In the heart of Amsterdam, surrounded by canals and lush green gardens, a very different picture was painted of what is happening in the Jordan River Valley, a transboundary region in the Middle East. The Jordan River Valley includes land shared by Jordanians, Palestinians and Israelis—all dependent on the same water supply and all living in an arid desert region where water is scarce.
DeLevante, a non-profit organization in Amsterdam dedicated to sharing cultural exchanges between the Oriental world and Dutch society, invited representatives of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) to share with their guests FoEME’s experience of leading over 16 years of environmental peacemaking activities in Israel, Jordan and Palestine. FoEME representatives, Mira Edelstein, Nader Khateeb and Munqeth Mehyar shared some of the “top-down” practices, particularly those related to policy change and influencing decision makers as well as the “bottom-up” programs like the cross border eco activities for youth and the creation of Peace Parks that make up FoEME’s diverse programming.
The evening program continued with Middle Eastern delicacies and a DJ that mixed music from Jordan, Palestine and Israel. As the discussions continued and more photos showed FoEME’s programs in action, the audience warmed up to the idea that FoEME’s approach is not just possible but is already having a huge effect on the thousands of it’s program participants.
The element that made this event exceptionally special was that the people who came did not choose to do so because it was tied to their profession or their area of study. They came because they were simply interested in hearing about FoEME’s unique environmental peacemaking approach. The crowd was as diverse as Amsterdam itself, but one thing was common, everyone seemed to be in a state of disbelief to see a truly cooperative effort between the three parties. With fantastic personal anecdotes from each of the speakers we got to hear how the conflict has touched their lives and how their personal dedication has created hope for today and the future. Now they have touched our lives and we are part of the efforts.
Contributed by Lisa Grimm, Amsterdam