Pollution problems in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are well-known and seem to be getting worse. The World Health Organization has identified high levels of pollutants in all the region’s urban areas. In Gaza, chemical and microbiological contaminants in drinking water are causing health problems. And in the West Bank, there’s an ongoing battle to push back against factory pollutants affecting the air quality.
Unfortunately, that’s only the tip of the iceberg, as these issues get worse over time. What’s worse, it’s become more difficult to address the problems because of the animosity between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with one side frequently blaming the other for causing or exacerbating these problems.
Sure, politicians may have say over maps and movement, but when it comes to the air we breathe and the water we drink, those borders are truly irrelevant. Land, water and air don’t discern what’s Israeli territory, Palestinian territory or disputed territory. No matter the source of the pollution – and no matter who controls which territory — Palestinians and Israelis are still stuck living with the unfortunate consequences of such environmental problems.
While governments are negotiating or outright fighting over other issues, environmental issues are often overlooked. This can actually prevent the collaboration necessary to help address serious environmental problems, especially during tense periods between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, by making it more difficult to cross borders and collaborate between academic institutions. Furthermore, the conflict serves to perpetuate a culture of animosity in which Israelis and Palestinians have difficulty meeting one another.
That’s why we at the Menorah Islands are so encouraged when we hear about collaborative efforts to address larger threats to the environment. We’ve already written about SESAME, a multi-cultural scientific center designed for scientists from around the world to come together and pursue, develop, and share their research with fellow scientists from differing cultural and political backgrounds. We felt the same way when nearly the entire world, include Israel and the Palestinian Authority, ratified the 2016 Paris agreement, committing to reducing fossil fuels and combating carbon emissions to tackle this global threat as a unified body.
That’s the type of future we imagine here, too – one where scientists and activists can transcend political borders to address the threat to the environment – a threat which knows no borders. From its conception, the Menorah Islands Project placed technologies which enable a “green” future front and center. From atmospheric water generators to create clean drinking water to harnessing solar energy to reduce fossil fuel usage, we designed the islands to operate on these technologies and give back to the planet instead of taking away from it.
The importance of taking care of the environment is one of the many reasons why our recent partnership with A New Model is so important as well. This incredible coexistence effort addresses the Middle East’s problems by creating “green zones” that provide environmentally-friendly jobs in economically-ravaged locales throughout the Middle East. Projects like A New Model understand that the economic future lies in ramping up efforts to address environmental problems through creative inventions, trailblazing business ventures and other groundbreaking collaborative efforts.
With the Menorah Islands designated as a place for interaction and forging common ground, professionals and amateurs alike will have a safe space to explore this transformative space. The planet quite literally depends on it.