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What’s so special about this park in the West Bank?

In a small village in the West Bank, the first-of-its-kind sustainable environmental park will open its doors to the local community.

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Sustainable Educational Far'un Park project submitted by student Hoda Jarrar was one of five projects to reach the finals in the international Social Action Project competition organized by the British Council’s Active Citizens program.

Jarrar, an urban planning student at An-Najah National University in Nablus, carried out the project in cooperation with the Ma’an Development Center. This is the first project to establish a sustainable environmental park in a remote village in the province of Tulkarm, located in the northern West Bank.

The park is scheduled to open this summer. “The idea of the park aims to achieve ​​environmental sustainability and involve the community through children who can spread the idea to all members of the community,” Jarrar told Al-Monitor. “An existing park will be developed into the Sustainable Educational Far'un Park in a bid to develop the environmental awareness of children.”

Asked about the location, Jarrar said, “I examined several sites in Nablus, Jenin and Tulkarm, and I chose the latter based on specific criteria. I wanted an existing park located on a government land, not on a private one. I wanted it to have basic services such as water, electricity and other facilities, hence the Far’un choice.”

She said there is an additional reason that led her to choose this park — the park is part of Area C and in the village outskirts where residents refrain from visiting. The ultimate goal, she said, was to encourage citizens to go there.

Jarrar explained that she is interested in spreading sustainable environmental culture through the establishment of educational and recreational activities. In cooperation with the Ministry of Education, she will organize training courses for the village’s 888 students, who are of all ages, to create a generation that embraces the idea of ​​a sustainable environment.

“Our primary goal is to change the community’s environmental behavior with the voluntary help of the community, not the financial help of institutions,” she said.

Ghada Kaddoumi, the director of the Active Citizens program, said that Jarrar’s idea was among several ideas that emerged from a training program that was attended by more than 770 students in Palestinian universities. The program aims to motivate students to revitalize and channel their ideas toward projects that work on bringing about positive change in the community.

Kaddoumi told Al-Monitor that Jarrar and a large number of trainees chose environment-related projects, as they noted the importance of this topic and the need for environmental awareness in the development field.

She said, “Work is underway to provide all of the environmental sustainability elements in the park through the organization of awareness and environment-related education courses.”

Kaddoumi said that the main target of the project is children, the establishment of a theater for the screening of films and success stories, and the organization of summer camps.

She added, “We are seeking to establish a link between the village residents and this park, whose surface area is estimated at 5 acres, by allowing them to plant using environmental and organic farming standards that they would be trained to follow. The fruits will be distributed to the residents.”

Evenings are being planned during the holy month of Ramadan, as a prelude for the opening of the park after Ramadan. Consequently, summer camps will be organized in the park. And when children go back to school, their extracurricular activities will be held in this park, and this will be made possible through cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Kaddoumi said.

“The local community is very cooperative and willing to work, and this will guarantee the success and sustainability of this initiative,” she noted.

Imad Atrash, an expert in environmental development and the head of the Palestine Wildlife Society, said that the concepts of sustainability are modern, and Palestinians, being under siege, still have a long way to go in this regard.

“It is necessary to support any projects that seek to create a sustainable environment as an essential element in any society, and we in Palestine are one of the countries that need such development the most as a result of our slow pace in applying sustainability concepts,” he told Al-Monitor.

Atrash, who implements and spreads this concept through the activities of the Palestine Wildlife Society, which includes the production of renewable energy and organic fertilizers as well as recycling activities, said, “It is important to turn the concept of sustainable environment into a personal behavior and connect it to our everyday life in order to achieve an integrated concept that protects nature, and this has been exemplified by the Far’un Park.”

In addition to the environmental objectives of this park, it will certainly serve as an outlet for the village residents because it is located far from the center of the cities that lie near the separation wall.