Gidon Bromberg, founder and Israel director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, loves his job not just because it allows him to fight for the environment, but because it gives him an opportunity to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians.
Last Thursday, Mayor Yitzhak Wald of Baka al-Gharbiya-Jat signed a memorandum of understanding along with his Palestinian counterpart just across the Green Line and the security barrier, Mayor Moayad Hussein of Baka a-Sharkiya, pledging to join together to protect the Wadi Abu Nar, whose polluted stream is shared by both communities, located east of Hadera and north of Tulkarm.
The event was organized by the Friends of the Earth Middle East's Good Water Neighbors project.
Seventeen other Israel-Palestinian pairings are involved in similar environmental protection projects - including one involving Abasan el-Kabir (the municipality supports Fatah) in the southeast Gaza Strip and Eshel Hanassi in the Negev. Bromberg says that soon, up to twenty-one pairs of communities will join the project.
In this region, according to Bromberg, there is a mutual dependence on shared water sources that know no borders. The Jordan River Valley, the Mountain Aquifer on the border with the West Bank, and the Coastal Aquifer that runs for 120 km all require cooperation between Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians if they are to be protected, he says.
"We can't afford to stop talking about water," says Bromberg, adding that the only talks that continued throughout the second intifada were those on water resources.
Bromberg expresses great pride in his organization's youth program: the Young Water Trustees. This year, the Young Water Trustees will be working on a "Constructive Wetlands" project, taking "grey water" (lightly polluted water) and treating it by running it through a garden. The water can then be employed for some agricultural uses.
Yale University recently accepted Bromberg to the Yale World Fellows Program. He will join 17 other mid-career leaders, selected from 970 applicants, in a four-month seminar including access to any of Yale's 3,000 courses, individually tailored skill-building training. and meetings with US and foreign leaders.
During his time at Yale, Bromberg estimates he will speak up to three times a week about Friends of the Earth Middle East, informing some of the United States's budding leaders about sustainable environmental protection as a means to peace.