Monday, February 8, 2010

Reflection of Return

On my last day in Jerusalem, I walked through the open air Souk in the old city. It was a Sunday, and the streets were bustling and filled with vibrant colors. Fabrics, people, smiles, music, shouting, smoke. I pushed my way through the crowd, laughing at myself and my inability to even then make my way politely. I turned the corner abruptly and entered into a cloud of smoke. A man burning frankincense was shouting into the crowd in various languages: "Welcome to Jerusalem! Welcome to Jerusalem!" The smoke cleared briefly and I caught a glimpse of him. With twinkling almond eyes and grin made wise by the lines mapping his face, he looked right at me. He looked right through me. "Welcome to Jerusalem" he said again, softly this time. "Welcome home."

I don't know what it is that draws me. I have no blood, religious, political or emotional ties to this region. This place is not my home. It is not the home of anyone I knew before I arrived. I should be, by all accounts, apathetic. And yet, for some strange reason, the suffering of the people in this region resonated so profoundly within me: the fear, the hatred, the pain. The whole land vibrates with tension and sadness and I can't help but feel it.

I will be honest. When I first arrived, I had no intention of further studying this conflict, or anything to do with the Middle East at all. I had decided a long time ago that the conflict was too multidimensional, too emotional and too protracted for me to get involved. I longed for a smaller conflict, or better yet, a post-conflict area where I could make a difference in people's lives. But after meeting such incredible people on both sides of the barrier, after listening their stories and seeing their daily lives, I cannot but help to emerge with a changed perspective.

When I tell people about what I saw (and what I'm doing now), they often reply with something along the lines of "That's great, except do you really think you can make a difference in such a huge conflict?" Yes. I. do. Skepticism is a peace activist's biggest yet most predictable nemesis.

I want to post a youtube clip that I had seen before, but never really paid such close attention to. It's a poem by Suheir Hammad, called "On the Brink Of"

For me, what is the most powerful part is at 3:58 "It is hard not to hate, right now. But I have been loved. I have loved. and I know that those who dehumanize their enemies are only doing so to themselves."

It sums it up perfectly. I try to tell my stories, I try to paint a clearer picture, but Americans need to go. They need to see it for themselves and make their own judgments. They need to deem it productive or unproductive use of our tax dollars. They need to understand why we are targeted (and it's not because terrorists hate freedom). This conflict affects all of us.

Upon returning to the US, I've been thinking a lot about privilege. What does this word mean? It's a word that's haunted me throughout my life: first I was oblivious, then I was angry, then I denied it and finally I've accepted it. But we as a nation are privileged too, unfairly so. And as I often say-- it is the responsibility of those who are privileged to engage in dialogue to stop injustice from continuing. On an international scale, we are as privileged as it gets. And we as a nations people have untapped potential to make real change in this world. I'm not talking about governments. I'm talking about you. Personally. Even something as small as reading personal accounts of the situation, learning about history from multiple sources. Taking a trip to Israel and the West Bank (and, God willing, Gaza), and telling people what you've seen. Our silence is being interpreted as denial. And I don't know about you, but I was not built to deny the obvious.

There were many incredible people I met. So many warmhearted, caring, beautiful people on both sides of the border, living in such a horrible situation filled with fear and hatred. So many people manipulated by politicians. So many people who won't talk to each other, who refuse to look beyond the wall. So many people building more walls, physical and psychological. At the same time, there is hope. There are so many people ready for a real change. There are people who want to coexist. They choose peace every day, in a place that only seems to reward violence. Hope is one of those interesting things that seems to emerge in the most unexpected of places. We need to acknowledge the hope, not just the violence.

As a powerful party to this conflict (American), it's our responsibility to stop this cycle of fear. It's time to stop being skeptical and stop relying on other people to do what we as privileged international individuals can accomplish.

It's time to start a conversation.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Golan Heights

“That's it, right over there.” We were standing in the middle of a half-constructed house with no walls, looking out over the misty mountains of the golan heights. Not 800 meters away stood the syrian flag. Tauntingly close, yet separated by a barrier terrifyingly complex.

“Thats a military road for the israeli military. No one can drive on it. Then, there's about 300 or 400 meters of mine field. Behind it you can see the syrian flag. You can see the red white and black, there's two flags. And you see the UN observation tower, since 1974. The families in my village are divided since 1967. We have no possibility to visit family in Demascus. Almost every family has a father or brother on the other side, and there's no way to see them. I mean, I myself have 3 brothers and since 1967 I've never seen them again. I'm now about 50 years old. I dont know my brothers.”

