Listed below are recent events that have taken place in the framework of the ‘Good Water Neighbors’ project. All other events can be found throughout our Newsletters; link on our homepage.
[For publications relevant to this project, click here]
New Halhul Environmental Course Opens with EcoPeace
EcoPeace’s Palestinian staff was contacted by the Halhul Municipality and its Youth Council to present our work in the field of environment and water at the opening of their new environmental course in Halhul City. The course began with a 6 kilometer nature hike with a number of institutions and representatives from the Hebron Governorate in attendance. We look forward to continued cooperation in this important course and applaud those that helped in its development.
Sapir Academic College – EcoPeace’s 1st Academic Course
This summer, a joint course was held by the Sapir Academic College and EcoPeace Middle East, the first of its kind, led by Dr. Shlomit Tamari, ‘Good Water Neighbors’ project’s Community Coordinator of the Hebron-Besor Basin, and lecturer in environmental education at Sapir College. 37 students took part in the course on ‘Environmental Activism and Peace-Building’. One student, a Bedouin resident of the town of Rahat, wrote in the final paper of the course: “I was never interested enough to delve into environmental and water issues, but this course made me start thinking about them“.
Cross Border Jordanian/Palestinian Municipal Visit
EcoPeace sees a major development between the two Good Water Neighbor’s municipalities of Madabe (Jordan) and Obadieh (Palestine). They organized a regional visit, exchanged ideas and promoted more cooperation on tourism and sanitation. On the 17th of October, ten participants from the Obadieh City headed by the Mayor, visited Madaba. The visit included discussion on continuing the ‘twinning’ between the two municipalities, finding common solutions to a number of environmental and tourism problems, and continuing general information exchange. The Palestinian group was welcomed by the Mayor Eng. Ahmad Salameh Al Azaidah.
EcoPeace gets briefed on Hebron issues
EcoPeace’s Palestinian Director and senior staff conducted a series of visits to the Hebron district municipalities to discuss water, sanitation, and infrastructure challenges and opportunities in the region. The visits included Hebron, Dura, and Yatta municipalities where discussions stressed the importance of civic engagement, women’s participation, and the promotion of the Hebron Waste Water Treatment Plant. Also included was a site visit to Sussiya, where the team met the Head of the Council and witnessed the harsh reality of residents not having proper access to water, sanitation, and energy.
Jenin Waste Water Treatment Plant updates
Nada Majdalani, the new Palestinian Director of EcoPeace, together with Palestinian staff from the “Good Water Neighbors” project visited the Jenin area this month. They toured the Jenin Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) and learned about the status of the facility at a meeting with representatives from the municipality of Jenin. They discussed possible future cooperation, especially on fundraising opportunities that could design, build, and operate solar fields to provide the Jenin WWTP with electricity. See an article in Maan news about this visit with the Mayor of Jenin.
Tel Aviv Cities Summit; Baka Gharbiya in the spotlight
On September 5th, EcoPeace’s Israeli Director, Gidon Bromberg, presented the organization’s work in the 8th Tel Aviv City Summit. The summit brought together speakers from around the world to address questions such as ‘How can cities become beacons of democracy?’; ‘How can we create the cities of tomorrow?’; ‘What role does innovation play in helping cities plan their future?’. Gidon gave an example from our “Good Water Neighbors” project whereby the project brought together Israeli residents of Baqa Al-Gharbiya and Palestinian residents of Baqa Al-Sharkiya to advocate for the rehabilitation of Wadi Abu Nar, a stream that flows through both communities, and is highly polluted. Subsequently, the Mayors of both communities identified the opportunity to remove the stream’s pollutants: Baka Al Sharkiya’s sewage could be sent and treated in the newly built Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Baka Al Gharbiya, and signed on a Memorandum of Understanding stating their cooperation to promote this idea. Importantly, EcoPeace continued to help with getting the necessary approval by the Joint Israeli-Palestinian Water Committee (JWC) and in securing the financial support to build a sewage collection system for Baka Al Sharkiya and the neighboring communities.
