Reflection of a FoEME intern – working for peace and the environment

By: Max
February 26, 2012

Josef Wenninger spent five months as an intern at the Tel Aviv office of FoEME. Here is his entry about his experiences and his work at FoEME.

My time at FoEME has come to a close and the time has come to reflect on the last 5 months, the work I have done and the lessons I have taken away.

It was a great experience to finally live in a region which shaped my whole study program. After having written a master thesis on the Joint Water Committee (JWC) and its success in a neofunctionalist perspective, it was utterly interesting to see, first hand, David Brook’s and Julie Trottier’s work on replacing the failed mechanism of the JWC with a Bilateral Water Committee. At the beginning of my internship at FoEME I assisted in researching all the necessary data for comparing the water available to Palestinians and Israelis based on reports by the Israeli Water Authority, the Palestinian Water Authority as well as the World Bank.

Another great aspect of my work at FoEME was the ability to travel throughout the region and see places well off the major tourism routes. Be it FoEME‘s Environmental Center in Auja (West Bank), the Bedouin villages surrounding East Jerusalem or the environmental hazards in Wadi Fukin and other villages in the Bethlehem governate.

One of my personal highlights during my internship at FoEME was the tour to the Jordan River with the U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. During the Ambassador tour we were able to highlight the rehabilitation efforts that have taken place, several of them resulting from the work carried out by the USAID-supported Good Water Neighbors (GWN) project and the Jordan River Rehabilitation Project. The day included a visit to the new Waste Water Treatment plant being built by the Jordan Valley Regional Council, near the Sea of Galilee, which will soon remove pollutants from the River, as well as a visit to the proposed “Jordan River Peace Park”, an initiative supported and endorsed by mayors from the GWN project communities on both sides of the River.

Another great event was the Ashdod Sustainability Conference. FoEME brought together the Palestinian Minister of Water, Dr. Shaddad Attilli, and the Israeli Minister of Environment, Mr. Gilad Erdan, for a discussion on Israeli / Palestinian shared waters. This was the first time the Ministers met in Israel publicly to discuss issues in dispute between Israelis and Palestinians, such as water allocation, responsibility for pollution of shared streams, the Dead Sea and the like. Great work FoEME!

Interning for FoEME offers you a great opportunity to dive into the fields of environment protection and conflict resolution. The FoEME team in all three offices will give you a very warm welcome and they will treat you like a full member of the team by giving you real work to do! And what can I take with me from these 5 months with FoEME in the Middle East? Having made great friends and being inspired by witnessing even the smallest achievements by FoEME and its allies – achievements for the people and the sensitive environment in such a conflict-laden region. This gives hope, Thanks!

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