Listed below are recent events that have taken place in the framework of our Jordan River project. All other events can be found throughout our Newsletters; link on our homepage.
[For publications relevant to this project, click here]
Jordan River Regional Tour Guides Training in Jordan
EcoPeace’s Jordan River project held its 3rd “Come Together at the River” training in early December. These regional trainings aim to bring together pilgrimage and religious tour guides from Israel, Jordan and Palestine to acquire a greater understanding about the regional context of the area’s rich sites, highlighting the case of the Jordan River and sacred religious sites associated with it. Alongside visits to several sites along the eastern bank of the Lower Jordan River, participants were introduced to the Jordan River’s rich cultural and natural heritage. EcoPeace staff also explained the impacts that human actions have had on the shared water resources of the region, and how people – even visitors and tourists – can participate in efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River. Participants were encouraged to discuss the role of tourism and how sharing the stories of the Jordan River Valley, ancient and modern, can inspire others to care for its protection. Click here for a Facebook photo album of this training.
Annual International Conference: Water Security & Sustainable Development for our Common Future
EcoPeace held its annual International Conference on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan from November 22nd-23rd under the patronage of the Jordanian Minister of Water. The event, titled Water Security and Sustainable Development for our Common Future, discussed water and peace issues in the region and is one of the only public gatherings where Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian ministerial participation takes place. Over 250 high level regional and international officials, local leaders and activists attended the two day event. Topics of discussion included the water and sanitation crisis in Gaza and the promotion of a Palestinian/Israeli water accord. The second day included presentations from international experts on transboundary water management relevant to the plight of the Lower Jordan River; including from the Colorado and Rio Grande Rivers in US & Mexico, from the Sava River in the Balkans, from the Rhine River in Central Europe and from the Orange-Senqu River in Southern Africa.
EcoPeace Participates in Women Wage Peace March of Hope
This past month was busy with EcoPeace staff participating in the Women Wage Peace March of Hope. Israeli and Palestinian staff, forum members, and alumni joined thousands of participants at various points along the route including Naharayim, Neve Shalom Village, the Baptism Site on the banks of the Jordan River and in Jerusalem. The events included speeches from Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee, prominent politicians, and peace activists, as well as performances by Israeli and Palestinian singers. The two-week march, which started in Rosh Hanikra on the Northern Israeli border, and was a call to government leaders to start working with respect and courage towards a solution to the ongoing violent conflict, while including the full participation of women. The march culminated in Jerusalem, in front of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence, with thousands of participants demanding a restart to peace negotiations.
Jordan River outreach continues…
Several outreach activities took place this month to make sure the Jordan River continues to be talked about; they included filming for an item on German TV that will be aired next month; filming for a full length documentary about the Jordan River with the French-German ARTE company to be aired later in the Spring; as well as tours and presentations given to international delegations visiting the region such as the Telos Group, the Euphrates Institute and the Young Muslim Leaders group.
Bringing back some Jordan River water to the Pinchas Rotenberg legacy
EcoPeace was delighted to attend a ceremony held at Naharayim that inaugurated the rejuvenation of the ‘overspill dam’, with water from the Jordan River brought in via the ‘zero canal’. This is a small section of the infamous hydro-electric power plant built in the 1930’s by Pinchas Rotenberg that harnessed the waters of the Yarmouk and Jordan Rivers together to produce electricity. This is also the area of EcoPeace’s Jordan River Peace Park initiative. In attendance at the ceremony was the Jordanian Ambassador to Israel, the mayor of the Jordan Valley Regional Council, and other invited guests.
EcoPeace Participates in International Workshop on Transboundary Conservation in Montana and Meets the Friends of the Mississippi in Minnesota
As part of a U.S. visit this month, EcoPeace’s Israeli Director participated in a 4-day workshop, Hands Across Borders, with leaders from 28 transboundary conservation initiatives located on 6 different continents. Through a mix of presentations, problem-solving clinics, and field trips, the participants shared their experiences in catalyzing, enabling, and sustaining transboundary conservation initiatives. The conference was held in partnership with University of Montana’s Center for Natural Resources & Environmental Policy and Glacier National Park.