Hebron – Gaza watershed activities
In partnership with several organizations and activists, EcoPeace helped organize a “Hope instead of War” event in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. This ‘Town Hall’ style event brought together Israelis from the Regional Councils around the Gaza strip, who called on the Israeli government to take immediate action regarding the situation in Gaza – for the benefit of the entire region. Among the speakers were MK Amir Peretz, Sigal Moran, Head of the B’nei Shimon Regional Council and Ahmad, a resident of Gaza who, via phone, explained to the group the dire situation in Gaza. MK Peretz’s closing words were clear: “Those who claim that this is their problem, and not ours, are wrong. We cannot ignore the situation“. We couldn’t agree more.
Good Water Neighbors II in Bosnia-Herzegovina
A 2nd phase of the Good Water Neighbors project has begun in Bosnia-Herzegovina, led by the NGO Center for Ecology and Energy (CEE) in Tuzla, (supported by the Bosch Foundation). Following a successful one year pilot project focused on youth and GIS mapping in the Spreca River Basin, they are now expanding to the adult sector. This next phase will see the development of a “Neighbors Path”, a “Big Jump” event, and other activities that follow our model of environmental peacebuilding. We wish them continued success and will stay in close contact to assist if needed.
Visit to Sewage Collection Facility in Meitar
The EcoPeace coordinator in the Hebron-Besor basin initiated an important meeting between the Director of the Meitar Local Council, the Director of the Sanitation Department and the Director of the Sewage Separation Facility situated next to the Meitar border crossing. The facility treats the wastewater from the Hebron Stream. It separates the crushed stone residue of the stone cutting industries from the Hebron city’s wastewater to make it possible to treat and reuse the water. The strong smells of sewage, which are one of the by-products of this sludge treatment, are a serious annoyance in Meitar and the Director of the Meitar Local Council appreciated EcoPeace’s efforts to help solve the cross border pollution issues, in this case by advocating for the treatment of the sewage at source in Hebron.
EcoPeace staff and World Bank representative visit Waste Water Treatment Plants
On May 16th EcoPeace joined a visit to the Alexander-Zomar basin with several World Bank representatives. The objective of the visit was to learn more about the Alexander basin history regarding the operation of the West Nablus Waste Water Treatment Plant and its cross border impacts. This is a state-of-the-art facility, and participants were provided with lessons that could be adapted in Hebron, especially regarding removal of sludge. The delegation then went on to visit the “Yad Hanah” treatment facility in Israel, where the situation is quite different. Here, industrial and domestic waste flows into the facility from across the border, a mixture of the treated wastewater with untreated wastewater and industrial sewage from communities south of the West Nablus plant. The clear lesson of a more holistic approach to deal with sewage treatment and reuse was discussed for the purposes of avoiding a repeat of issues in the future in the Hebron Stream.
EcoPeace Staff on an Ecological Field Visit in Lebanon
EcoPeace staff member, Eng. Abed Sultan, participated in a field visit to the Shouf Reserve in Lebanon this past month. The visit focused on restoration plans for degraded lands, local community participation, education, and ecotourism activities. The experiences shared by the Shouf Reserve and participants were very valuable. Abed Sultan presented EcoPeace’s Sharhabil bin Hassneh EcoPark‘s forestation, education, and community engagement initiatives as well as the MEDFORVAL network and its objectives. He highlighted the process EcoPeace is undertaking to promote a sustainable Jordan Valley and how national and regional experts’ meetings will lead to the production of a National Biodiversity Master Plan.
EcoPeace at the Climate March
In honor of Earth Day 2017, climate marches were held across the globe, with citizens from all walks of life coming out to voice their concerns. EcoPeace joined the many people that marched in Tel Aviv, particularly highlighting the effects that climate change can have on the regions’ already scarce natural water resources. Diminishing our water resources with dangerous climate policies threatens Middle East security and could translate into regional instability; it was in this context that we marched and spoke out!
ALLMEP Annual Community Fair
EcoPeace participated in the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) Regional Conference in Jerusalem this past month. This year’s conference theme was “Scaling Up: A Practical Guide,” bringing together a diverse range of organizations, both Israeli and Palestinian, and Jewish, Christian and Muslim men and women from the region; all with the mission of coexistence, partnership, cooperation and development. Mr. Donald Blome, the U.S. Consul General to Jerusalem opened the conference with inspiring words about the challenges in the region. EcoPeace distributed materials and explained how our work creates cooperative relationships to protect the environment and water resources. Read more in this blog.
