The Environmental Education Center

The Environmental Education Center of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) started to operate in environmental trails and promoting of green tourism since early after its establishment in 1986 as a program of work with younger generations “Children For Environment Protection” and Birzeit University.Today, the Center looks into the environmental trails with keen interest as the lung from which workers in biodiversity protection and areas of natural and cultural heritage breath. Yet at the same time, the Center scares of the mess and lack of controls. In this case, it turns from opportunity to threat, because the biodiversity elements are compromised, the injustice cutting of rare plants, absence of qualified tour guides and supervisors, etc.

The Center hosts a garden of biodiversity high in the mountains of Beit Jala which are considered part of western Jerusalem mountains, and a museum of natural history with 2500 species of stuffed birds since the last century and environmental exhibition which opens its door daily to visitors from institutions, students, researchers, the concerned and foreigners.
One of the interesting and inspiring stories which the Center recalls is that children had visited the Center at the time it was based in the campus of Talita Kumi school over 20 years ago, as part of an environmental education, national identity and school clubs program. Today, some of them return with their children for a second visit by which they conjure up their memories, recover whatever the learned of biodiversity, plants of Palestine origin, birds, and with their children they walk into and stroll around the museum of natural history viewing together the environmental exhibition with its games and information, and they also enter the heart of the unique banding station in Palestine and the region.

We need to have community tourism that deals with environment in high sense. Maintains the biodiversity and does not compromise its elements. We dream about a tourism through which no rare wild flowers are picked, no bird habitats are destroyed, no tall and very old trees are cut, but to have a tourism that contributes to their proliferation, scattering seeds, planting seedlings and to be protected by all means. We further dream about a community tourism during which no bonfires are lit in the fields, natural areas and reserves; a tourism that does not transform beautiful wilderness into a random dumps, but it teaches children the name of sites, trees, plants, birds and everything.
We aim to have a tourism that differentiate between what should we do and what shouldn’t, a tourism far away from vandalism, mess and chaos, does not attempt to chase birds or assault their nests, does not destroy their habitats, pick up and trade their eggs or keep them into cages, but it contributes to rehabilitate birds and release them to freedom. It is needed to have a community tourism prefers natural reserves, takes sides of beautiful wilderness over crowded cities, enjoys fresh air, escape from noise of vehicles and leaves behind the worldly concerns. We keen to have a community tourism that loves, sides with and defends the environment but not contributes to vandalize, ruin and sabotage every beautiful landscape.

The community tourism requires institutionalization of infrastructure, service facilities, hosting houses, qualified, licensed and trained tour guides, specified trails that demonstrate rugged cliffs and mapping tracks.
We are able to develop online Apps for a community tourism that has the right to be enjoyed with its nature and beauty but not to be destroyed or put pressure on its environmental elements. We need to have a mass and community tourism that contributes to prevent leak of funds abroad and make its primary concern: our homeland requires us to know its sites, chant names of its flowers, protect its birds and not compromise its other organisms.

It is really a community tourism that reconciles with the environment, has credibility to achieve significant shift in making environmental awareness that does not only be measured by non-dumping of random wastes or avoid its burning, but also it transfers to become part of sound environmental awareness, education and practice. At that time, environmental-believed community tourism will turn into something different in terms of its economic, educational, developmental and cultural perspectives.

In conclusion, we have to support a community tourism model based on protection of natural cultural heritage as of further being its dutiful and righteous daughter of environment, seeking by all means to stop infringements on its elements and ensure its sustainability.

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