Jonathan Gilben, co-founder of GoEco, talks about his passion for eco-tourism. (Jonathan pictured at the center of this photograph and in the video clip below.)
A few weeks ago we wrote about GoEco, an organization founded by Jonathan Gilben and Jonathan Tal in 2005 that has pioneered bringing the concept of volunteer eco-tourism to Israel. We were so inspired by the organization’s altruistic mission and by its ability to attract good-doing volunteers that we decided to get in touch with Jonathan (Gilben, that is) and hear a little more about their programs.
Was there a particular experience that inspired you to co-found GoEco?
After university I volunteered in Mexico for a Sea Turtle conservation program. During my time there I lived on a tropical beach, met people from around the world, conducted amazing volunteer work and participated in unique Mexican cultural events.
I was amazed by this travel experience and I realized that volunteer tourism is almost non-existent in Israel. This is what inspired me to co-found GoEco and bring people from around that world to volunteer and experience Israel like never before.
How do you select the location for and design your volunteer programs?
I usually find projects that have reliable managers and volunteer work that is eco or social based. The location of the programs provides unique natural and cultural experiences of Israel.
Approximately how many volunteers come on GoEco’s programs in Israel each year?
Around 300 – 400 and rising.
Is there a particular GoEco program or destination that is most popular?
Yes of course:
Ecotourism development in Nazareth
Kibbutz Lotan Eco volunteer Program
Have you considered operating environmental volunteer programs in the Middle East outside of Israel?
We have considered cooperating with other Middle East organizations. Our next potential collaboration may be with a Dolphin Conservation program in Egypt.
GoEco currently operates volunteer programs in Nazareth and Umm el-Fahem – could you please elaborate on what inspired you to create these programs and what the response is from these diverse communities?
The idea behind these programs is to promote coexistence initiatives in Israel through social aid and art. We want volunteers from around the world to experience Israel as a multi-cultural country with strong hope for peace. The response from the communities themselves have been very positive and they warmly welcome foreign and Israeli volunteers.
Read more about GoEco::