Posted by: friendsoftheearthmiddleeast | April 17, 2014

PGW Film Screening

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Amman, Jo

 

Friends of the Earth Middle East “FoEME” held a workshop that included film screening a documentary about Protecting Ground Water Project “PGW” on the 2nd of April, 2014. Read More…


Water Cannot Wait – Campaign

In the context of our “Water Cannot Wait” campaign, a second round of ads were published in all major Israeli newspapers on Sunday March 23rd, noting International World Water Day. a1

 

This is part of a series of ads and events in Israel and Palestine that will continue to take place in the next weeks and months in support of the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Kerry to move the peace process forward with recognition that water and environmental issues are priority issues for the benefit of both parties.

 

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

 

 

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Good Water Neighbors Cross Border Youth Campsa2

In keeping with FoEME’s commitment of bringing together people from across the divides to learn about each other, our different water realities and our shared environment, the Good Water Neighbors project held several cross border youth camps this month.

 

a3In Emek Hefer, youth from the community hosted peers from their partnering community of Tulkarem, coming together for a fun-filled weekend of outdoor adventure activities; making art projects with recycled material such as newspaper and plastic bottles, bicycling as a group along the Alexander Stream – the beautiful, yet polluted, stream that runs through both their communities – a fun evening of debka dancing, and more…. Read more about this camp in this blog.

 

Another camp brought together youth from the Israeli communities of Gilboa, Beit She’an and the Springs Valley RC, Jalameh in Palestine and South Shouneh, Jordan.  Their activities included a tour in an agricultural farm and learning about irrigation systems designed to save water, and practicing outdoor training in a beautiful nearby forest, for first-hand experience in joint leadership skills.

 

Youth “Water Trustees” from Baka Gharbia and Baka Sharkia met in FoEME‘s Auja EcoPark, and helped to erect a geodesic dome on the site – an environmentally friendly building technique. A visit to the local Auja Spring gave them an understanding of the water challenges facing Palestinian residents in the Jordan Valley area.

 

All youth camps aim to educate on water disparities and the interdependent nature of the water resources, break down stereotypes to build connections, and to learn about the need to protect our shared environment.

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Good Water Neighbors “Water Trustees” host Japanese youth delegation

Israeli and Palestinian youth “Water Trustees” that participated in last summer’s visit to Japan hosted a group of Japanese youth who came this time to visit several Good Water Neighbors communities in the region. These exchanges are part of the Peace Field Japan program run by a Japanese NGO that nurtures a ‘culture of peace’ through dialogue and exchange of youth in conflict areas such as Israel and Palestine.a4a

 

a5Water Trustees from Israel met the delegation for an overnight reunion in FoEME‘s Ein Gedi EcoCenter, where they shared some special moments seeing each other again after last year’s program.  They did fun environmental education activities such as mud building, baking a cake using a solar oven and using mosaics to write the Japanese word “Kizuma”, meaning “bond”, stamping the mission statement in their artwork.

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‘Good Water Neighbors’….in Bosnia Herzegovina?

A delegation of 3 FoEME staff travelled to Bosnia Herzegovina during the last week of March; this was the last of 4 exchange visits that aimed to explore the possibility of adapting FoEME’s environmental peacemaking methodology, especially our “Good Water Neighbors” program, in the conflict-ridden area of the Balkans.a6

 

The Center for Ecology and Energy, a Bosnian environmental NGO, themselves comprised of the different ethnic factions in the area, organized meetings with different stakeholders; local ministries, academia, and mayors, centered around the Spreca River Basin in northern Bosnia. All were anxious to learn about our grassroots work and how community involvement can raise awareness about shared water resources, shared responsibilities, and the need to work together to find solutions.  An exciting pilot project in the Balkans is presently being developed.

 

a7The FoEME / Balkan exchange visit program was supported by Robert Bosch Stiftung.

