FoEME UpdatesOpinion

Reflections of a FoEME Intern

By: Max
August 17, 2011

My time at FoEME has come to a close. It’s been an incredible summer. I want to reflect briefly on the work I’ve done here and the lessons I’ve taken away.

While here I helped with a number of different projects. The one that took up most of time concerned measuring pollution risk to the Mountain Aquifer. The goal of the project is to create a map of the Mountain Aquifer recharge area, showing which areas are most vulnerable to pollution from sewage and solid waste. I was able to use GIS to start making this map.

With the help of my supervisor Youval I collected two sets of data: the physical characteristics of the area and the location of pollution hazards. In order to obtain the physical data (geology, lithology, soil information, slope, and recharge) I visited the department of computational geography at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I also met with Dr. Nathan Sheffer, who wrote his PhD dissertation on a new model that measures groundwater recharge in the Mountain Aquifer for some data that I will have to convert to a GIS layer when I get back to school.

For data on pollution hazards I got in touch with the Civil Administration, the Israeli army unit in charge of the West Bank. I visited their offices to get a layer of known solid waste dumpsites within the West Bank.

I did not finish the project this summer, but am planning to continue working on it as a senior project for the environmental studies major at Yale this upcoming year in coordination with FoEME.

My other responsibilities with Friends of the Earth included visiting the village of Eshkol in southern Israel to help with a GIS class taught to municipal workers, contributing to social media efforts (my blog about energy can be found here), and writing curriculum about virtual water and water disparities in the region for Friends of the Earth’s youth education efforts.

I was able to attend Tel Aviv’s annual CleanTech conference, where Friends of the Earth presented. It was exciting to see all of the environmentally friendly technologies showcased. I also saw the uglier side of environmental discourse in this region. At a sustainable water forum, Friends of the Earth’s Palestinian office director was heckled by some audience members for discussing the major water disparities between Israel and Palestine (click here to read my blog about the event). It was disappointing, but the day certainly turned around when the two offices staffs went out together to a restaurant and bar afterwards. It was inspiring to see Israelis, Jordanians and Palestinians getting along and having a good time with each other.

This summer broadened my perspective on what life is like in Israel. Living in Tel Aviv, a cosmopolitan, 24 hour city, was simply amazing. Contemporary Israeli life was literally on my doorstep. I had easy access to the Mediterranean coast and to the city’s thriving café culture. The huge protests against the Israeli government’s housing policies this summer took place just a short walk away from my overpriced rental.

I would recommend an internship at FoEME to anyone who is interested in the environment and conflict resolution. They will treat you like a full member of the team from day one. They will give you real work to do. You will learn so much about the environmental struggles of the region, but also about the great progress made by FoEME and its allies.

To learn more about interning at FoEME, click here.

This blog was written by Daniel Olson, FoEME intern at the Tel Aviv Office and a senior Environmental Studies major at Yale University.


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