Additionally, the Director toured parts of the Mississippi around St. Paul, Minnesota, with Friends of the Mississippi, to better understand the pollution plaguing this historical river. You can read more about the Mississippi River’s condition here. Friends of the Mississippi River engages citizens to protect, restore and enhance the Mississippi River and its watershed, in a similar way EcoPeace works to rehabilitate the Jordan River. Shared values, a common mission and agenda make them a new great friend of EcoPeace’s.
EcoPeace Advances Jordan Valley Solutions at World Water Week, Stockholm, Sweden
EcoPeace, together with the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), held a Side Event during World Water Week, entitled “Financing Sustainable Growth in the Jordan Valley“. The event included a presentation of our Jordan Valley Master Plan financing strategies and an update from the Lower Jordan River Drainage Authority, as well as SIWI’s joint infrastructure financial vehicle – a financing proposal designed to host a wide range of investments that will provide shared benefits and sustainable growth across transboundary basins. The panel that followed the presentations saw Israeli and Jordanian government officials, together with financial experts from the World Bank and the private sector (SEB) discuss financing options, including the establishment of a Jordan Valley Trust Fund.
Jordanian, Palestinian, Israeli Youth go to Berlin!
EcoPeace’s delegation to the Berlin River Camp 2016 was a huge success. Our team included nine Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis who travelled to Berlin for a week-long youth conference discussing water issues in Europe and the Middle East. The group gave a presentation and showed a video at the German Parliament about our Jordan River rehabilitation campaign. Both the parliament members and participants from other countries were impressed by the presentation and EcoPeace’s “shared water as a shared interest” concept which advocates for cooperative efforts on water issues. The team also participated in different educational activities such as testing local water sources for pollutants, a “Big Jump” into the Spree River, and discussions about water issues with students at a local German-French school.
Jordanian, Palestinian, Israeli Youth Meet at Jordan River Baptism Sites
On June 3rd, Israeli, Palestinian, and Jordanian Youth Water Trustees met at the Baptism Sites on both sides of the Jordan River to learn about healing their shared environment along the banks of the Jordan River. The day began with Israeli and Palestinian youth meeting at the old Lido Restaurant site near the Dead Sea for a discussion of the area’s history and dire water situation. From there, they traveled to the Baptism site on the west side where the Jordanian youth were already waiting on their side of the Jordan River at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. While Israelis and Palestinians stood and sang from the western bank of the river, the Jordanians joined in from the eastern bank, singing a rendition of “We Can Change It,” which was written by EcoPeace alumni in a past seminar. Check out the video here, which will be presented in the German Parliament at the beginning of July.
Rabbi Forman Memorial Day Activity at the Jordan River
EcoPeace was honored to lead a Jordan River study tour for family and friends of the late Rabbi David Forman, as part of the annual Rabbi Forman Memorial Activity Day on June 3rd. The group was diverse, from small children to older adults, but the get-wet-and-clean-up activity at the Auja stream was enjoyed by all. In between the group discussing the dire situation of the Jordan River and why rehabilitation is so important; they also joined together to sing songs about the River. As a bonus, group members met the group of Palestinian, Jordanian, and Israeli EcoPeace youth who were also at the baptism site. Pausing in their activities, the young EcoPeace activists taught the friends and family tour their original song about the Jordan River called “We Will Change It.” View their sing-a-long clip here.
‘Jordan River Peace Park’ Development Advances
Development of our Jordan River Peace Park has advanced this month, with a new sign and viewing structure added at Al Bakoora / Naharayim, where the small “island of peace” exists at the junction of the Jordan and Yarmouk Rivers. With water flowing in the zero canal for the first time since 1948, thanks to local community efforts, the Peace Park is advancing as an ecotourism and cultural heritage project and joint venture between the Jordan Valley Regional Council, the Springs Valley Regional Council, and the Jordanian Muaz Jabal Municipality, in cooperation with EcoPeace.