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

 

 

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Draft Regional NGO Master Plan for the Lower Jordan River Valley Baseline Report

Released February 2014 – This Baseline Report issued by Royal HaskoningDHV (RHDHV) in partnership with CORE a8Associates (Palestine), MASAR (Jordan) and DHVMED (Israel) on behalf of FoEME and its partners SIWI and GNF, provides the first ever attempt to synergize data from Israel, Jordan and Palestine on a wide range of critical areas necessary for sustainable water and integrated development of the Lower Jordan River Valley.

 

The report describes the existing reality on issues including: land use and infrastructure, water resources and supply, environment and ecology, cultural heritage, and the climate change related impacts on the basin as well as socio-economic issues such as population, agriculture, tourism and industry and current water allocations. The baseline report includes a detailed digitized environmental flows study from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea using the WEAP model. An aim of the NGO master plan is to envision integrated regional sustainable development in the valley under a two state solution of the peace process where all of the West Bank areas of the Jordan Valley are part of the future Palestinian State.

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Public Hearings in Jordan and Palestine on the LJR Baseline Report

Following the release of the Lower Jordan Valley Baseline Report, FoEME held Public Hearings in both Amman and Ramallah to present, involve and receive feedback from relevant stakeholders and decision makers in Jordan and Palestine. Click here for a broadcast of the event in Amman.a9a

 

The Hearings were well attended, but nevertheless, additional meetings will also be organized to hear further reactions and comments, before continuing to the next project phase of advancing the NGO Master Plan.  Click here for a set of photos from the Amman Stakeholders Consultation Meeting

 

The Baseline Report and the Public Hearings are part of the Regional NGO Master Plan (SWIM-JR) Project, supported by the European Union’s Sustainable Water Integrated Management (SWIM) Programme.

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Lower Jordan River – Faith Based Tour in Jordan

“Crossing the Jordan Tour: Partnering in Good Faith towards the Rehabilitation of the Jordan River” are a series of tours intended to garner support of religious figures in advocating for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River in their congregations.a10

 

To this end, FoEME’s Amman office organized 100 Christian teachers and clergy who participated in a full-day study tour and group learning experience focused on the Jordan River. They traveled to several sites along the Eastern bank of the Lower Jordan River, explored the River’s current condition and received extensive explanations from FoEME staff about the rich cultural and religious significance that the Jordan holds for the Christian faith – as well as FoEME’s efforts toward its rehabilitation. They engaged in discussions related to the environmental, cultural, and historical value of the Lower Jordan River, concluding with Prayers and Hymns recited in both Arabic and Syriac; a dialect of Aramaic. Read more in this blog.

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Lower Jordan River – Faith Based Tour in Palestine

FoEME’s Bethlehem office also conducted a “Crossing the Jordan Tour: Partnering in Good Faith towards the Rehabilitation of the Jordan River” tour to the Jordan Valley area for more than 125 participants from all over Palestine. The tour aimed to familiarize participants about the importance of the River’s religious, historical and geographical aspects. The group included students from all Universities and Colleges in addition to employees from the Ministry of Education who work on environmental awareness, employees from the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, with Muftis and General Managers of the Directorate from all over the country.a11

 

The tour began at the Auja Eco-Center explaining FoEME’s overall vision, activities, and future efforts for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River, and then headed to the Kaser el Yehud Baptism Site, to the Dir Hejleh Monastery, the old Hotel Lido on the northern shores of the Dead Sea, and ended with a visit to the Russian Museum in Jericho. Media coverage of the event included this article by Maan News as well as coverage on Maan/Mix TV in the evening.

 

FoEME’s Jordan River Faith Based Advocacy Program, part of the Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation.

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2nd Traithlon at FoEME’s SHE EcoPark

a13On a perfect spring weather day on March 29th, the 2nd Triathlon and Duathlon was held at the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark and the adjacent Ziglab Dam. This year, the race was organized by Experience Jordan, in partnership with Friends of the Earth Middle East and Wild and Free Adventures. 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. Read more info in this blog, and click here for a set of beautiful photos!a12

 
Both races tested the fitness and commitment of the 70 people that signed up this year, doubling last year’s participation!  Missed it this year?  Start exercising for next year’s event!