The history of the Golan Heights as occupied territory is exceedingly complex, and-- not surprisingly-- disputed. For the sake of neutrality, I won't be discussing what actually happened there, since there are many strong opinions on the subject, and it's not really my goal to be giving opinions-- rather, I simply want to relay what I saw and what was told to me.

What was most interesting to me, however, was getting the chance to speak with a resident of the area who lived through the disputes and lives in this state of political limbo now. Perhaps the most shocking part was the way in which he described their state of living. Pointing out mine fields behind people's houses, the military base in the middle of the town-- his tone did not match his words. In short, he should've been much angrier. When asked about it, he replied:

“I mean, of course we understand. It's a conflict. There are conflicts all over the world. It is an occupation. It happens. We understand. But to limit the rights of the people under occupation, to prohibit them from their own land, from visiting their families, I mean, it's a violation for all the human rights issues and other conventions. Surely, if any one of the people in Golan was a risk for the israeli's, I understand why they won't let them go. But people who are old, who have spent 40 years not knowing their sons-- this is not right."

He walked to the other side of the house, where we all followed, and gestured to a point along the border.

"On the syrian day of independence, you'll find thousands of people on this side, and also thousands of people on the other side, singing and dancing and giving speeches and other thigns. And also, we have families here and there. We speak with each other using megaphones. In some cases, that is the only communication we have with our loved ones."

Once we reached the top of the hill, we entered a community center. This center, open only for residents of the Golan heights, provides the townspeople with cutting-edge healthcare facilities, a community gathering space, practice rooms with lessons and musical instruments, a community theater troupe, art studios and more.

The space glowed like a beacon of hope in my mind. Rehabilitation through arts and community building. It was beautiful, and I began to think about the importance of community in conflict, and the need for art and routine to feel human again. It won't solve anything, but perhaps that touch of normalcy brings comfort to those living in desperation.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

In Defense of Peace Parks

“What does planting trees have to do with peace?” asked one sardonic Economist reporter in response to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to South African activist, Wangaari Waathai.

Neutral territory between Jordan and Israel-- plans for creating a Peace Park are underway (

To those unaware of this growing international peace-building movement, the concept may seem a bit odd: sharing the responsibility of taking care of the natural environment in a border zone helps build a sense of transboundary community. Indeed, it sounds ideal in theory, but what about practice? Can we realistically expect people to put down their weapons, knock down their walls and start planting trees? Even the title "Peace Parks" elicits a mental rendering of a vague soft diplomacy tactic, at best (and at worst, some lovey-dovey hippies roaming around central park). But while it may seem a little counter-intuitive, especially considering the modern methods of dipomacy and so-called conflict resolution, I ask you to set aside your skepticism for a moment and try looking at things through a new lens.

What is the connection between protecting the environment and peacebuilding? If this land, for example, was filled with salted earth, no water and garbage, there would be no conflict-- there are no resources to fight over. The struggle to acquire land on the borders of Middle Eastern nations is not simply a power issue, but rather an issue of access to the region's most valuable resource. If you guessed oil, you're wrong. It's water. We are, above all things, in a desert. And it is only a matter of time before this water runs out. But as one environmental researcher told me yesterday, we shouldn't use water to ignite fires, but to put them out. We can use this so-called crisis as motivation to build bridges, instead of burning them.

A popular idea for building and maintaining peace between nations clashing over boundary lines is the concept of a peace park. Peace parks are neutral territories between nations, where the border becomes blurred. These parks emphasize people to people connections, attempting to buildtransboundary community a sense of mutual respect and appreciation for the land. Peace parks are instrumentally useful in resloving disputes even if the dispute is non-environmental. Sustaining peace between neighboring jurisdictions, it needs to show that the environment and ecosystem knows no political boundaries, and that there is a joint effort of cooperation for conservation on both sides of the border.

A great example of the success of one peace park initiative is on the border between Ecuador and Peru. This was a long standing conflict, and the border was such a point of contention that they had to bring in NASA to find a solution for a logical boundary that works with nature between the two regions. The US and Brazil initiated a peace declaration, but this didn't translate to the people on the ground. During peace talks, both countries recognized that the area should be conserved, and that things needed to change quickly because the military presence was causing damage to the environment. They came up with a joint conservation plan, and remains as such to this day-- as a jointly managed Peace Park. This resolution brought the sides together to think outside the box of the territorial conflict, and come up with a sustainable and pragmatic (not to mention financially profitable) way to attain grassroots peace between the two nations.