Annual Environmental Education Conference in Israel: “The World’s Hottest Story”
EcoPeace participated in the Annual Environmental Education Conference that dealt with climate change and extreme phenomena caused by these changes – desertification, dehydration of lakes and seas, global warming and extinction of species in the sea and on land, extreme storms such as hurricanes, and more. The implications and effects of these phenomena on humans and the environment were examined while discussions were led to assess climate change on the personal, educational and national levels. EcoPeace is paying close attention to all these issues, and will engage teachers and educators on these topics in future meetings and workshops.
International World Women’s Day Activities
Wednesday, March 8th was International Women’s Day, the ideal day to highlight EcoPeace’s campaign for women’s empowerment in the region. Although always a priority for us, we are now focusing on this issue with renewed emphasis as we see women as a crucial sector in reaching water equality. Women and girls are often the people most affected by water shortages, yet, there are barely any women in the engineering sector or in political positions to be able to address this issue. To bring attention to the subject and our work, we penned two blog pieces for International Women’s Day. The first; on EcoPeace staff’s participation in the “Women Wage Peace March” along with an interview by a former Youth Water Trustee with Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee. The second; highlighting EcoPeace’s plans for the growth of our Women’s Empowerment Program, including holding more camps for women and girls such as the camp held in February which was written up in a third blog article published in March. This camp brought together 20 girls from around the Jordan Valley, and aided in enabling them to think about their role in preserving water and their abilities to be independent thinkers and people.
Tour of Baka Al Gharbia with Foreign Affairs Ministry
Our Community Coordinator in Baka Gharbia, Mohammad Biadsi, and our Israeli Government Relations Officer, Uri Ginnot, were very busy this month giving a tour to the North American Division of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry which included Consul Generals from North American Consulates. The tour showcased EcoPeace’s work implementing our Good Water Neighbors program in the Baka watershed and the positive impact it has had on the local community. Local residents and the Mayor of Baka Al Gharbia were also in attendance. In addition Mr. Biadsi organized a conference in Baka Al Gharbia to discuss the environmental crisis and deteriorating health conditions in the area. He premiered the documentary about the dire environmental situation in Baka that was later featured on Israeli TV Channel 1.
Tour of the Waste Water Treatment Plant in Netanya
On March 29th, Palestinian farmers from four watersheds visited the Netanya Waste Water Treatment Plant to better understand the benefits of water reuse as part of our Good Water Neighbors Project. The day began with a tour of the Plant where the farmers learned about the process of water purification for irrigation re-use. They later heard a lecture by representatives of ‘Netafim’ – the global leader in smart drip and micro-irrigation solutions – about treated water in agriculture and cutting-edge technology developed by Netafim. The farmers also had the opportunity to see greenhouses in action using Netafim’s technology.
Cross Border Women’s Tour in Jordan
On February 12th-13th, EcoPeace held a gathering for the Women of the Dead Sea. Women from the Tamar Regional Council in Israel and women from Safi, Jordan came together to discuss the future of the region. These women shared their stories, struggles and successes in order to join forces and become leaders in the region. The women also visited an EcoPeace model farm in the region, saw the sinkholes on the Jordanian side, and spent some time at the Women’s Center in Safi where they learned about natural dyeing techniques.
Cross border Tzur Hadassah / Wadi Fukin residents meeting
Old and new activists from Wadi Fukin and Tzur Hadassah met together to review new challenges facing both communities and to map out concrete action items to be taken. In Tzur Hadassah, issues included deviation of the fence and the perimeter road, problems with sewage and rainwater drainage infrastructure, as well as questions concerning sewage infrastructure of the village’s new neighborhood. In Wadi Fukin, the group identified the continued problem of settlers swimming in farmers’ private agricultural pools, and the ongoing sewage leakage from Beitar Elite down the slopes into Wadi Fukin agricultural plots. They also discussed the feasibility of connecting Wadi Fukin’s sewage infrastructure to that of Tzur Hadassah’s new neighborhood – after learning that a new Waste Water Treatment Plant is to be built in the nearby Ella Valley. The group certainly have their hands full!