 

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Protecting Ground Water – short films about environmental challenges and hazard alleviation

Local governments have a vital role in environmental management.  The ‘Protecting Ground Water‘ (PGW) project aims to empower local authorities with tools and knowledge in order to improve environmental management and quality of life for their residents. Of course, the challenges are great and need to be addressed in long term processes.a14

 

Short films are being produced for each municipality participating in the project illustrating the main local environmental challenges, the work that has been done, and the further work needed. Enjoy!

 

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

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“ENTITLE” project meeting

FoEME is one of 11 partners in the ENTITLE project that is training 18 researchers in the emerging field of Political Ecology. FoEME’s Palestinian Director attended the recent ENTITLE project meetings at Lund University where presentations were given of all partners’ achievements, the work of the post-doctoral fellows, and research of the PhD candidates.  FoEME’s contribution to the project includes the paper “Do Virtual Water Flows Actually Flow?” which analyzes virtual water flows in the Jericho Governorate. Next year, FoEME will host several site tours in the region for the project.a15

 

The ENTITLE project is supported by the EU 7th Framework Program (FP7).

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Book Launch – “Water & Post-Conflict Peacebuilding” a12a

The Environmental Law Institute, United Nations Environment Programme, University of Tokyo, McGill University, and Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment held a book-launch event – of the fourth book in the series on
strengthening post-conflict peacebuilding through natural resource management entitled “Water and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding“.  The event was held on March 21st at the Environmental Law Institutein Washington DC.

 

FoEME contributed a chapter in Part 3: Peace Processes, Cooperation, and Confidence Building, called “Transboundary Cooperation in the Lower Jordan River Basin“.

 

 

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Posted by: friendsoftheearthmiddleeast | March 31, 2014

The 2nd Jordan Valley Triathlon & Duathlon Concluded Successfully

Triathlon Poster 140106 copy3Friends of the Earth Middle East “FoEME” in collaboration with Experience Jordan concluded its 2nd Jordan Valley Triathlon & Duathlon titled “Swim, Cycle, Run to Help Save the Jordan River” on the 29th of March, 2014 at the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh Ecopark.  Read More…

089On the 28th of March, 2014, Friends of the Earth Middle East concluded its 2nd visit to the Jordan Valley titled: “Crossing the Jordan Tour: Partnering in Good Faith towards the Rehabilitation of the Jordan RiverRead More…

Posted by: friendsoftheearthmiddleeast | March 18, 2014

A Glimpse into Good Water Neighbors Youth Camp

Emek Hefer and Tulkarem: March 6-8, 2014

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  Tucked away in Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh, a group of 20 students ages 12-15 from the communities of Emek Hefer and Tulkarem, as well as six staff members, came together for a fun-filled weekend of outdoor adventure activities, making cross-cultural friendships and learning about the environment. Read More…

 WEDO / Friends of the Earth Middle East finalize Baseline Report for the Regional NGO Master Plan for the Lower Jordan River Valley  f1

Submitted to WEDO / FoEME by Royal HaskoningDHV (RHDHV) in partnership with CORE Associates (Palestine), MASAR (Jordan) and DHVMED (Israel), the now completed Baseline Report describes the current situation in the Lower Jordan River Basin and presents the major challenges in the basin and for each of the three riparian countries (Jordan, Palestine and Israel) towards creating sustainable development conditions, including environmental flows provided through its natural resources; a healthy eco-system; equitable sharing of water resources; free public accessibility for all nationalities within an appropriate security framework; and a healthy economic development perspective.

