‘Transforming self-interest into mutual gain to overcome climate change

As the Israeli Embassy to the Holy See organizes a conference on women and the climate crisis, Dalit Wolf Golan explores ways in which people in the Holy Land can overcome their differences by working together on a common project like l accessibility to water.

By Devin Watkins

“As Pope Francis said in the days leading up to COP26, only if we all stop hiding behind our borders and work together can we create climate resilience and create solutions. “

Dalit Wolf Golan offered this perspective to Vatican News ahead of an event in Rome on climate change and the role of women in finding solutions.

“Thinking green together: a female perspective on climate change and sustainability” is the title of the conference organized on Tuesday at the Pontifical Faculty of Educational Sciences Auxilium, organized by the Embassy of Israel to the Holy See and the Association of Women in the Vatican (DIVA).

long standing problem

Ms. Wolf Golan, Deputy Director of EcoPeace Middle East, is working to turn a common problem in the Holy Land – the lack of clean drinking water – into an issue on which consensus can be reached.

Some households in the Middle East, she said, live with an intermittent water supply, only having access to water once a week, once every 2-3 weeks, or even once every 3 months in summer.

“Now imagine running a household like that,” she said. “You have a tank on your roof that stores water. But how can you bridge that gap when it becomes two weeks, three weeks, three months? »

This daily ordeal can greatly affect the quality of life of women in her region.

Listen to the full interview

women and water

Although the burden of water scarcity falls heavily on women, Ms. Wolf Golan noted, most political leaders are men, who potentially have the tools to effect change but, at the same time, often lack of interest to make the issue a priority.

“What we can do to bridge this gap is make sure that women’s voices on these issues are heard by leaders. »

Thus, EcoPeace Middle East seeks to educate residents of Israel, Jordan and Palestine about the realities of water in their region and how climate change will make the situation worse.

Palestine and Israel, for example, have a water agreement that dates back to the 1995 Oslo accords and allocates 75% of the water to Israel and 25% to Palestine, according to Ms. Wolf Golan. The arrangement remains unchanged as water is among the 8 “permanent status issues” to be decided between Palestine and Israel.

Dalit Wolf Golan in the Vatican Radio studio

Political will for change

Mrs. Wolf Golan underlined that the situation has changed a lot since 1995 with regard to water. Israel, she said, has more than enough water due to increased desalination capacity and the ability to reuse wastewater.

She added that this new reality offers the “technical and real opportunity to discuss these allocations, if there is the political will to do so”.

“This is something that very few people are aware of in communities suffering from the water crisis. What we want to do is create a demand from the population for these problems to be solved. And women, who are on the front lines of those suffering most from current realities, are the most important voices that need to be heard.

Turning self-interest into mutual gain

Although the borders between Jordan, Israel and Palestine are more or less open, Ms Wolf Golan pointed out that there is very little political or common contact between the three and that “there is a lot of mistrust”.

She highlighted her NGO’s work in breaking down misconceptions through education and drawing attention to common challenges.

“It shows that we all have a stake in tackling these environmental challenges, which in our case are usually related to water or lack of water. And if we work on that self-interest, not because we want to be friends but because we want to achieve our own goals and we want to meet our own needs, then if we do it together, we will find that our self-interests join in mutual gain. And once you get there, anything is possible.

Faith-based reasons for working together

Religion in the Holy Land, rather than being a barrier, can help people overcome their differences to work towards a common goal.

Ms. Wolf Golan noted that the Jordan is sacred to Christianity, Islam and Judaism, but is currently flowing at 5% of its former flow.

“It’s also a symbol of a problem that can only be solved if we work together,” she said. “It’s a border. It doesn’t matter if one side cleans the river, if the other doesn’t.

Yet, as a religious symbol, leaders of various faiths can engage each other to seek a solution at the political level.

The example shows how the environment can help different nationalities “come together to work on a common problem”, said Ms Wolf Golan.

Teresa H. Sadler