Jan 8 - Today marks the end our formal SIPP trip. Bernard is heading to Tel Aviv and home tomorrow, and Tara and I are staying on for two more days to lean more about Ramat HaNegev for a new sister-city initiative. Fortunately, today had much less drama than yesterday.
We spent last night in Sde Boker and met Noa Avner of the Arava and Dead Sea Environmental Center. She took us first to a location where we saw some petroglyphs while she explained the culture of the ancient nabateans, and compared them to current-day Bedouin. We then went to visit a nearby unrecognized Bedouin villiage, where we heard various proposals that would attempt to integrate the community into the larger society, and alternatives associated with early childhood education.
We then went to Mitzpe Ramon to view the Makhtesh - a very large crater caused by erosion. Hard to know what the SIPP angle was to that stop, other than we cannot be in the area without stopping at the crater.
In the end, throughout this trip, we covered a lot of ground and have a lot to think about. There are many exciting possibilities and we will need to filter and sort through it all over the coming weeks. One surprising outcome is that SIPP is now a named partner in a US State Dept grant proposal. I am looking forward to see how this all works out. ... See MoreSee Less
Jan 6 - Met Yo'av (getsolarbox.com) to learn about his new company that creates inexpensive portable solar energy systems. He, with a partner in Gaza, started shipping units to Gaza last week.
Jan 7 - Tara joined us last night, and we had a whirlwind and adventurous day today. A municipal strike in Jerusalem, meant that garbage was piled up everywhere. Not a pretty site. When we went to leave this morning for the West Bank and the Negev, our car was blocked by someone else's vehicle. We had the hotel call the police, and were able to manage to "escape" after about a half hour.
At Idna (West Bank) we met Akram and explored the new environmental education center. The center focuses on all manner of recycling, including electronic waste. There is a real opportunity to make an impact in the community.
After Idna, we went to Wadi Attir in the Negev. At the entrance, our vehicle got trapped in mud and we got quite messy trying to move it. We finally freed it with the assistance of a front-load operator who was doing work on the road. After touring Wadi Attir, we met Ariel from AJEEC-NISPED and discussed their numerous projects, including SIPP's partnership in a grant proposal that should be going out this evening. ... See MoreSee Less
Jan 5 - Before leaving Jerusalem for Nazareth and Haifa, we met two other incredible people: Elie Pritz, author of the Paxology curriculum which teaches history through "peace heroes", and Dr. Vered Blass, professor at Tel Aviv Univ and director of Engineers Without Borders - Israel. Dr. Blass is also an expert on electronic waste. Ms. Pritz will be doing a TED Talk next month on Paxology.
In Haifa, we met with Lillian Daniel, an Israeli-Arab environmental educator in the process of obtaining her PhD, and Ibrahim Etheiga, Director of the Masar Institute for Education in Nazareth. With Lillian, we discussed the possibility of partner with her on two grant proposals to create a hands-on STEM-oriented environmental curriculum for the Masar Alternative School that would include composting, recycling, and wastewater treatment. With Dr. Etheiga, we discussed the appropriateness of creating a school pairing project between the Marsar Alternative School, an Israeli school, and an American school.
Our Haifa meetings will much less formal as we meet with Mark Telisnick, a colleague of Bernard's and founder of EWB-Israel, over dinner.
Tomorrow is Shabbat, so I won't be posting. I will pick up again on Sunday. ... See MoreSee Less
Jan 4 - Lisa Talesnick (who I met on Tuesday), drove Avner, Bernard and myself to Al Ubeidiya and then to Mar Saba. Lisa will be accompanying us tomorrow (Friday) to Nazareth and Haifa (we will be meeting Lisa's brother Mark in Haifa).
In Al Ubeidiya, we spent some time with the new Mayor, and his head engineer: Ratib Ibayat. Ratib accompanied us to Mar Saba and our "walk the wadis" tour. Ratib is himself a mayor of a small town near Bethlehem. At Mar Saba, we met several of the monks and went over maps and water quality test results associated with the contamination of their drinking water. Some of their sources tested clean, while other sources are clearly contaminated. We then walked approximately three miles through the glorious Judean wilderness as we followed the mostly dry wadis upstream toward Al Ubeidiya. We learned a lot (which I will document elsewhere), and recognized that there is no easy engineering solution. "It is complicated."
Afterwards, we retreated to the small Palestinian community of Battir - a community of eight extended families that share a spring to water their terraced gardens. A local 7 year-old girl adopted us as our personal tour guide. ... See MoreSee Less
Jan 3 - The sun came out, so Bernard and I walked the mile from our hotel to Richard Laster's law office. As it happened, we stopped by his office at the end of the day as well. Richard filled us in on the various Kidron projects, including the proposed waste water treatment plant for waste generated in East Jerusalem. We then discussed possible SIPP involvement in two other projects: one related to directly protecting the Mar Saba Monastery water supply, and the other related to the proposed "Pilgram Paths" - this would also involve Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Palestine and EWB Israel. Avner Goren, who accompanied us, is directly involved in the Pilgram Paths, as they are basically extensions of the Abraham Path. Avner was responsible for the Abraham Path in Israel.
We left Richard's office and traveled to Al Ubeidiya, where we met the new mayor and his chief engineering staff - Maher. Maher showed us the existing constructed wetlands (which unfortunately has yet to operate!), and the likely location of the larger community wetlands. Tomorrow we will also see where a 3rd demonstration wetlands will be built by a group from the Netherlands.
After Al Ubeidiya, we decided to pay a surprise visit to the Al Menya landfill. The director of the landfill wasn't able to spend much time with us, but one of his staff gave us useful information on the state of recycling at the landfill and in all of the West Bank.
Returning to Richard Laster's office, we met and compared notes with Gideon Bromberg, EcoPeace's Israeli director. Richard opined on the wretched state of recycling in Jerusalem. There is a LOT of work that needs to happen on both sides of the Green Line to change entrenched cultures on waste minimization/reuse/recycling.