This baseline report will be used as starting point for the remainder of this study: the development of national and regional NGO Master Plans.  The Baseline Report marks a critical first-ever integrated inventory of the Lower Jordan River’s current situation including up-to-date data from Israel, Jordan and Palestine and will provide the WEDO / FoEME and RHDHV teams the information needed to plan scenarios for development in the Jordan Valley.  WEDO / FoEME and its consortium partners, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and Global Nature Fund (GNF), aim to see the interventions identified in the national and regional NGO master plans adopted in full or in part by the national authorities in the region to advance the principals of integrated water resource management.

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

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Palestinian groups learn about the demise of the Jordan River

On the 7th of February 2014, FoEME’s Bethlehem office arranged a trip for 95 University students from the north f2of Palestine, and another 35 environmental guides and employees from the Palestinian Ministry of Education from all Palestinian Governorates. They visited the Kaser el Yehud baptism site just outside of Jericho, the Auja Spring area, the environmental center in Auja, and more.

f3At all sites, FoEME explained the environmental, cultural, and religious importance of the Jordan River; briefed them about efforts underway for the River’s rehabilitation, and distributed brochures, research reports carried out by FoEME and other documents about the River.  For most of the participants, this was the first time they visited the Jordan River.

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Swedish Delegation learn about the Jordan River, Dead Seaf4

Another example of FoEME’s relentless efforts to educate decision makers on the state of the Jordan River took place on Thursday, 13th of February, 2014. FoEME’s Amman office took Mrs. Susanne Eberstein, the Swedish Deputy Speaker of Parliament along with a delegation of Swedish parliamentarians to visit the southern mouth of the Jordan River, the point where the Jordan River meets the Dead Sea.

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 Jordan River Interfaith Concert in Brooklyn, NYf5

The first-ever interfaith concert for the restoration of the Jordan River was held in Brooklyn on February 23, 2014 at the Kane Street Synagogue.  Groups of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim musicians shared music about the Jordan River, who said that “the event was one big high. Rabbi Simkha Weintraub’s remarks were perfect and inspiring: “…the Jordan River stimulates in us a profound appreciation of our history and the memory of our journey, recalling our heritage and our freedom…. It calls out to us to join heads, hands, and hearts with ‘The Other’, to reach across boundaries, with the peoples on the other sides of this remarkable water system that navigates from lush sources high up North through all kinds of territory to the lowest point on Earth, the salty Dead Sea.”

f6FoEME’s Israeli Director Gidon Bromberg was on hand to update the crowd about the current state of the Jordan River and how they could join FoEME’s campaign to rehabilitate the Jordan River.  Read more in this blog….and listen to the song “Across Tiberius

FoEME’s Jordan River Faith Based Advocacy Program, part of the Jordan River Rehabilitation Project, is supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Osprey Foundation.

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University student groups learn about sustainability at the Auja EcoPark

Throughout the month, more than 450 students from different Universities and other schools in Palestine visited the Auja EcoCenter, all undertaking the environmental education program offered in the park. f7

f9The focus of the visits range from learning about sustainable water and environmental  practices such as water conservation, grey water use, recycling, renewable energy, permaculture, composting, aquaponics and the potential for such practices to develop Green Economy opportunities in Palestine.

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

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Tackling the Houseflies Problem in South Ghor, Jordan f10

FoEME organized a Jordanian Parliamentary tour to the South Ghor Municipality in Jordan, to bring political attention to one of the most urgent environmental problems in the area; the houseflies problem. Participants in the tour included several Members of Parliament, the Governor of South Ghor and the Mayor of South Ghor, and local farmers from the community.

The delegation visited a traditional farm in Ghor Mezra’a, where local farmers – who are aware that their use of raw chicken manure as fertilizer is the main cause of the houseflies’ problem – explained the economic difficulties preventing them from following best agricultural practices. Following a thorough discussion between all sides, the Parliamentarians agreed to take the lead on this issue and bring the relevant ministers together to try and find a more sustainable economic and environmental solution.

