The rivers and the road map

Friends of the Earth’s eco tours highlight the link between water and peace.

By RON FRIEDMAN
September 21, 2010 04:25
2 minute read.
Children need extra reminders about drinking water

Water 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Environmental advocacy group Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) is launching a program during Succot called “Neighbors Paths.”

The goal is to take visitors on tours of the main water sources shared by Israel and its neighbors to highlight the importance of water to regional peace.

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The program includes eight walking tours, all of which end on one of Israel’s borders, either with the Palestinian Authority or with Jordan. The program shows visitors the history and realities of water issues in the area, thereby providing insights into the lives of townspeople and villagers.

The tours, which are all community- based, connect the issue of water with the efforts to build peace between Israel, Jordan and the PA, which all share water sources. Similar programs will take place on the Jordanian and Palestinian sides. Altogether there are 17 Neighbors paths in the region.

According to Michal Sagive, the program’s Israeli coordinator, the tours aim to show the mutual dependence on shared water resources and the need for cooperation in protecting those resources.

“Many of the region’s water sources and the ecosystems they support are at risk of irreversible degradation. Unsustainable development patterns in the past, massive water diversion and uncoordinated planning between Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian governmental authorities have all contributed to this present state of demise.”

Sagive said that the tours are a great opportunity to learn firsthand about the critical role that water plays in the region and added that they are suitable for a wide range of people, from families to students to foreign tourists.

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“Unfortunately, not many people know about the importance of water to coexistence and eventually for peace. People might have heard about ‘the water issues’ discussed in the Oslo peace agreement, but those who come on the tours can see for themselves how things play out on the ground.

Our tours offer historical surveys of the water issues, talk about how things developed over the years and highlight some of the problems, both environmental and social that have arisen over time,” Sagive said.

“The paths highlight the rich history found in the region but also reveal degradation and pollution, often ‘not seen’ by local residents themselves and certainly not usually shown to tourists.”

According to Sagive, all of the tours are led by local community members, who have an intimate knowledge of the area and its challenges. In most places tours can be conducted in both Hebrew and English.

The Israeli Neighbors paths are located in the Jordan Valley, the Beit She’an Valley, the Dead Sea, the Samaria Mountains, the Hefer Valley, the Judean Hills and the Gilboa area.

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