Green Prophet has featured news about the Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME) Eco-Centre at Al-Auja, a Palestinian village in the Jordan Valley, on a number of occasions. Green Prophet writer Rachel Bergstein has reported on the challenges the inhabitants of Al-Auja face because the water from their famous spring is appropriated by neighbouring settlements. And more recently, Maurice Picow wrote about the shocking pollution of the Jordan river – including the Christian ‘Baptism Site’, not far from Al-Auja.
Bergstein also wrote several years ago about the potential for eco-tourism in Al-Auja, after walks in the village were included in the FOEME’s ‘Neighbours’ Paths’ programme, raising awareness of water issues and community solutions. Now, the Eco-Centre has launched its latest project, a guesthouse with space for around 40 visitors to stay in dormitories, using a shared kitchen or being served traditional meals cooked by staff from Al-Auja.
According to Fadi Jueejat, the manager of the new guesthouse, it’s now “fully equipped for guests; we have already seen several groups of visitors, both local and foreign. Many attractions in the area are easily reachable, including the well-known Auja spring. Guesthouse visitors will have a real educational experience too, aside from great hospitality!”
The guesthouse is just one in a new trend towards community tourism initiatives in the West Bank, introducing visitors to Palestinian life and culture whilst using locally-grown food and products such as olive oil soap made by community members. In Al-Auja, an area which suffers from high unemployment and loss of farmland to settlements, the guesthouse and eco-tourism projects also have the potential to create valuable new jobs. As well as accommodation and food, the Al-Auja guesthouse offers classes in Palestinian cookery and handicrafts, bicycle hire and hikes in the Jordan Valley concentrating on the area’s biodiversity and history.
Nader Khateeb, Palestinian Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, sees the new guesthouse as a logical progression of the Eco-Centre’s work. “Our aim is for this Environmental Education Center and Guesthouse to be a must-see stop for anyone traveling in the West Bank, especially in the Jordan Valley area,” he says. “The Jordan Valley Environmental Education Center here in Auja is developing rapidly. We are now building 5 educational ‘stations’ in the large outdoor yard, with each station teaching about wise water use: grey water recycling, separation of waste, water conservation, water & agriculture and more.”
The Al-Auja Eco-Centre – or to give it its full name, the Jordan Rift Valley Center for Environmental Education and Eco-Tourism Development – has a website with full information about its accommodation and activities at jvec.ps.
Read more about the ups and downs of sustainable communities in Palestine:
Palestine’s Green City Faces New Criticism- this time about JNF Trees
Canaan Fair Trade Creates Sustainable Community of Palestinian Farmers
World’s First Eco-Playbus Hits the Streets of Bethlehem