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Battir featured on World Monuments Fund Website f11

The Good Water Neighbors community of Battir was featured on the World Monuments Fund Website and Social Media outlets during the week of February 23-28th, as the “endangered site of the week”. Background information, articles, maps, videos and a blog were all disseminated to their wide audience, helping to get the word out about this ancient cultural landscape that is threatened today by the proposed building of the Israeli Separation Barrier.

FoEME, together with the Village of Battir and several Israeli residents from the neighboring GWN community, together submitted an objection to the High Court of Israel to the proposed Barrier, with a final decision still pending.  See our Good Water Neighbors / Press Coverage webpage for articles written on Battir, including this important CNN item.

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Mesila Industrial Zone; FoEME’s efforts against “Pollution Havens”f12

The Good Water Neighbors team held a media tour this month at the “Mesila” Industrial Zone in Tulkarem, highlighting the illegality of actions being taken by the Civil Administration who are looking to retroactively approve the Industrial Zone with a new Master Plan for the area. Factories operating on this site never received formal approval from Israeli authorities, and none have undertaken any environmental assessments. Click here to read press coverage from the media tour.

f13The media tour was a run-up to a Public Hearing held at the Civil Administration Planning Committee on February 24th, where FoEME submitted a formal objection to the Master Plan being developed, as did two additional NGO’s, the Israeli Union of Environmental Defense (IUED) and Bimkom, and representatives of the city of Tulkarem and nearby Israeli villages, including the GWN partnering community of Emek Hefer, were also present at the Hearing, supporting FoEME’s opposition to the plan. The objection included scientific findings of heavy pollution in the drainage water of the Industrial Zone, and on the risk of further contamination in nearby wells in Tulkarem. FoEME attorneys also claimed the illegality of the Industrial Zone’s site, since they were partly built on private Palestinian land.  We await the outcome of the Hearing and will share updates when received.

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

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‘Protecting Ground Water’ project holds 3 workshops f14

The “Protecting Ground Water” team in Palestine held 3 workshops this month; in Auja, Fasayel, and Yatta, to discuss the Implementation Plans being developed in the communities and to hear feedback from different stakeholders, including officials, mayors, officers in the Palestinian police, doctors, academics and students.

The team presented the GIS audit report and the new Hazard Map for each of the communities, and concluded with next steps, depending on the vision and priorities of the communities and the experts’ points of view.

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

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FoEME Israeli Director, Gidon Bromberg was invited to speak at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C on February 24, 2014 at an event entitled Water, Conflict, and Peacebuilding in Development: Lessons for Practitioners“.f15

The event launched USAID’s Water and Conflict Toolkit for Programming, a document designed to help development practitioners gain a deeper understanding of the forces driving violence and instability related to water, including contributions by FoEME from our ‘Good Water Neighbors’ and ‘Jordan River Rehabilitation’ projects’ experiences. Click her for a link to a video of the full event.

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Posted by: friendsoftheearthmiddleeast | March 3, 2014

Parliamentarian Tour in South Ghor Municipality

The Housflies Problem

20th of February 2014

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FoEME has organized a Parliamentarian tour to the South Ghor Municipality to attract their attention to one of the most urgent environmental problems; the houseflies problem.

The tour included MP. Shadi AlAdwan, MP Mazen Jawazneh, MP Mefleh Eisheibat, Mr. Abdalla Mayta- Governor of South Ghor, Mr. Ahmad Oneh – the Mayor of South Ghor as well as farmers from the community.

The tour started by visiting a traditional farm in Ghor Mezra’a where Mr. Sameer Habashneh talked about the use of raw chicken manure as a fertilizer in his land and the main challenges that make it hard to follow the best agricultural practices. The Parliamentarians have noticed the houslfies problem and became aware of the fact that the use of raw chicken manure is the main reason behind it.

