A True Nightmare
The Climate Crisis and the Middle East
By Deborah L.R. Kornfeld
Was it a dream? From my window I could see Moshe and Mustafa arguing. They were standing in front of the most magnificent house in town. The house had been designed by a renowned architect and built flawlessly by master carpenters using the most exquisite materials. Funny, from this distance - Moshe and Mustafa looked so similar, you could really only discern who was who by Moshe’s kipa and Mustafa’s kafiya.
They were arguing over the ownership of the house. Each claimed that it was his. As they argued people gathered behind each of the men. There were lawyers with copies of official deeds to the land. There were politicians and negotiators and rabble rousers shaking their fists and making their case.
And then I saw the smoke. The house was on fire.
Mustafa and Moshe didn’t notice, the crowd in their intense fury did not notice. The house burned and burned until nothing was left of its beauty and grandeur. All that was left were its smoldering ashes. Was this a dream? Was this a nightmare?
This is a terrible story, but the truth is actually more upsetting; the earth is heating up and we deny reality and let ourselves be distracted. This is especially true in the Middle East. For generations the Middle East has been a political hotspot and with our current climate crisis it is a climate time bomb. From 1980s to 2020 the temperatures in Israel/Palestine have increased 2.1 degrees Celsius. Water sources are drying up and on-going military conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis partnered with political instability have distracted both peoples from addressing the issue of climate crisis. It might be clichéd to say that the climate crisis knows no borders or boundaries but sizzling summer heat threatens the health of people both in Jerusalem and in Ramallah.
The Middle East is heating up faster than much of the world. Interim solutions have been developed by both parties. Some agreements have been brokered about water. The Israelis developed desalinization plants to augment the water supply for the Israeli population. However, desalinization is a highly energy intensive process. When fossil fuels are used for this process, it throws more carbon back into the atmosphere and exacerbates the warming of the planet. Water for the West Bank and Gaza are more problematic. The rivers that historically provided water are drying up, sewage treatment is inadequate and many villages and cities do not have enough potable water.
Ecopeace is one of the nongovernmental organizations that brings Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians together to work on solutions to water and energy sustainability. Their mission is based on four pillars: “1) Cooperation to increase adaptive capacities for water and energy security. 2) Advancing Israeli-Palestinian natural water allocation. 3) Development of the Jordan Valley through investment in region wide climate smart initiatives and
4) Promoting public awareness and educational programs of diplomacy in the water and climate fields as a means of conflict resolution.” (Climate Diplomacy 12/8/2020). There are other non-governmental organizations such as The Arava Institute and The Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development. All these transnational non-governmental organizations need our support. They often have more freedom to work together than governments who are burdened by history and political concerns.
Back to my dream. What if I had called 911 instead of being a passive observer?
What if I had gotten right between Moshe and Mustafa and made them stop for a minute to see that their beloved house was burning? Could I have saved it?
There are many of us who care deeply about the fate of the Palestinian people; there are those of us who love Israel and care deeply about the Jewish Homeland. This is a plea to support organizations where Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians are collaborating. As the climate continues to heat up and water supplies dry up we must look beyond the borders, beyond our parochial interests and work together today to save a future for all.