Founded in 1990, the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) is a “non-profit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development in the occupied Palestinian territories and [promoting] the self-reliance of the Palestinian people through greater control over their natural resources.” To accomplish this, ARIJ “works specifically to augment the local stock of scientific and technical knowledge and to introduce and devise more efficient methods of resource utilization and conservation, improved practices, and appropriate technology.”
Though initially conceived to confront issues facing farmers (such as cultivation in marginal lands, livestock production, agro-industries, and water management), ARIJ has since broadened its agenda to include a wide spectrum of environmental concerns. In 1994 it established an Environmental Research Unit to assess the air and water quality in the West Bank and Gaza, and subsequently to help formulate strategy options, policy guidelines, and national standards and legislation. That same year, the organization established a Land Use Unit “with the aim of using up-to-date data and mapping technology for analysis planning and modeling of sustainable development in Palestine.” Additionally, ARIJ has instituted a Resource Center that makes scientific data, literature, and periodicals on a wide range of subjects available to the local community. The Institute also maintains a data analysis center, laboratory, weather station, and hydroponics unit. In 1996 Al Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh and ARIJ Board President Daoud Istanbuli signed an agreement to “creat[e] a role model for institutional cooperation aimed at promoting the research capabilities in Palestine to meet the growing needs of the Palestinian society …”
ARIJ’s current projects include the following:
Update of the Palestinian Environmental Information System: “… to provide an update and comprehensive description and assessment of the state of the environment in the West Bank and Gaza strip as well as to show the trends of the major environmental indicators … [a]nd to distribute the results in a digital format to the stakeholders including governmental and non-governmental organization[s] who are active in the field of environment.”
Environmental Sustainability for a Better Life: “… aims at providing local authorities with the required support to create more sustainable communities … by applying a more integrated participatory approach to local policy making …”
Water Harvesting and Wastewater Reuse: “… to enhance [the] food security of 434 poor, marginalized and highly vulnerable people in 3 villages in the Bethlehem and Hebron Districts. The project is broken down into two complimentary action categories: Rainwater harvesting and Wastewater treatment and reuse.”
Filtration System for Wastewater Treatment in the West Bank Activated Sludge: “… to contribute in the preservation of the environment and groundwater from the pollution due to wastewater collected in septic tanks”; “to find [an alternative] to the septic tanks used in the collection of wastewater in rural areas, by treating [the water] close to its source”; and “to save in the volume of the consumed drinking water used in irrigation, by replacing it with treated wastewater.”
Improving Plant Production to Enhance Household Food Security in Marginalized Communities: “… to enhance the sustainability of the rain-fed farming system and improve food security … [for] 79 poor and marginalized households in 10 villages of Bethlehem Governorate.”
Improving Plant Production to Enhance Food Security of Farming Communities: “… aims to improve [the] food security of 287 poor and marginalized households (3.3% of total population community) in 10 villages of Bethlehem Governorate through engaging in dry-land farming improvement programs, water resource management, and [the construction of greenhouses] with increased capacities …”
Characterizing Israel as an oppressor nation whose policies greatly damage the environment in Palestinian territories, the ARIJ website “monitors and assesses the magnitude of environmental degradation caused by politically induced changes to Palestine’s land and natural resources.” The organization condemns “individual and collective political activities such as expansion and fattening of Israeli colonies, land expropriation and closures, uprooting of trees, Israeli stone quarrying, house demolitions, sewage disposal from Israeli colonies, and several other relevant activities.” Moreover, it produces a Monthly Report on Israel’s “destruction of the Palestinian land” in the West Bank.
ARIJ strongly opposes Israel’s construction of an anti-terrorism security barrier in the West Bank, dubbing it “the Segregation Wall.” The organization also denounces Israel’s practice of “house demolition” — depicting it as a practice that maliciously targets the homes of innocent civilians rather than those of known terrorists. ARIJ’s extreme distaste for Israel is reflected by its participation in the Divestment campaign against the Jewish State.
On December 23, 2004, ARIJ released a “Christmas Message” that read, in part, as follows: “In the Holy Land …, Christmas is marred by the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. The ancient hills which Jesus Christ once walked in the spirit of peace and compassion are now the site of an increasingly brutal military occupation and colonial enterprise perpetrated by the state of Israel and supported by the government of the United States of America. In the course of its 37-year occupation, Israel has appropriated increasing amounts of Palestinian land for the purpose of Israeli colonization. … An analysis of Israeli actions on the ground … reveals that the future will continue to bring segregation, colonization and occupation to Palestine. These are Israel’s gifts to Palestine this Christmas season.”
ARIJ receives financial support from the Canadian government’s International Development Research Center, the European Union, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and USAID.