The second stop was at the sinkholes in the Dead Sea area where representatives from FoEME explained more about the necessity to stabilize the Dead Sea level through the rehabilitation of the Jordan River and the importance of reconsidering the technologies used by the potash and Bromine Companies.20140220_104131

The visit concluded with the following recommendations:

1-      The creation of a “model farm” that will allow farmers to witness best agricultural practices on the ground. This will promote economic development via the merging of local Jordanian knowledge and available land and water resources with Israeli experience and technology and pest alleviation in means that support sustainable agricultural development.. They will learn and experience the equipment first-hand in order to grant the FoEME and the program their trust and in order to remove any doubts or suspicions. New and modern equipment is going to be used to ensure minimum costs on the long-run as well as rewarding outcomes. New equipment is going to be available for the accessibility of all farmers in the municipality. This will, hopefully, raise their awareness concerning the need for a long-term solution for the housefly problem.

2-      Raising awareness and enforcing the environmental standards that protect public health and the environment is a crucial aspect. The sustainability of such projects is ensured using regulation and accreditation, environmental protection guidelines, and efforts to preserve ecosystems as risk. Consequently, this program will be in direct collaboration with Rangers and the Ministry of Environment. The objective here is to amend current health and environmental laws as well as the evaluation and the monitoring of the effectiveness of these laws.

3-      A compost factory is to be built near chicken and cow farms to treat manure directly after its disposal. Not only will this result in a long-term solution for the housefly problem, but it will also ensure better quality of cropsDSC_0182 as compost is the key ingredient in organic farming. One aspect of interest for the farmers is that if a compost factory is built near their farms, manure could be exchanged for a reduced price.

Farmers also added that marketing is a big problem for them nowadays due to the political situation in neighboring countries; they requested a central vegetable market to be constructed in South Ghor.

MP Mazen Gawazneh stated that before working on enforcing the law that prevents the use of raw chicken manure, we need to start by providing other options and we need to have the compost factory operating first.

DSC_0323At the end they all agreed on the importance of this initiative and pledged to support the organization and the proposed projects; the MPs will be organizing a hearing in the lower house of Parliament with the minister of Environment, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Water and Irrigation and invite FoEME to speak about the problem and projects proposed.

 

 

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This post is contributed by Hana Alassad FoEMEs Jordanian Good Water Neighbors “Adults” Project Coordinator.

Posted by: friendsoftheearthmiddleeast | March 2, 2014

An Interfaith Jordan River Music Concert in the US

Feb. 23, 2014

Photo Feb 23, 5 07 04 PMThe first-ever interfaith concert for the restoration of the Jordan River was held in Brooklyn on February 23, 2014 at the Kane Street Synagogue.  The event was one big high.  The musicians, spectacular, all got along great, spontaneously joining up with each other.

Samer Tabari was super exciting – people were clapping and would have danced, as he sang playing the keyboard a mawal (prelude song) about the Jordan, then a song called Ya Elordonya (Oh Jordan), and then the vibrant song for fairouz saloni el nas.  Joey Weisenberg and mandolin backed up Samer in a very moving way.

The Peace of Heart choir were rousing and got people singing along with Peace/Shalom Salaam, Down by the Riverside, and their signature song Let There be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin with Me.  At the end, everyone joined in to sing Michael Row Your Boat Ashore.

Dave Hall, a highly accomplished musician, accompanied himself on the guitar tugging the heart strings with Across Tiberius, written by himself on a melody by J.S. Bach and then All My Trials, an American traditional song with the words, “Jordan River is chilly and cold, chills the body but not the soul.”Photo Feb 23, 4 18 13 PM

Joey Weisenberg, as always charismatic and engaging, as part of a five-member band performed a song he wrote about the Jordan River, Rise, Rise Sweet Waters: it had the elements of a spiritual and everyone sang along at the top of their voices.  Joey introduced it by sharing some stories from the Midrash about the Leviathan (the primordial, massive sea-creature) and the Re’em (a formidable mythic Bull) — able to drain and despoil the river in ways painfully reflective of what has actually transpired in recent decades, the very real damage by contemporary governments.

