This post was contributed by Jessica Marx, intern at FoEME’s Tel Aviv office
On Sunday, August 15, 2010, Friends of the Earth Middle East hosted a “Big Jump” into the Lower Jordan River to bring awareness to the plight of this shared resource in the Middle East. The three co-directors and staff from FoEME, mayors from the region, and Palestinian and Israeli youth joined together at the Yardenit Baptismal Site near the Sea of Galilee for a common cause to rehabilitate the Jordan River. This symbolic jump is modeled after the “Big Jump 2005-2010-2015” in Europe.
The “Big Jump” had its beginnings in 1997 to transform the Elbe River from a polluted body of water into clean, freshwater beach for the public. On July 17, 2005, the first official Big Jump took place with over 200,000 participants across Europe. Since then, the Big Jump has reconnected people with rivers in addition to raising awareness about the degradation and pollution of rivers. On July 11, 2010, 250 official “Big Jumps” took place across Europe to raise awareness about river basins.
FoEME’s Big Jump is modeled after its European counterpart. The 2010 Big Jump is FoEME’s third such event (after 2005 and 2007) to raise awareness about the Jordan River. The misallocation and management of resources has led to water stress and scarcity in the Middle East. Historically, the Lower Jordan River has had an average annual flow of over 1.3 billion cubic meters, but today an estimated 98% of the flow is diverted by Israel, Jordan and Syria with just 20-30 mcm/year remaining. FoEME’s programs and research call to rehabilitate the Jordan River, not only for a healthy and just ecosystem, but for trans-boundary collaboration between Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. This collaboration is vital to the peacemaking process, and ecosystem rehabilitation. The Lower Jordan River is expected to run dry by 2011 unless drastic measures are taken to return fresh water to the river.
It was incredible to be at an event to see FoEME in action, literally! The Big Jump is just one small action FoEME does to bring together environmentalists and the public for a common goal. Not only did the Big Jump take place, but youth worked on building rafts together to sit on while floating down the river – trans-boundary cooperation across the board! What makes FoEME so special is its integration of “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches to environmental peacemaking. Seeing the Palestinian and Israeli mayors jump into the river with directors and staff from FoEME, in addition to youth, shows the spectrum of people dedicated to rehabilitation of this shared ecosystem.
FoEME’s 2010 Big Jump was a great success that shows not only the importance and necessity of environmental peacemaking, but demonstrated the dire need for rehabilitation of the Jordan River.
Press coverage of FoEME’s Big Jump 2010:
Haaretz: Jumping into the water without negotiations or preconditions
Ynet: קפיצה למים עכורים
NRG: ישראלים, פלסטינים וירדנים למען נהר הירדן
Arutz 23: Interview with FoEME about the Big Jump
Pictures of the Big Jump 2010 can be viewed on FoEME’s Flickr page.