This blog post was contributed by Tamar Ariel, NIF/Shatil Fellow at FoEME’s Tel Aviv office.
On Tuesday February 15th, the six New Israel Fund/Shatil Fellows in Israel and our coordinator Anat Yona had a “site visit” at Friends of the Earth Middle East. Each Fellow works for an Israeli NGO, so this group is already very involved in human rights and peace building in Israel and Palestine. As an NIF/Shatil Fellow working at FoEME, I am the only Fellow working for an environmental organization, so I wanted to use the day to show my cohorts both what FoEME does and why our work is so critical given the state of water and the environment in the our region.
Mira Edelstein, FoEME’s resource development and foreign media officer, kicked off the morning with a presentation on some of FoEME’s accomplishments such as getting Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian mayors together to sign Memorendums of Understanding, and preventing the construction of the fence between Tsur Hadassah and Wadi Fukin. She taught the Fellows important environmental facts like that building the “Red-Dead” conduit could damage the fragile coral reef in the Red Sea and threaten the aquifers between the Red and Dead Seas, and lead to algae blooms in the Dead Sea!
In the late morning, as the sun shone for the first time in days, we took the Tsur Hadassah Neighbors Path tour, led by Netanel Silverman, FoEME’s local field staff. Hiking up the beautiful San San Ridge, Netanel showed us a nature path that youth from Tsur Hadassah had recently created. When we reached the top, we were saddened by the view; Beitar Elit, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank of nearly 40,000 ultra-orthodox Israelis menaces over Wadi Fukin, a Palestinian village in the valley below. Construction in Beitar Elit nearly touches the village and its agricultural fields. Until very recently, wastewater from the settlement spilled into the village whenever there was a technical problem in Beitar Elit’s local sewage pumping station. The size of the settlement overwhelmes the small village. We could not shake off the image all day. Thank you, Netanel, for the important (and energizing) hiking tour.
We ended our day in Jerusalem with a lecture from Iyad Aburdeieneh, FoEME’s deputy director in Palestine. Iyad’s description of the conditions in the West Bank, the lack of wastewater facilities and Israel’s failure to provide proper infrastructure inspired the group to keep fighting to better people’s lives whether in the spheres of healthcare, education, livelihood or environmental rights.
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