Rabbi Simkha Weintraub’s remarks were perfect and inspiring, “Abraham crossed over from Mesopotamia, and the Israelites crossed over after wandering for 40 years after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  The Jordan River stimulates in us a profound appreciation of our history and the memory of our journey, recalling our heritage and our freedom…. The Jordan is there to be crossed over, if you will.  It calls out to us to join heads, hands, and hearts with the Other, to reach across boundaries, with the peoples on the other sides of this remarkable water system that navigates from lush sources high up North through all kinds of territory to the lowest point on Earth, the salty Dead Sea.”

Dr. Ahmad Jaber’s remarks too were to the point, ranging from his experience as a youth in Palestine of the flowing River Jordan, and then a visit last year to a much different river; the relationship of the river to Islam, Mohammed’s companions buried by the river, giving their names to places; and the assertion that if the sides can get together to clean up the river, then they surely can make peace.

Photo Feb 23, 5 36 52 PM FoEME’s Israeli Director Gidon Bromberg was on hand to update the crowd about the current state of the Jordan River and how they could join FoEME’s campaign to rehabilitate the Jordan River by endorsing the Jordan River covenant and taking action in their local communities.  More ideas for how faith based communities and others can support the rehabilitation of the Jordan can be found in our faith based publication series.

The event was organized by Roberta Weisbrod Ph.D. an environmentalist, Co-chair of American Friends of Friends of the Earth Middle East from its earliest days, and Rabbi Simkha Weintraub.

More about the artists:

Samer “Sami” Tabari (listen https://soundcloud.com/samer-tabari) is a Palestinian vocalist who comes from a family of musicians and singers. He began to learn and play keyboard at age 11 and by age 14 was performing at weddings and parties with many famous singers and musicians. At age 18, Tabari moved to the U.S. and formed his own band.  In addition to being a vocalist and musician, Tabari is also a producer and composer.

The Peace of Heart Choir http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLL5K_jBuZA formed immediately after 9/11 to participate in a community-healing event.  By November of that year they had their first stand-alone concert, now giving about 20 concerts a year.  Their mission is to promote healing, diversity, community bonding, and mutual understanding within local communities. As part of this mission, they go out into the community free of charge, for non-profit organizations, area shelters, hospitals, service providers, and any not-for-profit engagement that promotes healing, diversity, community bonding and mutual understanding.

David Hall, http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ew10vcucKoF9UJp0aTfmg a fourth-generation Brooklynite, is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music. He’s known for his recordings and performances of his original folk-rock, his work as a composer and lyricist for musical theater, and for his Chamber music. A multi-ethnic American, he’s very proud of his Arab heritage and is deeply committed to peace, democracy and human rights both in the US and in the Middle East. An ardent environmentalist, he is glad to be present at this event.  “Across Tiberius” is one of the most expressive songs performed.

Joey Weisenberg (http://joeyweisenberg.com/videos-music-books/videos/) is a mandolinist, guitarist, singer and percussionist based in New York City, who has performed and recorded internationally with dozens of bands in a wide variety of musical styles. Joey works as the Music Director at Brooklyn’s oldest synagogue, the Kane Street Synagogue, and is the music faculty at Yeshivat Hadar, an egalitarian yeshiva in New York. Joey visits shuls and communities around the country as a musician-in-residence, most recently Alaska, in which he teaches his popular ‘Spontaneous Jewish Choir’ workshops.

Rabbi Simkha Weintraub is the Rabbinic Director of Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services.  His mission and function is healing, now centrally involved in New York Jewish Healing Center and National Center for Jewish Healing.  He frequently participates in interfaith conferences in the Middle East in Muslim nations.  Simkha has a strong connection with EcoPeace/ Friends of the Earth Middle East, when has a Director of Public Education of New Israel Fund he supported FoEME’s early efforts.

