Recently I had the pleasure of spending several days at the Auja Environmental Center in Al Auja, Palestine. FoEME has developed two pilot environmental centers in the Lower Jordan River Basin. Both centers, the Auja Environmental Center and the Sharhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark provide wonderful opportunities to escape urbanity, learn about the local ecology, breathe in fresh air, and relax in nature. There are future plans to build more of these centers throughout Jordan and Palestine as a series of environmental field schools.
The Auja Environmental Center (AEC), located 10 kilometers north of Jericho, is the first of its kind in Palestine. The AEC is both a guest house providing visitors with a unique experience and an education center for Palestinian youth and adults on water and ecological issues and solutions. Guests at the AEC learn about the geology, ecology, water resources, and cultural heritage of the Jordan Valley and Wadi Auja (wadi is Arabic for valley). The AEC also teaches guests how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, including lessons on how to reduce consumption, reuse materials, and recycle.
In a region where the environment is too often neglected due to the conflict, the AEC provides Palestinians and international guests valuable environmental lessons which offer tremendous take away value. Since the opening of the AEC a year ago, already over 20 residents of Auja have implemented grey water recycling systems in their homes.
The AEC provides several examples of how humans can work with the environment rather than against. One example is alternative construction. Throughout the center there are structures made of old tires and non-recyclable materials. Usually these materials are burned or end up in a landfill and now they have been transformed into beautiful structures that take the form of a playground, benches and sculptures.
The AEC is still in the early stages of development and the future plans are very exciting! In the next few weeks, FoEME will increase the capacity of the waste management system by initiating a composting workshop. In the coming months, FoEME will be increasing the capacity of the facility through educational initiatives. Students will transform the organic garden into a permaculture garden and students will help construct an adobe-building workshop (which will result in many opportunities to learn and build with adobe construction at the center).
To learn more about the Auja Environmental Center or to book a room to stay the night, please visit the Auja Environmental Center website. To learn more about the work of FoEME, please visit the Friends of the Earth Middle East website.
This blog was contributed by Joshua Zuckerman, FoEME Social Media Coordinator and Permaculturist based in Tel Aviv. Joshua is currently finishing his Masters of Arts in Coexistence and Conflict.