When I first received an email from my teacher reminding me that I had a trip around the Yarkon River basin coming up, on a Friday at 8am no less, I found myself grumbling and bemoaning another day in which I wouldn’t get enough sleep. My opinion didn’t change until after we hiked up to our first stop on the trip. Standing on top of a (rather short) mountain, we saw a beautiful view with the old Israeli-Palestinian border running through it. Our guide began explaining the way the Yarkon River flowed across boundaries, and by the time she was pouring water on one of my classmates who was sitting in the bridge position to give us a visual for her words, I had decided that I might actually enjoy the trip. From there, we visited a number of other spots around the Yarkon River basin, learning about the moves Israel had made to become sustainable, such as developing simple processes to clean sewage water enough to be reusable. The final stop was perhaps the most impactful. We stopped on a bridge and our guide told us about how the previous version of the bridge had collapsed just as number of professional athletes were crossing it for the opening ceremony of a running race. At the time of the collapse, the river below was extremely polluted and unsafe for humans. Our guide told us that four people died, not because of the impact of the collapse, but because of the diseases they contracted from the polluted water. It was shocking to hear about such a direct impact of water pollution, especially since water pollution usually feels like a faraway thing because we can simply turn on the tap and get clean water.
I ended up loving the trip, which taught me a tremendous amount about sustainability in Israel. I learned about how difficult it is to clean sewage water because you never really know what could be in the water and what you should test for. I learned how birth control hormones left over in water can cause female fish to change into male fish. I learned that water has no political borders, and can often be central to conflicts. Overall, the trip gave me a chance to see real solutions being implemented by real people, and gave me hope for our chances to achieve sustainability, and from there peace, in the Middle East.
Written by: Keren Sneh