Ahmad Jaber is a doctor, a gynecologist/obstetrician who delivered over 5000 babies.  He was born in Palestine and came here to study and live in 1974.   In early 2001 he co-founded the Arab American Association of New York as a social service organization, which after September shifted its focus to express interfaith solidarity as well as to protect the rights of members.  He is Chairman of the Board of Brooklyn’s first mosque – The Dawood Mosque– and is a very active member of the Brooklyn Interfaith Clergy.

Photo Feb 23, 4 46 30 PM

This post is contributed by Roberta Weisbrod, Co-Chairperson of American Friends of FoEME

Photographs by Hai Knafo 

Dead Sea, Jordan

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On Thursday, 13th February, 2014 Mrs. Susanne Eberstein, the Swedish Deputy Speaker of Parliament along with Swedish parliamentarians visited the Mouth of the Jordan River; the point where the Jordan River meets the Dead Sea. The visit that was organized by Friends of the Earth Middle East “FoEME” included extensive043 explanations about the current status of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.  The River, according to Mr., Munqeth Mehyar Chairperson and Jordanian Director of FoEME, is presently a degraded system due to severe flow reduction and water quality decline. The river lost over 98% of its historic flow because it is diverted by Israel, Syria, and Jordan for domestic and agricultural use. The remaining flow consists of sewage, fish pond waters, agricultural run-off diverted into the LJR from salt springs around the Sea of Galilee. The River lost over 50% of its biodiversity due to loss of fast flow habitats, floods, and high salinity of the water.

016Abuse of the River’s waters led to the degradation of the Dead Sea as well affirms Ms., Yana Abu Taleb, FoEMEs Jordanian Assistant Director. The Dead Sea has already lost over 1/3 of its surface area and its level has fallen over 25 meters since development of the region started early this century.  She added that the depth of the sea is continuing to drop by over 1 meter per year with an expected shrinking shoreline of 430 meters by the year 2020 compared to its present 411 meters. Water inflow levels have already been reduced to just 5% of its original volume with annual surface inflows in the future predicted to only further decrease. The deterioration in the Sea level will not only cause drying up of micro-eco-systems leading to land-subsidence  known as “sink holes” but will also reflect negatively on tourism; a major income generator she added.

Mr., Nader Alkhatib; FoEMEs Palestinian Director elaborated on the organizations efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River and to save the Dead Sea that vary from awareness campaigns to lobbying governments to pass resolution intended to end abusing the River’s waters. After the thorough explanations, Mrs., Eberston commended the organizations diligent efforts and its attempts to garner trilateral cooperation between the governments of Jordan, Palestine, and Israel to solve pending environmental issues. The visitors then concluded the visit with a lunch on the shoreline of the Dead Sea.

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This post is contributed by Samar M. Salma, FoEMEs Jordanian Media Officer, PR, and Projects Coordinator. 

Posted by: friendsoftheearthmiddleeast | February 16, 2014

Representatives from FoEME Speak at a “PA_UFM” Meeting

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8-9th February, 2014

Dead Sea, Jordan

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Union for the Mediterranean “PA-UFM” held a  meeting of the committee on Energy, Environment and Water that took place at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center. The meeting was attended by representatives from “PA-UFM” and included H.E. Dr. Hazem Alnaser; Minister of Water and Irrigation and Mr., Munqeth Mehyar, Chairperson and Jordanian Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East “FoEME”.

Mr., Mehyar commended the hard work of the Jordanian government represented in the Ministry of Water in addressing rising water challenges in Jordan and stressed the importance of partnership between NGOs and the Government emphasizing the exemplary relationship FoEME has with the Jordanian government.

He congratulated the governments of Jordan, Israel, and Palestine on signing a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a desalination Plant in addition to reaching a swapping of water agreement and stressed that water problems can only be solved via trilateral cooperation.

Mr., Mehyar spoke about the Red-Dead canal project stating clearly that the study of alternatives presents solutions to the receding Dead Sea through the rehabilitating of the JR in addition to a combination of alternatives.

Written by Samar M. Salma

Media Office, PR, and Project Coordinator

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