My story with Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) began with a guide book. Coming for some time to Israel, I was willing to meet people and discover organizations that really make a change in this part of the world. Environment and agriculture being my field of interest, I paid particular attention to the environmental section of my guidebook, looking for hints to guide me in the search for a fulfilling professional activity. From these pages, I got my first glimpse of two outstanding environmental organizations: FoEME and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (AIES). They happen to combine many ingredients I care about: environmental initiatives, peace-building processes, and a happy mix of people from different backgrounds and cultures willing to work together. Last February, I joined AIES for a fulfilling semester in the Arava desert, and when the summer came to an end I moved to FoEME’s Tel Aviv office. Looking back at these six months with FoEME, I have no deception to mention. This internship has kept its promises!
As a research intern, I have been in charge of exploring water market options for the agricultural sector in Israel: through this economic tool that allows for water transactions between farmers, is it possible to recover freshwater for the environment, particularly for the Jordan River? I have dug into literature on overseas experiences, chiefly Australia, to gather a better understanding of water market mechanisms and their local consequences: a deep and rather technical subject that combines economic, agricultural, social and environmental aspects. The results of this inter-disciplinary research effort will be available via FoEME’s website in the coming weeks – so mark your calendars!
Beyond that research topic, I greatly appreciated sharing the tremendous life of the FoEME team: from project planning discussions to reporting, from a large water conference to youth activities, with a nice topping of laughs and sweet treats. Where else would I have discussed solar oven building with an eco-park coordinator, met with a Pakistani lawyer, receive French farmers eager to learn more about Israel and Palestine, learn the hard way that embassies are not so easy to reach by phone, walk in rivers, get to photograph a singer I admire, and witness people dancing to protest against a wall?
Would I keep only a few words, it would be those of official state representatives from Israel, Palestine and Jordan, at the Good Water Neighbors conference in September, stating together how exceptional and important it was for them to meet with their counterparts in Jericho, despite the administrative difficulties some faced to come. Would I keep only one moment, it would be a song in Hebrew rising atop the beautiful terraces in the Palestinian village of Battir, Israeli and Palestinians holding their breaths and clapping their hands together. I discovered in Israel the deep complexity of the Middle East challenges. Yet more importantly, with FoEME I witnessed people building bridges, not only talking of peace but taking real steps on the ground to protect the environment and the people, aiming to create a better future.
My journey in Israel does not end here: for a few months I will continue to explore the area, getting my hands muddy in organic farms and capturing smiles and lights with my camera. Contributing to this blog was a real pleasure, and helped me reinforce my written English. Now is the time to get more into Hebrew speech and share my rich experience with FoEME with locals…
This blog was written by Amélie Joseph, intern at the Tel Aviv office.