Across Borders: Lessons and Reflections

Photo by Adam Wickline – Climbing down Electricity Mountain in the Arava valley

Sitting on my front porch swing, I look at the fat drops of rain falling onto my green lawn and lush garden, ripe with tomatoes, basil, and lettuce.  Rain… what a concept.  Water falling from the sky as if it were a gift from the heavens.  I have not seen rain in a month!  If the deserts of the Middle East had this storm, it would be a day to celebrate.  Here in Maryland, its just another summer thunderstorm.  One of many that have happened and will continue happening, something we take for granted.

I’m home now.  Back to a green spot in the world.  Yet, this four week fellowship keeps swirling in my head like a cloud whipped by heavy winds.  It is only when you step outside a place or situation that you can really take an objective look and come to some consensus.  I will try to distill some thoughts…

1.  There are a myriad of cultures/languages/viewpoints in this world, and the Middle East is a place where so many of them meet.  This has been true ever since the Mesopotamia era and will be true for the forseeable future.  This is perhaps an obvious statement, but you cannot fully grasp this concept until you’ve been in places like Jerusalem, a city full of history, beauty, and tension.

2.  Water has the potential to unite the Middle East rather than divide.  Through our experience, we’ve seen the power of water and how it could lead to lasting peace in the future.  Fresh water is essential, whether you are an Arab or a Jew you must have it.  It is only when all parties involved realize the futility of unilateral water action that the region can more forward with a peaceful, more sustainable water future.  They don’t have to succumb to reduced precipitation and nationalistic water protectionism.  They could work together to use water in a smarter way and to solidify stable relationships.  This was a surprise to me, especially since all I heard before this trip was the inevitability of resources wars, especially in the tinderbox of the Middle East.

3.  There are incredibly passionate people working in this region, against all odds.  To this day, people put tireless efforts into achieving goals that most consider unattainable.  That is an inspiration to us all, one that should not be forgotten.

So, moving forward.  What will come of my participation in this program?  Do I pick up the threads of an old life and leave this experience in my journal and pictures?  In the past, that is probably what would have happened.  However, not now.  I feel as if this information is like an Acacia tree planted in my head.  These trees are specialists in dealing with limited resources and grow heartily in the Arava desert.  Taking root in the dry river beds of the valley, they wait for the rare rainstorms before they spring into action, growing quickly and gaining as much ground as they can while the water lasts.  And when the water dries up, the Acacia slows down, changes pace, strengthens its roots and waits patiently (sometimes for years) for the next opportunity for growth.

This will be my strategy for using the information gathered on this trip.  I won’t be involved in Middle East issues in the near future, but in the next few years when the right opporunity presents itself I am 100% sure I will return to that region under the auspices of saving the Jordan River, educating youth, and building towards peace.  Our group’s knowledge will not wither and die, but will keep steadfast in the hope of the future…

Thanks to Dickinson College, the Arava Institute of Environmental Science ,and the State Department for this incredible opportunity.

-Adam Wickline