Annual International Conference: Water Security & Sustainable Development for our Common Future
EcoPeace held its annual International Conference on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan from November 22nd-23rd under the patronage of the Jordanian Minister of Water. The event, titled Water Security and Sustainable Development for our Common Future, discussed water and peace issues in the region and is one of the only public gatherings where Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian ministerial participation takes place. Over 250 high level regional and international officials, local leaders and activists attended the two day event. Topics of discussion included the water and sanitation crisis in Gaza and the promotion of a Palestinian/Israeli water accord. The second day included presentations from international experts on transboundary water management relevant to the plight of the Lower Jordan River; including from the Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers in US & Mexico, from the Sava River in the Balkans, from the Rhine River in Central Europe and from the Orange-Senqu River in Southern Africa.
Palestinian office holds signing ceremony
On October 19th a delegation of municipal leaders from the Madaba Municipality in Jordan travelled to Obediya in Palestine for a signing ceremony of a twinning agreement under the invitation of H.E. Mazen Ghneim, Head of the Palestinian Water Authority. Additional side meetings were held between Jordanian and Palestinian stakeholders of the Madaba/Obediya watershed. Additionally, H.E. Rule Ma’ay’a, the Palestinian Minister of Tourism, visited the Jordanian delegation to discuss Jordanian-Palestinian cooperation in relation to tourism development in the area.
EcoDesign Workshop at Auja EcoCenter
Our Auja EcoCenter hosted an eco-design workshop from October 28th to 29th organized by the ökoRAUSCH Think Tank of Germany. The workshop in Auja was part of a kick-off event that started in Israel and ended in Palestine for Eco Design Forum International which involves designers, artists and creative thinkers from all over the world who want to explore green ideas and develop sustainable products.
Biodiversity Workshop at EcoPeace’s Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark (SHE)
From October 26th to 27th, EcoPeace conducted a workshop at the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh (SHE) EcoPark in relation to forest and river restoration and sustainable development. The workshop was supported by MEDFORVAL which helps protect, manage or restore forested areas of high ecological value. Discussions and presentations included different suggestions for educating communities and decision makers on the ecological and economic value of forests as a means to advance cooperative protection efforts and achieve rehabilitation of forest habitats in the Jordan Valley. The first day included presentations and discussions, and the second day offered participants the opportunity to enjoy the diverse flora and fauna in an outdoor excursion.
Cross Border Forum Meets with Wadi Attir Project
On September 8th approximately 25 members of the Hebron / Besor cross border forum participated in a tour of the Wadi Attir Project to help with brainstorming of potential branding ideas for the watershed. They also had the chance to meet and discuss ideas with Dr. Mohammad Al-Nabari, the current Mayor of Hura and a founding member and co-chairman of the Project. The Wadi Attir Project is a groundbreaking initiative which demonstrates an approach to sustainable desert agriculture that leverages Bedouin traditional values, know-how and experience with modern-day science and cutting edge technologies. It is a project of the Hura Municipal Council and The Sustainability Laboratory.
Palestinian and Israeli Staff Learning
It’s not often that all staff get to go out in the field but on September 20th, Bethlehem staff joined the Tel Aviv office for an educational tour of the Ashkelon Desalination Plant where we learned about the technology behind the science, toured the plant and discussed the past closures due to wastewater seepage from Gaza; just another aspect proving Israeli and Palestinian shared water resources and the need to promote an agreed-upon water accord. The day ended with a tour close to the Gaza border to discuss the severe over-extraction rates of the coastal aquifer which suffers from seawater intrusion. The situation is aggravated by seepage of wastewater leading to high nitrate measurements. As the current unilateral actions have proved ineffective and are not providing affordable sanitation and water supply schemes, this has become one of EcoPeace’s dominant projects; calling for urgent and effective transboundary cooperation between the Palestinian and Israeli governments.
EcoPeace Presents at UK’s Wilton Park
Representatives from the Amman, Bethlehem and Tel Aviv offices as well as Khalifeh Ad-Dayyat, Mayor of the Jordanian town of Deir Alla came together last week with colleagues from around the world at Wilton Park to discuss the challenges of water scarcity and innovations to benefit water scarce communities. The EcoPeace team gave a joint presentation about “Sharing Innovation to Address Water Challenges in the Levant.”
