Ecotourism - Heritage- Education (EHE): A partnership for intercultural citizenship in 3 conflict zones
Small communities in southern Israel lie within a few dozen kilometers of Jordan's southern villages. Separated only by a geo-political border running along the Arava Valley, they have a common environment and landscape, and share similar economic challenges linked to rural populations. While communities on both sides have much to gain from cross-cultural cooperation, such opportunities are deeply affected by socio-cultural constraints, as well as the overriding impact of the Israel-Palestine conflict on inter-country relations.
Residents on both sides have worked together in the past on common issues, but as extremist rhetoric intensifies in both Israel and Jordan, these Jewish and Arab neighbours are facing pressure to fear and hate each other. As peripheral communities they receive very little investment to strengthen existing positive cross-border relationships. As this trend continues, the poorer, most isolated areas are becoming more vulnerable to radicalism, particularly youth.
In the midst of these challenges, The Ecotourism- Heritage- Education (EHE) set out to promote tolerance and mutual respect to advance sustainable development among tourism entrepreneurs. Hence an aim of the project was to share experiences working on sustainable development in conflict zones.
The activities included a 6-month training course for small-scale tourist entrepreneurs in Eilot (Israel) and Rachme (Jordan). Participants attended weekly training meetings where they gained theoretical and practical knowledge about eco-tourism in the southern region.
Two workshops brought all 28 Israeli and Jordanian participants together to explore ways to connect their enterprises for improved incomes and livelihoods, chiefly via cross-border cooperation and networks.
All participants receive advice on developing individual and collaborative business plans for Israel-Jordan eco-tourism.
With regards to knowledge-exchanges,the project also provided Cultural Heritage without Borders (CHwB) from Albania, which developed techniques for peacebuilding through community actions geared at small historical site repairs, a model which is unknown in the Middle East.