Friends of the Earth Middle East, (FoEME) founded in 1994 originally under the name EcoPeace, is an organization without national identity because it is run by, and serves, three distinct peoples in the Middle East. Israeli co-director Gidon Bromberg was recently hosted at a meeting with J-Street Uat UCLA, during which he presented the organization’s activities to a group of interested students.FoEME is jointly operated by, and operates within, Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian communities to serve all three nations and their needs. This organization mobilizes Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian water experts and municipal authorities in order to design strategies to share water efficiently in a region in which the resource is scarce.
The organization’s focal initiative “Good Water Neighbors” program, which partners mayors of proximal Israeli, Jordanian, and Palestinian communities to devise strategies to best allocate the water they must all share. Every year, the mayors of these various cities and town participate in the “Big Jump”—a big swimming party in the Jordan River hosted by FoEME.
FoEME also hosts a prestigious internship program and touring service. Interns and guests reside in FoEME’s unique guest lodges, which are scattered between the three countries and are situated within nature preserves replete with hiking trails bordering watersheds, self-sustaining water purification facilities, as well as community centers with education programs.
FoEME does prescribe a political agenda, and Bromberg emphasizes that many of the people involved, hailing from Israel, Palestine and Jordan, work together not because they are necessarily friends with each other, but because they understand the need to look past exclusive alliances to form professional environmental partnerships for the greater good of their communities and the Levant region as a whole.
This is not a feel-good organization; FoEME’s pragmatic environmental outreach is achieved with an all-business attitude that has garnered wonderful results. FoEME was awarded the Aristotle Onassis Prize for the Protection of the Environment in 2010, as well as the Outstanding Leadership Award this year by the International Development Committee of the Association for Conflict Resolution. This recognition highlights the reality that while FoEME’s objective is about transcending politics for the good of the environment that we all share, it resonates in the inevitably politicized climate of the contemporary Middle East.
FoEME has more recently published studies and dissertations on the Jordan River—a shared water source between Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. FoEME focuses on the shared responsibility and grassroots-oriented reform needed to maintain the river, introducing curricula in public schools and informing parent-teacher groups, as well as working with government officials on the municipal level. Its playground in Auja, Palestine recently opened on the Auja Environmental Center it founded, giving back to the community beyond the classroom walls.
Friends of the Earth Middle East is sure to be an organization that contributes to the stability we all seek in the region. For more information, or to get involved in the environmental development that FoEME offers, see the links below.