team for navigating through this hurdle and explaining the benefits of working together.

Intractable Peacebuilding: EcoPeace’s environmental peacemaking model
EcoPeace Middle East is proud to be one of the organizations profiled in this new research study “Intractable Peacebuilding: Innovation and Perseverance in the Israeli-Palestinian Context” undertaken by Ned Lazarus from the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, at George Mason University.

The paper profiles initiatives that have established models and strategies for peacebuilding in a hostile context, which can serve as points of reference and inspiration to people engaged in similar struggles around the world. Read more in this blog, and in the paper itself.

editor’s note:
see http://scar.gmu.edu/sites/default/files/S-CAR_Working_Paper_28_2.pdf

The “Good Water Neighbors” project is funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

Jordan River Rehabilitation: a snapshot of success
EcoPeace has pulled together years of hard work (highlighted in many of these newsletters) to develop a portfolio of achievements in our Jordan River Rehabilitation efforts. From the onset of Good Water Neighbors activities in the early 2000s, to the release of flow to the Jordan River and construction of wastewater treatment plants along its banks, EcoPeace can finally look back at what the original vision of Jordan River Rehabilitation was, and watch it flourish. There is still so much more to be done!

As part of our continued effort, EcoPeace Middle East’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Program with the support of the Swedish International Development Agency, is developing the first ever Model Basin Commission for the Jordan River. This effort aims to propose a governance structure for the Lower Jordan River based on best practices and lessons learned from existing transboundary basin commissions. The call for proposals and terms of reference for this commissioned program can be found here.

Also this month, EcoPeace continued to lead tours of the Jordan River, exposing hundreds of new individuals to the environmental challenges of the Lower Jordan River. There is no better way to involve the public in rehabilitation efforts – that will ultimately pressure local decision makers into action – than showing them the issues first-hand and on-site. These tours also included participants from faith-communities.

Auja Eco Center hosts Palestinian Minister of Water, Eng. Mazen Ghoneim
On March 2nd, Eng. Mazen Ghoneim, new head of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) visited the Auja Eco Center and Jordan Valley. To shed light on the water and sanitation challenges with the Jordan Valley, EcoPeace Middle East took the minister from the Eco Center to the Jordan River and Dead Sea.

With a visit to the Palestinian Salt Factory and Qasr El Yehud Baptism Site, EcoPeace presented the efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River and Dead Sea – important to the environment, water resources, and the Palestinian economy at large. To see pictures from the event, please follow this link.

Jordan River Faith Based Program represented abroad
This month, EcoPeace representatives travelled across the globe to San Francisco to participate in a conference titled “Global Greening through the Grassroots” organized by the United Religious Initiative “URI”, a global grassroots interfaith network. The conference formalized the creation of an “Environmental Resource Cooperation Circle.” As part of the conference, EcoPeace representatives traveled to the San Francisco Grace Cathedral to stand in solidarity and blessing at the 50 year commemorative signing of the United Nations June 25, 1945. For more information on the conference, please read this blog post.

CNN “The Wonder List”: Is the Dead Sea Dying?
On September 16th, 2014, EcoPeace representatives escorted CNN’s film crew on a visit to the Dead Sea, the Mouth of the Jordan River, our Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark, Madaba in Jordan and the Dead Sea in Israel. “The River Jordan is nearly dead” declares CNN’s Bill Weir in his article “Is the Dead Sea Dying?”. The full episode about the Dead Sea, as part of the “Wonder List” series, was aired on March 29th at 10:00pm EST with EcoPeace well featured.

There Once Was a Sea
EcoPeace is also featured in the “There Once Was a Sea” art-house documentary produced by the company “Daring House”. This is a full-length movie, fully shot, that describes the beauty, the problems and the hopes of the Dead Sea. It is an act of love and a call for action, but they need help to complete post-production! A percentage of each donation they receive goes to EcoPeace! Visit their website and help spread the word!

EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation Project is supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation.