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Communities Magazine – June 2006

By Michael Livni, with Mark Naveh and Alex Cicelsky 

Kibbutz Lotan consists of 50 adults and 60 children living on 143 acres in the fragile desert ecosystem in the far south of Israel, 30 miles north of Eilat. In the last few years one of our community’s service projects has been to train Israeli Bedouin Arabs in natural building techniques. We have also, when political conditions permitted, hosted natural building seminars for Jewish and Arab youth, including Palestinian and Jordanian teenagers.

Ecological sustainability is the central theme of both programs. We live in a tough neighborhood here in the Middle East, and for us, sustainability has a double meaning. The first meaning of sustainability is to utilize the Earth’s local resources in such a way that future generations will have quality of life. The second is to develop outlooks and ways of life which will enable all people of the region to live together without violence—and even, hopefully, in peace and harmony.

Our medium for introducing the double message of sustainability is alternative building, using strawbale building, earthen plasters, and various industrial wastes such as plastics, tires, and tin cans. An additional important theme is conserving water—since water is a key resource in our area.

We cooperate with two other non-government organizations (NGOs) in these projects. One is Bustan, a partnership of Jewish and Arab eco-builders, architects, academics, and farmers who promote social and environmental justice in Israel/Palestine, with whom we teach local Bedouin villagers natural building skills. (www.bustan.org,) The other is Friends of the Earth of the Middle East, which brings together Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli environmentalists, with whom we host Jewish and Arab youth seminars. (www.foeme.org.)