Two weeks ago, I had the privilege to represent EcoPeace at the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) 2017 Regional Conference in Jerusalem. The conference brought together a variety of organizations all with the same goal: to promote peace in the Middle East. There were a diverse range of organizations present, both Israeli and Palestinian, Jewish, Christian and Muslim and men and women all with the mission of coexistence, partnership, cooperation and development.
For me, the conference was one of the coolest opportunities I have had since starting my internship at EcoPeace. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Donald Blome, the U.S. Consul General to Jerusalem who opened the conference with inspiring words about coexisting among one another in a region where conflict is engrained in upbringing.
Working for EcoPeace has exposed me to many people, cultures, political views and ideas that I would have never even fathomed before working here. Coming from the United States we constantly hear only about conflict in the Middle East, specifically the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. We never turn on our televisions or radios and hear about the hundreds of different organizations both in Israel and in Palestine whose sole purpose is to bring together all sides, work together and build bridges and not walls. Being introduced to so many ideas, so many organizations, so many opinions, I have learned the true importance of building relationships not only with Israelis and Palestinians, but with people in general. There are so many “solutions” that have been put on the table, but with the wrong approach. EcoPeace, like many other organizations part of ALLMEP, use the bottom-up and top-down approach to build long-lasting and impactful relationships with Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis. One of my favorite parts about EcoPeace is their ability to create long-lasting relationships that stem from coming together to protect the environment and water resources. We have recognized that environmental issues and water security have no borders, so why should we disagree on a matter that, at some point, will affect everyone in the region regardless of if they live in Israel or Palestine.
During my time studying at university and working I am constantly reminded that communication and education is key when trying to make an impact or promote change. A good friend of mine once said, “you can’t change all that is happening in the world without first educating and involving people.” At the end of the day collecting and proving data isn’t going to be what makes the difference and brings about change, it is going to be the passion of the people who you are able to involve, educate and inspire.
Written By: Sara Diamond, EcoPeace Research Intern (Tel Aviv Office), BSFR in Wildlife Biology from the University of Georgia, USA