But it is not easily achieved. There are many challenges to overcome when creating a peace park. This creative challenge is currently being undertaken by grassroots peace and environmental researchers on the issue of the Golan Heights. Mainly, since the land itself-- including the border-- is disputed territory,it is imperative for both Israel and Syria to create a peace-treaty that involves the resolution of this land dispute before simply turning it into a Peace Park. As one Golan Heights resident and activist told me, "A peace park would be fine, but it should not be used as a condition for peace. It must be a result of a treaty, not a condition for peace."

This distinction may be difficult to understand, so I'm going to try to explain a little bit. The peace park as a condition of peace would look like the following: A treaty simply stating that the disputed land (now under Israel's political control) will become politically neutral-- allowing both Syrian citizens and Israeli citizens the ability to enjoy the natural landscape without the need for a visa or permit of entry. The problem with this method of creating a peace park would be (from Syria's point of view)that Syria will be officially losing the land, while Israel will be maintaining access to this land that they've occupied since 1967.* What would be preferable, is that a trade of some sort, perhaps involving access to water for access to land (as many diplomatic studies have suggested) would be in the official peace treaty, and any development of a peace park would be a subsequent result.

While attending a peace park conference at Tel Aviv University, the director of the University gave a rather depressing opening statement: "Peace with Syria is a pipe dream. Good luck with that." (yes, he actually said that to a room full of conflict analysts) Maybe he's got a point. Maybe we're just dreaming that people can put aside their narratives and do something beneficial for the greater good. Trees, not weapons. Water, not borders. People-to-people diplomacy. Transboundary responsibility. Maybe it is a dream. Yet, I've just got this strange feeling that won't dissipate: that people are able to evolve-- that if we have enough power and motivation to ruin something, we've got enough power and motivation to fix it. Maybe peace parks aren't the answer, but, in my humble researcher opinion, they're a good way to reframe how to deal with transboundary conflict.

* Obviously, I'm not Syrian, and I know only studied their perspective from a peripheral angle. I'm only assuming this would be one point of contention with the peace park plan, if it were to be presented as a condition for peace.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mo' solutions, mo' problems

Sorry for the delay in updating my posts. Things have been a little crazy lately.

Now that I've written about the environmental problems facing the sea of galilee, the jordan river and the dead sea, I'd like to turn now to some solutions that are being proposed for the region. The first of these solutions has been dubbed the "Red-Dead Conduit" and involves creating a pipeline of water from the red sea to the dead sea. This conduit would supply water to Jordan, and would involve a treaty signed on by Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

Sounds good, right? This option is highly attractive because of it's transnational cooperation aspect. The conduit would involve cooperation from all three nations, and would require all three to work together on ensuring its success. It is the first contract to be promoted by all three nations.

So what's the downside? The main downside of this conduit is environmentally based. Primarily, the chemical composition of the two waters may not be completely compatible. It's important to remember that the Dead Sea contains a unique chemical makeup, and that not all waters are filled by the same chemicals. Preliminary studies of combining the two waters show mixed results-- in some cases, successful, and in others, disastrous. According to some environmental researchers, the short term may prove successful, but the long term effects of mixing the waters could prove even more detrimental to the Dead Sea than the evaporation rate.

Furthermore, the red sea is home to many unique species of coral reefs. The building of the red-dead canal could impact the growth of these reefs as well as other unique native wildlife to the region.

There are also concerns that the conduit is being built over an active geological region. The area in the Arava valley (southern Israel/Jordan) is situated along an active fault line, and is at risk for earthquakes. Many researchers are concerned that if an earthquake were to occur, there would not be enough planning/foresight to prevent spillage and possible breakage of the conduit.

Finally, and perhaps the most obvious concern of all, what happens when the Dead Sea is filled up? Would this involve production to cease entirely? Or would the water be diverted elsewhere?

For an interesting analysis, check out:

A second solution is to increase the flow from the Jordan River into the Dead Sea. Now, I've previously covered why it is that the Jordan has been reduced to 10% it's natural flow rate (due to diversions and damming for Israel and Jordan's freshwater access)So, if the sea of galilee is shrinking, and the jordan river is dammed, how can we create a higher flow rate? The answer lies in international cooperation.

