The first public event of GEN-Israel, an all-day conference, was held on November 23 at Kibbutz Gezer. Participants included Kosha Joubert, president of GEN-International, Aida Shibli, coordinator of GEN-Palestine, and around 200 people from different ecological projects, communities and communities-networks. It was a new step which not only strengthens the existing network, but also stretches it further to local traditional Bedouin communities, some communes and networks coming from a socialist backgrounds, and also more spiritual-oriented groups. Together, and with the strong global perspective and experience, the network has gathered to know more about each other and deepen the cooperation between communities.
Over the last few years in Israel, we have witnessed an incredible burst of activity as groups of people from all over the country have been creating viable models of sustainable living. From established kibbutzim, to new urban communities, to private farms and education centers, a diverse range of projects are developing that offer low-impact local alternatives to the high-energy consumer culture of the mainstream. Now is the time to bring these different initiatives together under one national network – GEN-Israel.
As a small, densely populated country with few natural resources, Israel is facing huge challenges in terms of sustainability. The national ecological footprint, while ranking about average in terms of industrialized nations, far outstrips available biocapacity within the country. At present, Israel is completely reliant on imports of fossil fuels for its energy supply. Renewable energy sources and infrastructure are developing but still constitute only a small fraction of the country’s total consumption. Air and water pollution represent serious threats to human health in some regions, and management of solid and liquid wastes mainly focus on conventional landfill and water purification solutions. In addition, there are marginalized populations in Israel such as the Bedouin living in unrecognized villages in the Negev desert, which suffer from a lack of basic infrastructures and in some cases are exposed to severe environmental health issues due to their proximity to toxic waste dumps. These internal challenges must also be placed within the context of the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians that has exacted a huge human and environmental cost on both sides.
The growing movement of ecological projects and communities within Israel has the potential to offer a positive, sustainable vision for the future. All over the country, projects are emerging that are allowing people to disconnect from mainstream consumerist culture and develop alternatives based on local economies, renewable sources of energy, permaculture design principles and cooperative living. The establishment of a national network, GEN-Israel, is the next logical step in order to further facilitate this process.
The aims of setting up a national ecovillage network in Israel connected to GEN-International are threefold:
To promote viable, attractive and sustainable low-impact alternatives to support climate change adaptation and mitigation, and to engage people looking for a more ecologically and community-based way of life, whether within the existing communities or through the creation of new ones
To strengthen the existing communities and projects by providing a framework for connecting and interacting with other potential partner organizations within the country, local and national government authorities, and the international network
To forge cross-border and cross-culture connections with potential International and regional partners.
The next conference will take place, possibly in the end of summer 2015, and this time over several days to allow a deeper view and contact into the network.