Middle East trip (intro)

The category “journal and notes — Middle East” contains journal entries and notes from my middle east trip from June through July 2008, in chronological order.  The first entry, below, is a brief history and overview of the original purpose of the trip, including why the hell I was in the region in the first place.  Names may or may not have been changed to protect the innocent, the guilty, and when all else fails, the naive (mostly me…).


Part one:  Several years ago, I decided to start studying Arabic at my school.  Why? I wanted to continue with foreign language study, didn’t want a Latin-based language, and wanted something that had geopolitical significance.  My choices were Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.  I chose Arabic — it has a cool looking cursive script, reads from right to left (finally, a language for left-handed folk!) and…seemed most relevant and appropriate considering the USA’s current foreign policy and geopolitical predicaments.  Arabic is a major language of our oil addiction and many related problems.

Part two:  I’ve been doing research into the concept of integrative environmental management.  I’m also interested in ecological economics, permaculture, watershed restoration and management, and in general social and ecological justice (i.e., treating both our human and non-human environments with the respect they deserve, respectively).  I’m graduating with a BS in Community Development.

Part three:  I don’t like tourism.  Even (especially?) when you attach the catchy and en vogue prefix “eco-” in front of it.  As a corollary, I also don’t like tourists.  So I try not to be one.  Relevance: If I go to the Middle East, it has to be work- or research-related.  Additionally, I’m not just going to fly over there to “check stuff out.”  That sounds dangerously close to tourism.  In short, I personally need to have a strong justification for my traveling to a region — more than “site-seeing.”  Enough to give me a reason to contact and bother people who are otherwise very busy with their projects.

Part four:  So my brother met someone in grad school.  They hit it off.  She was (and still is, to my knowledge) Kuwaiti-American.  They got engaged.  The official marriage (the paperwork, basically) was going to happen in Kuwait.  Friends and family were invited.  That means me.  So I seized the opportunity after the week in Kuwait to take a short hop, skip and a jump over to the Levant.  The purpose:  to learn about cooperative (Israeli, Jordanian and/or Palestinian) and/or permaculture and/or watershed restoration projects.

Pre-trip research

I had two leads in order to establish contacts and create a travel itinerary for my trip:  A contact e-mail for the Israeli Permaculture Convergence 2 (IPC2), and knowledge from my permaculture training of Geoff Lawton’s project(s) in Jordan (check out the video [below]).

I sent an e-mail to the IPC2 address asking about potential intersections between permaculture and conflict transformation.  Ruben Arbib responded and gave me the contact info of Haim Feldman, the “agricultural specialist” at Hava ve Adam ecological farm in Modi’in, Israel.  He runs a “biofalcha” project with a Palestinian farmer, which I will talk about in greater detail in a later post. Geoff Lawton pointed me toward Jesse Lemieux and Tanya Booth, who at the time were heading to Jordan to either continue the old project or start a new one.  I ended up correspondening with both Haim and Jesse and Tanya for several months.

As my departure date approached, Jesse and Tanya informed me that they would be leaving before I arrived, which put a bit of a cramp in my plans.  However, they gave me the contact info of several other people and projects, most principally the Care Jordan permaculture project, a project called Bustan Qaraaka near Bethlehem run by three Brits, and a Palestinian project by Murad Alkhuffash in a village called Marda.  At the last minute, I also contacted Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) to arrange a meeting with their Amman office.

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