The beautiful thing about water is that it knows no geopolitical boundaries. It simply flows where it flows. Turkey, an ally of all the countries in this region affected by the water shortage, has offered to release a portion of its water (now dammed) and allow it all to flow naturally through the river/lake systems.

While this second option is an environmentalist's dream, it is a political nightmare, particularly for Israel. The problem with this option is that, consequentially, Israel would have to be relying on water passing through Syria. While efforts are underway to improve diplomatic relations between Syria and Israel, they've got a long way to go, and water is a particularly tense point between the two nations. It has been argued that one of the main strategic causes for the 1967 war was access to the Banias, a rivershed in Syria, as well as the sea of galilee. This is further exacerbated by Israel's continued occupation of the Golan Heights (a situation I will detail in my next post). Due to these political constraints, the possibility of cooperation between Israel and Syria seems tenuous at best.

Apologies if this post seems a bit depressing. The situation is complicated, and I've only covered the basics. There are a few other plans that are being proposed, each of which has its own merits and difficulties. For a review of the proposals, check out

I've said this before, and I'll reiterate it now, because I think it's a good point to remember: these problems are affecting everyone in the region. It is only a matter of time before the issue turns into a real crisis. The fact that politicians and environmentalists are acting now to address these concerns is actually a good move to help create not only an environmentally, but politically sustainable region.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Soldiers Story

They came in to the hotel, lead by a man who appeared very much as a rabbi, but with a handgun. They came in groups and all had guns. They couldn't have been more than 20 years old. Baby faced and exhausted, they marched up the stairs in drab olive uniforms. Boys, some girls. Their presence was daunting-- the sight of IDF soldiers in the arab-dominated East Jerusalem was jolting enough, their automatic weapons only added to the intimidation.

They sat around me, some still in uniform, others in plain white t-shirts, gym shorts and flip flops. They had family in America, most from New York. They asked what we were doing here, and why we were staying in an Arab neighborhood. I paused, slightly jarred by the phrasing of the question, and one of my peers answered. She told them the truth-- that we were studying geopolitical conflict, and I watched as they shifted uncomfortably in their seats. They wanted to know why we went to the West Bank, as if the mere attempt to reach out to the "other" was useless. I saw where this was going, and (somewhat abruptly, I'll admit) cut in. I told them all about Israel's water problem, and how it was influencing the region around them. I told them we've come to study what people are doing to influence policy, and examine the effects of current policy on the low-income population, which includes Palestinians. To this, I received a bunch of blank stares as a response. We have a water crisis? they asked. End of discussion.

The conversation quickly shifted to things i have little knowledge of (and quite frankly, little interest in). Guns, military strategy, training, branches of the army. As the conversation drew on, their rhetoric became more relaxed, and they began making comments about the neighborhood in which our hotel is situated, their opinions of Palestinians and their disregard for the arabic language. The comments were a bit too graphic to repeat, and I was extremely uncomfortable, not knowing what to do or say. Part of me wanted to fight them, knock them out and steal their guns. Part of me wanted to hold up a mirror, repeat the words back to them so maybe they could hear them more clearly and see their blind hatred. But I was frozen silent, not knowing how to proceed in the face of such indoctrinated hate.

After a while, I politely excused myself after a while and went to see my professor. They look like scared little boys with big guns, I told him, but they are heartless.  He said, I wish you could follow them tomorrow and see what they do.

We sat and talked a while about what I had heard. For a war that people so often point to as having religious motivation, there is no God here. There was no God in their words and deeds. They wore kippahs on their heads, silver stars around their necks and wouldn't look at a computer after midnight on a Friday. I could not balance the symbols of a beautiful peaceful religion with these words and instruments of hatred. This imbalance occurs on both directions of the conflict, and it never fails to catch me off guard.(That very morning, symbols of Islam- a religion I respect so much- juxtaposed with words of revenge jolted me into similar sadness). Earlier that day we had visited the Tomb of Abraham, and all I could think about is that we are fighting our brothers. Family is killing family. Perhaps when Jesus wept while over looking the city of Jerusalem, mere steps from where we were sitting, one of those tears was for the future of this land, for what he knew it would become.

