The first rain of the winter is falling in the Negev. Nothing is more beautiful than water in the desert. Its presence honors Blog Action Day in which bloggers all around the world write about the environment.
Despite all that divides us, the natural resources of the Middle East are our common bounty. This entry honors those organizations who work together, beyond geopolitical differences, to protect the environment which is our heritage and our legacy.
Environmental Issues in the Middle East
Twenty-one countries belong to the World Bank’s Middle East/North Africa Group, and we are all facing common environmental issues:
- Water scarcity and quality
- Land and coastal degradation and desertification
- Urban and industrial pollution
- Weak institutional and legal framework in which to establish and enforce environmental regulations
Environmental Coexistence Organizations
I am aware that this is an incomplete list and welcome additions to it. Notably, this list does not include the work of Israeli universities who have many joint environmental research projects with their neighbors.
“The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is the premier environmental teaching and research program in the Middle East, preparing future Arab and Jewish leaders to cooperatively solve the region’s environmental challenges.”
Bridging the Rift is a joint Israeli-Jordanian center researching the ecology of the Dead Sea. Founded in 2004 by Matt Kochavi, who hopes that science will form a “common language” between the researchers, the center collaborates with Stanford and Cornell Universities.
Ecopeace brings together Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians to promote sustainable regional development. It is a member of Friends of the Earth International, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the world.
Global Nature Fund/ Living Lakes
The Global Nature Fund is an international organization founded to protect the environment, with a special eye to species preservation and sustainable development. Its Israeli branch focuses on the Dead Sea, which is rapidly evaporating leaving sink holes and raw salted desert in its wake.
“The Heschel Center is dedicated to building a sustainable future for Israeli society- environmentally, socially and economically- through education and reflective activism.”
The MIO-ECDSE is a federation of Mediterranean non-governmental organizations that gathers periodically to address environmental issues in the region, including water, agriculture, energy, climate change, tourism, and environmental education.
The MEEF Project of Brown University seeks “innovative scientific solutions” to environmental problems. Collaborating researchers hail from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia, and Morocco. Says one Israeli researcher: “We realized that if we wait for the fighting to end, then we’ll wait forever.”
I will praise the day when the nations of the Middle East join together in robes and sandals, suits and ties to discuss the protection of our common resources.
Israeli Environmental Organizations
Although not the focus of this blog entry, I can’t help but list the names of Israeli organizations working on behalf of the environment. More information about them can be found on the website of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL).
Again, this may not be a list that includes every resource, but I welcome your education and additions.
The COEJL includes:
Adam Teva v’Din: the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense; Alma: the Association for Environmental Quality; the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (see above); Council for a Beautiful Israel; Ecopeace: Friends of the Earth Middle East (see above); For Bicycles; Green Action; Greenpeace Mediterranean; Greencourse; Heschel Center for Environmental Learning (see above); the Israel Economic Forum for the Environment; the Israel Green Party; the Israeli-Palestinian Center for Research and Information; the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs; the Jewish Environmental Network; the Jewish National Fund; Kibbutz Lotan; Life and Environment; the Ministry of the Environment; Neot Kedumim; New Israel Fund; the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel; and Teva Adventure Israel
Additional Jewish organizations not included in the Coalition that you might be interested in are:
Adam v’Adamah; the Green Environmental Fund; Hazon; the Jewish Global Environmental Network; the Jewish Nature Center; the National Partnership for the Environment; the Shalom Institute for Camping and Conference Center; the Teva Learning Center; and Torah Treks
Links of Interest