My Visit to Sharhabil Bin Hassneh Ecopark was Awesome!

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I just got back from an EcoPark in Jordan. It is 1.5 hours away from Amman, and is built around a dam. They do recycling and composting and re-use water, and they have hiking and camping, fishing and picnicing. And best of all, I found a flower field guide that goes with the park, so I took it along and we tried to identify the plants. It was great fun.

The park is awesome because its main purpose is to serve as a facility for environmental literacy for Jordanian school-kids. It has a very impressive name to suit its impressive goals: the Sherhabil Bin Hassneh EcoPark. It is named that after one of the Prophet’s close companions.

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Today, we were at the EcoPark as part of a training for recently-graduated high-schoolers. They are all from rural areas in the Jordan Valley. When they were 15 and 16, these youths worked as “water trustees” in their schools. They took the lead in organizing water-awareness and water-saving projects with the help of FoEME mentors. Then they all graduated from high school and left the program. But FoEME wants to keep up their involvement, so the training course is on how to refocus from being a leader in your school to being a leader in your community.

What amazed me the most about the course was how much it reminded me of similar things I did at the same age in the US. First, all the kids were so idealistic and smart. They spoke in strong, assertive voices when giving their opinions during discussions. At one point, the FoEME course leaders impersonated bad body language and bad speech patterns that a community leader should NOT exhibit. All the youth just about died laughing watching their long-trusted mentors make such exaggerated gestures. It reminded me exactly of how my friends and I would have laughed seeing similar things at that age.

SHE_Roman Press_Heritage and Cultural Significance

One of the FoEME mentors even said at one point: you should never be ashamed of asking a question, you should only be ashamed of leaving without understanding. Now, my mentors told me this countless times as I was growing up. It gave me a strange, homesick feeling to hear the exact same words, but in a different country and in a different language.

The training course was chock-full of advice like: always carry a notebook with you, you never know when you’ll see something interesting that you want to remember. But I think the most important parts were the discussions.

We talked about the qualities – like patience, honesty, respect, morality, curiosity – that a person should nurture in order to be a good community leader. One of the FoEME mentors asked: who do you know who has these qualities, who affected your life greatly? Some of the youths said their parents, and some said King Hussein of Jordan and the Pope. And one young lady said Edgar Allan Poe! She said upon reading his short stories, their uniqueness and eeriness made her see the world in a whole different light.

On the second day of the course, we broke up into groups. Each group was to create a guided nature tour through the EcoPark, highlighting its many features: the environmentally-built cabins; the different types of plants; the student-built dome where your voice gets amplified like at a Roman amphitheater; the bird-watching house built of sand-filled plastic bottles; and the beautiful dam around which the EcoPark is built, and which is said to have the cleanest water in all of Jordan.

Then on the last day of the course, we acted out the guided nature tours, and all the youths had a chance to practice being an actual nature guide. As we walked towards the dam, the peaks of the hills around us glowed golden in the slanting sunset light, and our voices were lost in the gusting wind. Someone yelled out, “Run!” and away we all went tramping up the hills. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen!

SHE_Walking Trail 2

Amidst all the discussions of leadership and environmental advocacy, a lot of political and religious themes kept cropping up. At one point, a group of foreign tourists showed up. They were all studying Arabic at a local university, and had actually come to exercise their conversation skills. The tourists were invited into our classroom, and everyone paired up to give them a chance to practice some Arabic with the Jordanian youths!

Afterwards, one of the FoEME mentors said he welcomed interactions like this, because it leaves the tourists with a strong impression. They will always remember meeting the Jordanian youths who respect and care for the environment.

I definitely left the EcoPark with my head full of new impressions, and I hope it will continue to serve as a way to bring people together over a shared concern for the environment.

This post is contributed by Mejs Hasan, FoEMEs Good Water Neighbors Intern at the Amman Office

BATTIR REGISTERED AS A WORLD HERITAGE SITE IN DANGER

Originally posted on EcoPeace - Friends of the Earth Middle East:

June 21, 2014

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 EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) is very glad to report that after many years of relentless work towards protecting the beautiful terraced landscape of Battir, yesterday afternoon UNESCO registered Battir as a World Heritage site in danger.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director at FoEME says: “at this difficult moment of continued violence in the region, Battir remains a ray of hope for cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians towards a better future.”

Nader Khateeb, FoEME’s Palestinian Director added: “FoEME now awaits the decision of the High Court of Israel as to whether the court will prevent the building of the Separation Barrier and accept FoEME’s petition that there are alternative means to maintain security without destroying what is officially, as of yesterday, a site of World Heritage to all of humanity”.

FoEME congratulates the Battir Village Council, our “Good Water Neighbor” communities, local Palestinian…

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Workshop on Implementing the Arab Peace Initiative at the Jordanian – Palestinian Level

Originally posted on EcoPeace - Friends of the Earth Middle East:

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Amman, Jo

007On Saturday, the 14th of June, 2014 representatives from Friends of the Earth Middle East “FoEME” attended a workshop on implementing the Arab Peace Initiative at the Jordanian- Palestinian level. The event that was organized by United Religious Initiative – MENA, a non-profit organization that aims at encouraging interfaith cooperation and inter-cultural understanding, in cooperation with The Center for Democracy and Community Development based in East-Jerusalem, falls under the program ‘Building sustainable Peace through the API: Regional Civil Society Initiative’ in line with the EU Partnership for Peace program.

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A PORTRAIT OF A RIVER

Originally posted on EcoPeace - Friends of the Earth Middle East:

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In 1845, Lieutenant William Francis Lynch of the United States and Confederate State Navies sailed on behalf of the US Hydrographic Office in an expedition to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Later, he wrote a book dubbed “Narrative of the United States’ Expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea” where he described his “attempt to explore a distant river and its wondrous reservoirs” (v) and spoke of his dissent from Lake Tiberias to the Dead Sea through the meandering Jordan River.

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International Collaboration for the Rehabilitation of the Jordan River Tour

Originally posted on EcoPeace - Friends of the Earth Middle East:

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EcoPeace/Friends of the Earth Middle East organized and led an ambassadors tour to the Jordan Valley on Saturday the 7th of June, 2014. The purpose of the tour was to bring attention to the problems facing the Valley including Solid Waste Management, Sanitation, Agriculture and Farming Practices.  FoEME, in this regard has produced a  regional master plan for the Lower Jordan River and identified a set of interventions that aim at advancing peace, prosperity and sustainability in the Lower Jordan River Valley.

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Faithbased Tours to Rehabilitate the Jordan River, An Ongoing Success

Originally posted on EcoPeace - Friends of the Earth Middle East:


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On the 6th of May, 2014 representatives from FoEME led a Muslim tour to the Jordan Valley. The tour is a part of the faithbased campaign launched by FoEME that targets religious leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths to raise awareness to the degradation of the Jordan River and the need  for its rehabilitation.

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Popes Visit to the Jordan River

Originally posted on EcoPeace - Friends of the Earth Middle East:




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Amman, Jo

On the occasion of the first visit of Pope Francis to the Holy Land and Jordan starting on the 24th of May, Friends of the Earth Middle East “FoEME” would like to bring attention to the shared significance of the Jordan River to all faiths in the region, and the need to garner support to rehabilitate the river from its current polluted state. 

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