Earlier this year, six Good Water Neighbors (GWN) coordinators traveled to Kosovo as part of a partnership and exchange forged with the Forum of Civic Initiatives (FIQ). Last month we had a chance to host the second part of this exchange here in our region.
From November 25th-30th, a Kosovar delegation consisting of six members of various organizations with different levels of environmental and security focuses, visited Jordan, Palestine and Israel. A large part of the tour was devoted to visiting GWN communities, to give our Kosovar partners an insight into local realities and FoEME’s work.
In Jordan, the group was given an introduction to Jordan’s water scarcity issue and the water distribution system at the Jordan Valley Authority control unit. Then, immediately plunging into practical initiatives, they met some of FoEME’s Youth Water Trustees in a local school. Five students from grades 8-10 who participate in FoEME’s environmental education initiatives explained what they have learned and how they pass this information onto peers and family members. In Al Reyadeyeh School, they witnessed a practical outcome of the GWN project: an eco-facility built in cooperation with FoEME who donated a water tank; students using drip irrigation methods and a rainwater catchment system now manage the school’s garden. The next day the delegation visited the Muaz Bin Jabal municipality and the proposed Baqoura National Park. Here, the group discussed the outcomes and influences of the past conflict with Israel and the 1994 peace treaty with a Jordanian lieutenant. Touring the area of the proposed park, FoEME’s Jordanian Director Munqeth Mehyar presented FoEME’s vision of establishing a Peace Park in the area and the benefits such a park could bring to local communities.
Next, across the Jordan River, the delegation visited the Palestinian village of Auja, a small community located north of Jericho in the West Bank. In FoEME’s Auja Eco Center, discussions focused on the issue of water division between Palestine and Israel, and cross-border problems of stream and ground water pollution. Going south, the tour continued on the shore of the Dead Sea, with the Israeli community of Tamar Regional Council. Neri Arieli, a local Ein Gedi activist, explained about the implications of the sinking of the Dead Sea for local ecology and economy, and offered an eye-witness perspective of the sinkholes plaguing the Dead Sea coastline. A meeting with regional council members and other stakeholders offered an opportunity to discuss the parallels between situations in Kosovo and Jordan/Palestine/Israel regarding water sharing issues, and cultural and environmental challenges. Other parallels were highlighted as well through the last community meeting of the tour, which was held in the Palestinian village of Battir, next to Jerusalem. Palestinian and Israeli active residents, respectively from Battir and Mate Yehuda, presented the ongoing campaign against the security barrier and their joint initiative for cross border preservation of terraced landscape. The group then explored the issue of conflicts between communities and security walls in different contexts.
Throughout the visit, FoEME attempted to give its international guests a wholesome welcome and understanding of regional circumstances regarding water, politics, environmental challenges and cooperation initiatives. Two round table sessions, one held at the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark in Jordan, the other in Tel Aviv, offered the frame for putting the respective Kosovar and Middle Eastern contexts and local water situations in perspective, and discussing the difficulties which have been overcome as well as the ongoing challenges.
A very fruitful discussion was held, exploring the take-away lessons for both the Kosovo delegates and FoEME staff, as well as looking forward to ongoing cooperation and the development of joint projects. The exchange was celebrated as an excellent learning opportunity, of benefit for both parties in improving their practice and furthering the goal of achieving peace through sustainability. The cross-cultural interaction was a learning experience for every participant, with the environment as a binding factor between all, proving that nature knows no borders.
This post was written by FoEME interns Lidwien Wijchers, who is based in the Amman office, and Amélie Joseph, based in the Tel Aviv office.