Touring the Yarkon Watershed
A tour to the town of Jaljulia on the Israeli side of the Yarkon watershed was held at the end of the month, attended by the Mayor of Jaljulia’s Local Council, the Head of the Yarkon River Authority and EcoPeace staff. The tour focused on cross border environmental problems in the area and identified possible areas of cooperation. The group toured the area’s beautiful historic sites, where they learned about the need for rehabilitation and for resources and witnessed the huge piles of garbage polluting the Kana River. This pollution is due to the closure of the local waste facility, and no alternative has yet been given for proper disposal of solid waste.
Cross Border Meeting in Baka Al Gharbia
20 residents from Baka Al Gharbiya and Baka Al Sharkiya, representing the Hadera / Abu Nar watershed, gathered together at the Al Qasami College to tour the campus and its labs. The tour was followed by a discussion about the challenges facing the shared watershed in which residents discussed a possible watershed ‘branding campaign’.
Stay tuned to learn what they came up with!
Visit to the Model Farm Project, Safi, Jordan
On August 14th a delegation that included representatives from the Tamar Regional Council, the Arava R&D Center, and EcoPeace crossed to Safi, Jordan to meet the Jordanian farmers working on the Model Farm project. The group toured the area, discussed the farm’s progress, and identified the next steps towards its continued successful operation. Pictured here is the water tank recently installed in the farm.
EcoPeace Staff Tour West Nablus Wastewater Treatment Plant
Senior EcoPeace staff from both our Bethlehem and Tel Aviv offices toured the West Nablus Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) which began operation in 2013. The tour and site operations were fully professional; staff also viewed the next stage of expansion which includes plans for waste water reuse and sewage collection from the neighboring towns. The advancement will help solve environment and water issues in the area.
Staff Tour Kishon River Clean-Up Site
Office Staff from our Tel Aviv office joined our Community Coordinator in the Kishon Basin for a tour of the Kishon River clean-up site in early July. On their visit, they were struck by the incredible amount of pollution on the river floor from decades of oil waste. EcoPeace is excited to see this water source finally being cleaned up and restored to an acceptable ecological status.
EcoPeace Wins Energy Globe Award for Palestine
On June 5th, World Environment Day, our Youth Water Trustees program was selected as the Palestinian winner for the Energy Globe Award. The Energy Globe Award was founded in 1999 by Austrian energy pioneer Wolfgang Neumann and is one of today’s most prestigious environmental awards. The award presents successful, sustainable projects with the Energy Globe Certificate, an internationally recognized hallmark for sustainability that organizations can proudly display on their websites, promotional materials, and in their offices. This Energy Globe Award will broaden EcoPeace’s audience in the sustainability and environmental community and comes one year after our Jordan River Rehabilitation project won the Energy Globe Award for Israel.
Basin Leaders Come Together at Cross-Border Branding Meetings
EcoPeace is continuing the development of branding campaigns in the different watersheds in our Good Water Neighbors program. About 30 Israeli and Palestinian leaders from the Kishon/Muqataa watershed came together on June 2nd to tour the Ta’anach Sewage Treatment Plant with representatives from the Gilboa Effluents Corporation and discuss potential branding ideas. On June 14th, 10 local leaders from Hadera and Baka Al Gharbia addressed the current status of their watershed in a national meeting. These branding forums are in the early stages of developing a vision for what a shared watershed will look like. The final plans will be presented at a regional conference in November.
New Cultural Landscape Forum holds Cross Border Meeting in Battir
The cultural landscape of the Jerusalem-Bethlehem Region, portrayed by dozens of mountain springs and kilometers of dry stone terraces, has been a prominent part of EcoPeace’s activities in recent years. A cross-border meeting in Battir was the highlight for Israeli activists and decision makers as they met Palestinian counterparts to discuss their shared landscape. The Sorek basin participants represented a recently established group which follows the model of the Springs Forum of Mate Yehuda and is jointly administered by EcoPeace, the Bioregional Forum and SPNI, as a “Forum for the Cultural Landscape.” The framework aims to: empower cooperation between local initiatives and activists; facilitate professional support; create consistent strategies and categorization; initiate landscape surveys and mapping; ensure teamwork among stakeholders, and work towards crossborder collaboration and sustainability
Watershed Identity Branding Forums
EcoPeace has been working hard on continuing to develop the different watershed branding campaigns. This past month representatives from 2 watersheds, Sorek / Sarar and Dead Sea / Al-Karak, met to discuss their ‘branding & identity’ ideas for each of their respective watersheds. Many came from the tourism field as well as local municipalities. These forums aim to develop a vision and brand for what a shared watershed will look like and are early stages in a series of meetings, with the goal of presenting the plans at a regional conference in November.
