Late August I started my internship position in Friends of the Earth Middle East’s Bethlehem office. Looking back on these past five months with Bethlehem now fully decorated for Christmas, I can’t really grasp the fact that time has passed so fast – I know it is a cliché, but a true one. Without a doubt, there have been many lessons learnt, challenges accepted and new insights gained on the way. For this, I can only thank FoEME for being an organization with inspiring work and particularly the Bethlehem office with wonderful colleagues and instructors.
Coming with a master’s degree in sustainable development, I acknowledge the challenges of implementing sustainable development in an area that is water stressed, and where, for instance, gaining construction permission to build is nearly impossible. However, the Auja Eco Center has done some remarkable work in this context; including the introduction of sustainable water usage through environmental education and the implementation of new low-cost techniques. For example, the grey water treatment plants now reach 25 houses, five schools and one mosque in the Jordan Valley, resulting in decreasing their water expenditure by approximately 40 per cent!
Many of my days were spent in Auja, giving me the opportunity to work closely with eco-guide Mohanad. Through his and Fadi, the manager’s help I have organized events in the name of the Auja center, such as a lecture in the Educational Bookshop in Jerusalem. The topic “The social, environmental and political situation in the Jordan Valley” was discussed here. I also organized a night hike in October, which attracted media attention, and the latest and last activity was a package hiking tour on the 13th to 14th December. This hike, in Wadi Jaheer, was a success and more of these are being planned by the Auja Eco Center.
The abovementioned hiking tour started on the night of the 13th in a Bedouin farm where we grilled the traditional dish ‘Zarb’, which is basically a barbeque under the soil. While waiting for the chicken to cook, we went to a nearby field to pick corn to roast on the open fire. During dinner, jokes were shared while we spotted dozens of shooting stars in the sky.
The next morning’s hike went through Wadi Jaheer, which is a relatively unknown area except to the local Bedouins, who come to water their flock in the valley’s spring. The hike took about 5 hours and provided the most magnificent landscape views.
After the hike, a good lunch was needed to restore our energy supply. The eco center works with a local women’s cooperative to make traditional Palestinian homemade meals, and with their delicious food piled high onto our plates, we enjoyed the last hour of sunlight.
The past few months have passed fast and the Wadi Jaheer hike was an excellent final event for the end of my internship period. I recommend anyone to go for a hike with Auja Eco Center and eco guide Mohannad. He is an expert in the history and the environment of the Valley, and will amaze you with some facts you never expected to hear. Once again; many thanks to FoEME and Auja Eco Center for a wonderful experience!
This blog was contributed by Kristina Dobricic, FoEME’s research intern based in Bethlehem.