Friday, January 7, 2011

Environmental Pilgrimage: The Slow Trek To Israel

Early next week, I will board the MSC Tanzania in Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, for a transatlantic passage aboard the 300 meter freight ship. At first, I viewed the distance to Israel as obstacle to overcome. Now, I see it as an opportunity to learn. My trip will reduce carbon in the atmosphere – through planting and carbon credits – rather than pollute. I will volunteer in Europe, rather than contribute to worsening humanitarian crises that will result from climate change. I will visit sites relevant to Jewish history and my family’s roots, rather than flying over them. I look forward to spending half of a week in Berlin, followed by two weeks volunteering on an organic farm in northern Italy. I will arrive in Israel in mid-February, for a semester studying environmental science and peace-building.

My project-trip will address the reality of distance in a down-to-earth way. Long distance travel (especially by air) produces greenhouse gas emissions which ultimately contribute to rising sea levels and the displacement of future generations. Rising seas could create a humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, potentially displacing 2-4 million Egyptians living on the Nile Delta among other potential humanitarian crises in a geopolitically fragile region. Rising seas could also flood Israel’s coastal plain: Netanyahu and Abbas could draw the borders of a peaceful two state solution today, but climate change could rewrite their coastlines tomorrow. I did not want to return to Israel in a way that damaged my people’s homeland and displaced future generataions from their own.

I am not hoping to offer simple answers, but rather to share the questions that I am asking myself: what are the consequences of my actions? How are my choices and my life related with others across the world and across generations?

I look forward to writing blog posts approximately once per week, sharing the most powerful experiences and my reactions to them. When I arrive in Israel, I will be studying at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies in the southernmost desert region, with a student body of 1/3 Israeli Jewish, 1/3 Arab/Palestinian, and 1/3 international students.

Many thanks to the Doris Baron Environmental Studies Student Research Fund and to the Winter Term Grant Committee at Oberlin College. This trip is only possible because of their generious support!

1 comment:

  1. Dear David
    Came across your blog randomly.
    Really inspired to hear about your trip, and look forward to meeting you on Kibbutz Ketura in six weeks or so to find out about your overland adventures.

    Nesiya Tova!

    Lucy and Uri