Jordan River Faith-Based Regional Tour Guides Training
EcoPeace’s Jordan River Rehabilitation team led a 3-day “Regional Jordan River Tour Guide Training” for 20 Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian tour guides this past month. This is the 2nd such training held by EcoPeace; the 1st one was in February on the East side of the River (Jordan); this one was on the Western side (Israel / Palestine). We had a full 3-day schedule, visiting religious, historical and cultural sites along the river to understand the shared value of this iconic river for the three Abrahamic traditions and learn about the sacred religious sites associated with it. EcoPeace staff also explained the impacts that human actions have had on the shared water resources of the region, and how people – even visitors and tourists – can participate in the efforts to rehabilitate the Jordan River. Click here for a set of photos from the training.
New Publication “Come Together at the River”
“Come Together at the River” was distributed at the training mentioned above, and provides tour guides with take-home useful information so that they can educate tourists in the region to better understand and appreciate the majesty of the River and its surrounding areas… but also the challenges faced. It specifically covers sites of religious interest – Christian, Muslim and Jewish – in an effort to teach about the importance of the river to all the faiths that care deeply about the river. It also explains the impacts that human actions have had on the shared water resources of the region, and how, in sharing the stories of the Jordan River Valley, ancient and modern, tour guides are able to inspire others to care for its protection.
EcoPeace’s agenda getting popular with Tour Agencies
This month, EcoPeace was asked to give several talks / tours to visiting groups in the region, ranging from University students from the U.S. who are here on leadership programs and to learn about the geopolitical challenges in the region; to a German academic delegation; to visiting faith leaders, and more. This type of outreach is important not only for raising awareness as to the complexities of the region’s water situation – but also to highlight the interdependencies that can be capitalized upon in order to reach sustainable solutions and foster regional stability.
Jordan River faith-based Tour
This month, at the request of the Pastor of the Augusta Victoria Church in Jerusalem, EcoPeace staff led a site tour to the Jordan River to show church staff and volunteers the challenges facing the River. In the context of our faith based program, the importance of discussing the demise of the River and bringing the reality of the Jordan River to the forefront of community discussion cannot be overstated. Participants signed our Jordan River Covenant to express their support for rehabilitation efforts.
Sign Erected for the Future Jordan River Peace Park
The northern entrance to the future Jordan River Peace Park is now graced by a sign, in three languages, explaining the significance of the site. This cross-border environmental initiative represents a symbol for peace in the region, as it highlights the economic potential of the river’s rehabilitation. The park will support projects on ecotourism and cultural heritage, along with programs on environmental education and environmental management.
Dead Sea and the Jordan River
A new and updated edition of the book “The Dead Sea and the Jordan River” was recently released by the well-known author and long-time friend of EcoPeace, Barbara Kreiger.
Gidon Bromberg, on the jacket cover of the book writes “The Jordan River and its terminal lake, the Dead Sea, have been on center stage of Middle East mythology, history and politics for millennia. Barbara Kreiger’s story of the modern day demise of these waters and the urgent need for their rehabilitation is a must-read for anyone that wants to understand the relevance of water issues to the continuing turmoil in the region.”
[Don’t forget to use Amazon Smile when purchasing the book!]
Jordan River Tour
EcoPeace’s Jordan River Faith Based project – that aims to create a wider circle of stakeholders to support the rehabilitation of the River Jordan – continues to reach out to faith groups from all over the world. This month, a group from a U.S synagogue visiting the region learned about ‘what went wrong’ with the River, ‘why it’s important’ to rehabilitate it, and were asked to sign onto EcoPeace’s “Jordan River Covenant“, a visionary document which both highlights the degradation of the valley, and expresses our vision of a healthy, living River.
Jordan River Photo Exhibit in Auja
Following the 9 European cities that have showcased our Jordan River Photography Exhibition, the photos have now returned ‘home’ and will be exhibited in several locations in the region. The first is in our own Auja EcoCenter, with an opening ceremony held on March 8th that attracted more than 150 people, including the Governor of Jericho, representatives from the Palestinian President’s Office, the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Tourism, the Negotiations Committee, and more. The ‘fuss’ generated several interviews on Palestinian radio and TV – precisely the exposure we are seeking with this exhibit!
