The Water Matters Cross-Border Environmental Cooperation project, led by the Dead Sea and Arava Science Center, has been operating in our area since 2016. Women, men and youth, residents of the region between Eilat, Jericho and Aqaba, meet: farmers, students, researchers, tour operators, planners, teachers, musicians, artists, restaurateurs – people from three sides of the border. In short, neighbors!
The project has several aims: raising environmental awareness; providing tools for creating social and environmental changes; providing tools for developing and managing projects; and developing communication and multicultural listening abilities. The residents of Hevel Eilot take an active part in this project.
During the first year of the project, we met to get to know each other and learn together. Through this newfound familiarity, we discovered rifts, agreements and disagreements. However, it was evident that we are all residents of the same desert, characterized by strong and supportive communities. We acknowledged the water shortages, the human rights gaps, the love of the land and agriculture, and we realized that being at the periphery of the borders of Palestine, Israel and Jordan, we experience common challenges in many fields: livelihood, tourism and water, as well as cross-border alienation. We wanted to become a community that has good neighbors and acts as such. After all, ‘better is a neighbor who is near than a distant brother’.
During the second year of the project we divided into cross-border working groups – each group included participants from Jordan, Israel and Palestine. Each group chose an objective and a joint project centered on entrepreneurship, water, tourism, raising environmental awareness, education or desert plants. Each group had a professional mentor who accompanied the project. We are currently in the process of implementing the three communities’ ideas.
In Jordan, a group is working to create a solution for an environmental hazard in which wool is discarded near roads; the wool will be re-used for textile products. Another project collects surplus fruits and vegetables from the field and distributed them in the communities. The third group is producing a short film raising awareness of water problems.
In Jericho, the groups are establishing an ecological restaurant, opening an organic sheep farm, and opening an organic vegetable farm.
In Israel, the Water Ways project is creating cross-border tours and routes between Israel, Jordan and Palestine focusing on the issue of water in the desert.
The Desert Matters project seeks to create a joint tourist platform between the three states through a website directed at tourist and offering accommodation, tours, workshops and information about what to do between Aqaba – Jericho – Eilat.
Meanwhile, a book of desert plants, describing the desert botany common to the three countries, is in the making.
For further information and to join us, please contact Rina Kedem: email@example.com