This blog post was contributed by Jessica Marx, intern at FoEME’s Tel Aviv office.
From January 14 through 15, EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) partnered with the “Mi-la” Organization (the Israeli Center for Choirs and Singing Groups) in holding its annual “Around the Kinneret” Choral Music Festival, this year calling for the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River. Approximately 1,000 people participated in the event.
Friday evening, Michal Sagiv, Israeli Project Coordinator of Good Water Neighbors, gave a presentation highlighting the plight of the Jordan River and how FoEME’s programming enables collaboration among Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians to rehabilitate this shared water source. Michal’s presentation was followed by several musicians lasting a few hours. The lyrics captured the beauty of and love for the Jordan River and the Kinneret, and the natural beauty of the land.
On Saturday, FoEME staff led 5 tours along various path stations of FoEME’s Jordan Valley Neighbors Path Tours. The Jordan Valley Regional Council has participated in FoEME’s Good Water Neighbors project since 2005, partnering with the neighboring Jordanian communities of Muaz bin Jabal and Mucheiba. At 9:00am and then again at 1:00pm, participants and concert goers walked along 5 different paths to learn more about various water agreements between Israel and Jordan, in addition to the dire state of the Jordan River, and what can be done to lead to rehabilitation.
One path led participants from the outlet of the Sea of Galilee to the Jordan River from the Degania Dam and “Yardenit” (Jordan River Baptismal Site) to the Saline Water Carrier, led by Youval Arbel, Deputy Director of FoEME’s Tel Aviv
office. The second path station was a walk along the Lower Jordan River from Yardenit to Alumot Dam, led by Michal. This path showed participants two juxtaposing sites: one where the water still flows and nature is persevered and one where sewage gathers at a point in the river near the Dam.
Gidon Bromberg, Israeli co-director of FoEME, led a tour along the Alumot Dam path to Naharayim, the convergence point between the Yarmouk and Lower Jordan Rivers. Hagai Oz, Jordan Valley Regional Council Community Coordinator, led the tour to the Peace Island and the Rottenberg Power Station. The Peace Island is the FoEME proposed site of the Jordan River Peace Park. The tour of the Old Gesher site was led by Sami Alfasi, Community Coordinator of Beit Shean.
Mid-day, the groups returned to enjoy more musical acts. Attendees also had the opportunity to sign postcards petitioning for the rehabilitation of the Jordan River.
The festival was a wonderful event that mixed beautiful music with a call to rehabilitate the Jordan River.