Watershed Identity Branding Forums
This past month, representatives from communities in the Dead Sea, Yarkon and Jordan Valley watersheds met to discuss ‘branding & identity’ campaigns for each of their watersheds. Many came from the tourism field as well as local municipalities. These forums aim to develop a vision and brand for what a shared watershed will look like. These are early stages in a series of meetings, with the goal of presenting the plans at a regional conference in November.
Additionally on April 8-9, Palestinian, Israeli and Jordanian youth alumni met at the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark. Their meeting also focused on branding and identity, following the above-described GWN forums. The five creative groups brainstormed and came up with a variety of contributions and ideas on identity and branding. Community coordinators will now be inviting the alumni to participate in upcoming national forum meetings and encourage them to take an active role in their communities.
Breaking Ground on the Model Farm Irrigation Pool
Work continues at the Model Farm in South Ghor, Jordan. A joint team of Israelis and Jordanians completed the construction of an irrigation pool that can be monitored remotely by computer. Next steps include preparing the land for the upcoming crop season. Once fully operational, the Model Farm will hold cross-border agriculture training programs and conduct research on relevant agriculture techniques such as crop selection, irrigation, fertilization and plant protection.
Mountain Springs in Culture and Planning Event
On March 9th, EcoPeace Coordinator, Gilat Bartana was invited to speak on a panel about mountain springs and their place in culture and planning. The evening was held at the ZEZE Architecture Gallery in Tel Aviv and also featured two landscape architects. For more information visit the gallery’s Facebook page (in Hebrew).
GWN Begins Branding Strategizing
Last week, a team of stakeholders including members from the tourism industry, heads of local museums and tourist sites, hydrologists and representatives from relevant municipalities, met in Old Gesher in the first of a series of meetings to discuss a joint branding campaign for the Jordan Valley. The group is aiming to develop a vision and a brand for what a shared Jordanian-Israeli watershed could look like. The branding campaign will be extended to all our cross-border watersheds over the coming months and will culminate in a regional showcase conference this November.
Model Farm Project Signs Memorandum of Understanding
On March 8th, the newly elected Mayor of South Ghor, Jordan and his delegation, which included agriculture sector representatives, visited the Tamar Regional Council and Arava R&D Center in Israel. The visit involved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding for EcoPeace’s Model Farm project and included the Israeli Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation, of whose Ministry is helping fund the project. Read more in the Jerusalem Post article and in this NRG article (in Hebrew).The group also participated in a conference panel related to Regional Councils and had a tour at the location for a potential new border crossing between Israel and Jordan. The overall goal of the Model Farm project is to exchange knowledge and technology related to agriculture and water conservation, thus enabling Jordanians and Israelis to cope with shared cross border environmental challenges.
Cross Border Meeting of Gilboa Council and Jalameh
As part of our GWN Priority Initiative Project, representatives from the Gilboa Regional Council (Israel) met with the Mayor of Jalameh (Palestine) on February 3rd to discuss and promote cooperation on water and sewage capabilities. The participants visited the new wastewater treatment facility treating effluents from around the Gilboa region in Israel. This marks another step in finding solutions to sewage issues and rehabilitation efforts of the Kishon River.
Springs Preservation Course
On February 12th, EcoPeace and the Mate Yehuda Regional Council took part in a course on spring’s preservation in the hills outside of Jerusalem. 25 participants toured 3 springs in the area; they heard explanations about the life and ecology of the springs; saw how water monitoring is carried out; learned about the canals and pools system surrounding the springs, and more. The intensive work preserving the springs is inspiring, and shows how communities can come together to preserve their natural heritage.