Jordan River Workshop in EU Parliament
EcoPeace was pleased to be invited by the S&D Group of the European Parliament to speak at a public seminar entitled “Water, Environment Protection and Trust Building in the Middle East“, where we gave an overview of the work we have been doing for the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River. Read here the very encouraging words by Vice President for Foreign Affairs Victor Boştinaru, and S&D MEP Julie Ward following the seminar.
European Parliament Members Get a Glimpse of the Jordan River Members of a European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Palestine took part in a Jordan River tour that included the Qasr El Yehud Baptism Site and our Auja EcoCenter in Auja, Palestine on February 11th. The tour was led by our Palestinian and Israeli Directors and included information about specific projects that can be advanced from our Regional NGO Master Plan.
EcoPeace’s 1st Regional Tour Guide Training on the Jordan River
Another angle to further disseminate the story and the need to rehabilitate the Lower Jordan River: EcoPeace organized a 3-day study tour in Jordan for Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian Tour Guides (who focus on religious tourism), visiting sacred sites that exemplify the importance of the River for Christians, Jews and Muslims, so that they can include it in their tour narratives. The training also included feedback on a soon-to-be-released publication, “Come Together at the River – A Tour Guide’s Guide to the Sacred Sites of the Jordan River“. Stay tuned!
Touring the North
Earlier this month, Mira Edelstein, EcoPeace’s Jordan River Project Coordinator in Tel Aviv, spoke to a group of Evangelical leaders from the U.S.A. at the Yardenit Baptism site on the Jordan River. The discussion centered on the responsibility we all have – Israelis, Jordanians, Palestinians – Jews, Christians, Muslims – to work together towards the rehabilitation of the Jordan River, for the benefit of us all.
Jordan River Peace Park goes 3-D:
One of EcoPeace’s greatest visions is the creation of a transbounday Peace Park on the Jordan River, to expand what is today the “Peace Island”, and to include the surrounding areas in Israel and Jordan. On the site was once a hydroelectric power plant that back in the 1930’s and 1940’s, supplied electricity to Northern Jordan and Mandate Palestine. EcoPeace has identified outstanding potential here for the development of ecotourism that would provide much-needed jobs in the area, as well as opportunities for biodiversity protection, cooperative management, joint research programs, education and collaboration on nature-based tourism. This month, a group of Swiss professors came to the region to do hi-tech 3-D scans of the site ahead of a student Design Studio scheduled for next year. Another step forward for the proposed Peace Park!
Women of Faith visit the Lower Jordan River
This month, EcoPeace staff gave a presentation and then a tour of the Lower Jordan River for a group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian women involved in the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development Women’s Faith & Ecology program. The importance of the rehabilitation of the River Jordan was presented in a multi-faith perspective as part of EcoPeace’s efforts to advance the creation of larger stakeholder circles supporting the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River. Sites visited on the tour included the Kaser el Yehud Baptism site, the Dir Hijla Monastery, and the (Northern tip) of the Dead Sea, also greatly affected by the demise of the River. Participants eagerly endorsed the Jordan River Covenant, a visionary document which both highlights the degradation of the valley and expresses our vision of a healthy, living river. Read more about our faith-based advocacy campaign here.
EcoPeace’s Israeli Director and Jordanian Assistant Director presented at the 8th International Conference on Tourism organized by the Kinneret Academic College. After an overall introduction with examples from around the world about tourism and peace, they discussed how the implementation of EcoPeace’s Regional NGO Master Plan will open up the region, attract tourism, bring more prosperity and abundance to the Jordan River Valley and advance peace.
World Bank Visits Jordan Valley
EcoPeace, Jordan Valley Regional Council members, and representatives of the Kinneret and Lower Jordan River Drainage Authorities gave World Bank representatives a tour of the Israeli side of the Jordan Valley on January 15th to better understand and visualize projects proposed in our Jordan Valley Regional NGO Master Plan. These types of tours help give international stakeholders a better understanding of the plight of the Jordan River but also the concrete positive change that has taken place in the past decade!