Third year Politics, History and Arabic student Jemima Oakey tells us about her summer placement with EcoPeace!
I left the UK on 29th June headed on a flight to Israel to begin interning with the NGO EcoPeace Middle East. This unique organisation seeks to foster an environment conducive to peace talks for the Israel-Palestine conflict via environmental peacebuilding projects. Run by Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, this truly special organisation is celebrating its 25th anniversary and its many achievements in striving to protect the shared heritage between the riparian states along the Jordan River and Dead Sea. Having independently sourced this internship, I was incredibly excited to begin researching and assisting with EcoPeace’s environmental projects.
Operating in their Tel Aviv office, I helped organise the inaugural Young Professionals in Water Diplomacy educational course to develop diplomatic skills among participants specifically focused on water disputes. Among other projects I worked on was the Dead Sea Swim project where I helped organise a fundraising strategy to get international donors to sponsor the swim which was designed to raise awareness of the environmental degradation affecting the Dead Sea. It was a truly immersive internship experience which allowed me to delve in and discover the harsh water realities affecting the region and – most surprisingly – how interconnected these shared water resources are and how dependant they are on sustainable, equitable management for their continued existence.
I was fortunate enough to be able to transfer and spend time in EcoPeace’s Jordanian office in Amman and learn about the water realities facing Jordan and the strain they have been put under since the influx of refugees from Syria. Meeting with all of the office and hearing about their own personal experiences of water scarcity was a revelatory experience; in the UK we take our abundance of water for granted. Jordan’s water resources, already strained from mismanagement and climate change, have come under further stress due to a dramatic population increase from the influx of Syrian refugees.
I was able to make the most of my extended weekends to travel extensively both in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Jordan. I was privileged enough to visit the beautiful, ancient, natural heritage sites in Jordan such as Petra, Wadi Ram and the Dead Sea. Exploring the natural beauty of the region was a truly rewarding experience and one that I will never forget.
On other weekend trips I got to meet and speak with people on all sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It was a very moving and intense experience where many of my views and preconceptions were challenged. As a 21 year old politics student, it is easy to form strong views and opinions while at university and I felt that it was important to challenge these in real life scenarios rather than base them entirely on the contents of library books. Having seen the oppression and disturbing realities of Palestinian life under military occupation, I believe it is very important to convey this back to the UK as it is clear that it is not covered properly in the media. It is also crucial to push for cooperation and find common ground to engage both sides in to ensure a peaceful settlement can be found. EcoPeace’s focus on engagement over environmental issues is a promising and crucial first step towards peace, and it has been a privilege to work with EcoPeace and assist in their efforts this summer.