There was a knock at the door. An IDF soldier I was talking to had figured out where I was, and wanted to talk some more. For fear he would attempt to enter the room where my professor and I were talking (thus making a very uncomfortable encounter between an IDF soldier and a Palestinian environmental/conflict researcher), I quickly shut the door and suggested we move to the lobby. As we walked to the lobby, he asked for more details about the water conflict. I referenced article 40 of the Oslo accords, told him about the Dead Sea crisis and the impending security problems a lack of water in this region could trigger. I continued for a while, hoping that if I kept talking he would become bored and decide to go elsewhere. The fact that our personal views on the conflict were at extreme odds did not help my nerves.

But then he did something that changed the game entirely. He interrupted my ramblings. He looked at me directly and said, slightly urgently "What can we do to fix the situation?" And he actually sounded concerned. Honestly, I don't know why this shocked me so much. I had merely assumed he wouldn't have an interest in the details. Why should he care anyway? It's affecting the Arab nations the most right now. The Palestinians are the ones who have no clean water (or water at all) right now. But there it was: The humanity. There he was, finally, not a soldier, not a Zionist, but just another kid. Just like some boy who could've grown up next door to me. In some messed up alternate universe, he could've been me. If it wasn't for the gun slung around his shoulder, I would've forgotten who I was talking to.

I told him about the options that are in the research stage right now. I explained the pros and cons of each proposal, and then laughed uncomfortably and said "I'm not here to solve this. Only your government can do that. I'm just an outsider." After a moment of silence, he said "You really care about this, don't you? " I nodded, looking away uncomfortably "I hope you come back and help us sort this out. We could use some help."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tea in Palestine

When we arrived, there were children playing pickup soccer in the back yard. Flowers hung from the garden on vines, and the sun was just setting beyond the city limits. There was laughter and a baby crying followed by adoring coos from the mother. We went around the porch, shaking hands with multiple women who looked at us smiling with curiosity. As we sat in the chairs, they brought us tea and coffee, and attempted to serve us-- which we promptly refused and began serving ourselves. As we settled in our chars, one woman began talking about her school in Hebron. She was the headmistress at the only government-funded coeducational school in H2, the section of the city of Hebron, which is under israeli security control.

With emphatic gestures and flawless english, she described the conditions under which palestinian children are educated in an occupied city. Text books being monitored, religious classes being cut, any reference to palestine or the palestinian narrative was strictly forbidden. It was frustrating, but she seemed to know how to handle it. She has written a paper on the censoring of national history and identity through curriculum monitoring in Israel. “It happens everywhere” she said, casually, “history always changes depending on who tells it.”

The current curriculum is taught in both english and arabic. Judging from all the sisters' flawless english, I could tell that education was something this family valued. Indeed, this was confirmed when she said “English to us is more than a second language. We have a saying in this house-- another language is like a weapon on your arm.”

“In the 3 years that I've been head mistress in that school, the student population has doubled. Most of our graduates go on to university about 70%. The majority of these graduates are women” she said proudly. I caught a glimpse of her mother sitting behind her, eyes twinkling with love, her sisters all smiled, and the daughters too. This was one powerful woman.

Her school is situated across the street from some Israeli Settlements within Hebron. “Before I got there, there were frequent attacks on the school. It was hard because we had no security. Palestinian Police cannot enter that section of Hebron and, well, the Israelis don't really care about us. So if something happened, we had no one to call. But that changed when I got there. I can say that within the three years I've taught there, I've only had to drive one person to the hospital-- our teacher. She was stoned by settlers during class hours.”

She credits this rapid decrease in attacks to both working with the israeli security forces and rearranging class schedule. “I brought each of the security into my office, got their personal contact information and gave them mine. And I told them that if something happens, I want them to do their job. Everyone should do what they're supposed to. I'll do mine and take care of the children, they do theirs and keep us safe. I also told them that I want a police escort to sit in front of the school every morning. And they come.”

She didn't really go into detail on the attacks on the school, but she explained that many of the attacks were due to clashes on the way to and from school between the israeli and palestinian children. The palestinians would get stoned or beaten by the settlers on their way to class. “I don't know what their parents are doing. Maybe they're encouraging it. Its terrible if they're using the children like that. But the attacks are by the children, who then are protected by the adults.” So she rearranged the class schedule to avoid overlap between the commuting time, starting and ending school half an hour earlier than the settlers.

