This post was submitted by Jesse Baltutis, Intern FoEME-Bethlehem.
French Parliamentarians, representatives from Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), a Palestinian Minister, and a host of various NGOs and French and Palestinian civil servants descended upon the FoEME Auja Eco-Center on May 19th, for an informative tour of the center, a discussion on the work FoEME does as environmental peacemakers, and a delicious lunch with all the fixings from the Eco-Center’s organic garden.
The group of around 15 people arrived in a flurry of vans and trucks, to a warm welcome by FoEME directors Nader Khateeb and Gidon Bromberg, and other FoEME staff, before starting off in a whirlwind tour of the eco-center. The large group crowded onto the balcony of the eco-center’s second floor dorm room, while Nader and Gidon spoke in detail about the different facilities offered at the eco-center for youth education and empowerment, the use of recycled material for construction of these facilities, and the goal of FoEME to use the Auja Eco-Center as a model for other eco-centers throughout the region.
At a time when events across the Middle East are bringing into renewed focus the bumpy road ahead for the realization of a Palestinian state, cooperation and dialogue is even more imperative to achieve this goal. Both Khateeb and Bromberg called on the French Parliamentarians and French government representatives to pressure the French government to support the creation of a Palestinian state, and to support peace-making activities as found in the works of NGOs such as FoEME. The two directors also called on all parties to help to de-politicize the issue of water in the negotiations for a sovereign Palestinian state. Water, the argument goes, is one aspect of the negotiations with Israel that can be solved in a relatively straightforward and unemotional way.
With Dr. Shaddad Attili, Head of the Palestinian Water Authority, and his delegation, plus the French delegation and all others listening on, Kahteeb and Bromberg presented some of the major initiatives FoEME has spearheaded – the Good Water Neighbors project, and the rehabilitation of the Jordan River to name a few– along with future projects FoEME will undertake. One such future project is an economic analysis of the benefits for the Palestinian economy to be derived from a rehabilitated Jordan River, taking into consideration eco-tourism potential in the Jordan Valley, agricultural development and expansion in an entirely Palestinian controlled Jordan Valley, and trade facilitation between Palestine and neighboring countries.