“some people call it 'passive nonviolence' or something like that.” she said, handing me her business card and pointing out her email address. “I call it 'everyone do their job'. My main priority is the children, education and security. Security before education.”

I think I've just met my idol.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dead Sea

Though a beloved tourist spot for Jordanians, Israelis, Europeans (and someday perhaps, Palestinians) The Dead Sea is, for lack of a better word, dying. Made up of water of high salinity, and, due to low altitude and high radiation, this water is susceptible to high amounts of radiation, thus causing a high evaporation rate. When the Dead Sea is healthy, water flows from the Galilee to the River Jordan (Upper and Lower) and into the Dead sea, where it evaporates, leaving a pool of water with high levels of salt, Many people claim the area to have great medicinal and spiritual value. Whatever its physical value, the government cannot deny its financial value to the tourist industry. Both Israel and Jordan have made massive amounts of financial gains through the use of the Dead Sea, its salt and mud based products, and the peat that is left behind after evaporation.

Man-made interference has, however, thrown off the ecological balance of the Jordan River Bioshed, and this includes the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is shrinking in surface area by about 1 m per year. Though this thought is scary enough for the tourist industry, many political players are wondering why they should care. The answer lies in the ripple effects-- more immediately, the sink holes. Essentially, what is happening is that, in its healthier days, the fresh water that flows down from the mountains under ground is balanced by the salt water that lies below it, creating a stable interface of water. The fresh water then evaporates, leaving a pool of salt and water mixture behind, But because the sea water is shifting and exposing these salt layers, the fresh water actually comes into contact with the salt layer, which then dissolves the salt. This creates a cavity under the soil, which, given the proper circumstances, creates a sink hole. These sink holes are appearing all along the shore of the Dead Sea, putting at risk the hotels, beaches, spas, kibbutz, and even highways.

The issue of sink holes is not an israeli-only issue. What happens on one bank of the dead sea occurs on the other bank as well. Although the jordanian side is marked by cliffs, so erosion and sink holes aren't as obvious, the depletion of the water's surface area has continued to a point where it is becoming noticeable. This is problematic for the Jordanians tourism industry, among other things, which, for a struggling economy is highly important and could cause severe repercussions.

So what is causing the sea water level to shift in the first place? If you go back to my previous post, I talk about how, due to the National Water Carrier and other man-made diversion sources for water, the Israelis have decided to dam the jordan river. The jordan river right now is at 10% of its natural flow rate. Since the jordan flows into the Dead sea, reducing its waterflow at such a extreme rate is putting the entire biosphere on a shift, resulting in the loss of water to the dead sea. The water of the dead sea continues to evaporate at the same rate it always did, but the water is not replenished by the Jordan.

Critics will say that the dead sea has decreased in size before, due to natural phenomenon. This is true. The Dead Sea is a naturally dynamic system-- it has always had ups and downs due to the natural course of things. But now it is obvious the reason it is dropping today is because of human interference. While the sea has seen such lows naturally in the past, the really disturbing aspect is the rate of decline-- the Dead Sea has never decreased in surface area so rapidly.

There's a secondary consequence to the rapidly shrinking dead sea that affects Israel's economy more than tourism-- industry. The peat industry relies on evaporation from the Dead Sea to provide it with potassium rich soil, which it then exports all over the world. In order to create the correct reaction to maintain this naturally occurring phenomenon, the industry artificially separates the Upper Dead Sea from the Lower Dead Sea, keeping the lower portion at a depth of 1 meter. Hotels have sprung up around this portion of the dead sea, but now are facing the opposite problem from the Northern part-- flooding. Due to the maintained amount of water and evaporation, peat production is booming, so much so that the industry is unable to keep up. So if the soil is growing larger and larger, and the water needs to be maintained at the same depth level, hotels are now dealing with flooding issue. This produces a secondary conflict between the chemical industry and the hotel/tourism industry.

When I asked an Israeli water/environmental researcher on if he thought there was hope for the Dead Sea to recover he said: “ let's put it this way: I don't think it gets any worse than where we're at. If the government doesn't get involved and change things, there's very little people like me can do. But I think once they see the economic impact, they'll want to change things.

The Dead Sea is a transboundary resource. It really could be an environmental phenomenon like ths one that shapes the future political climate. Each country is too small and too financially burdened to deal with this crisis on its own. As the researcher told me “we each have problems, but if we're creative we can see these problems as opportunities.”