The environmentalist Sierra Club has reopened its Israel travel program five months after canceling a pair of trips to the Jewish state in the wake of pressure from anti-Israel activists.
Last weekend, the Oakland, Calif.-based nonprofit, which has been running programs in Israel for a decade, posted details of a new excursion set for March.
The “Natural and Historical Highlights of Israel” program will include many of the traditional Sierra Club activities planned on previous visits. This time around, the itinerary will include a meeting with Palestinian conservationists and a visit to the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, which features Israeli, Arab and Jordanian students.
The Sierra Club presented the reasoning behind its change of heart in a statement, posting late last week that its original decision “confused and angered participants who had already spent money and devoted time to prepare.” The organization lamented that its “decision to postpone was met with confusion, disappointment and frustration from many members of our community.”
It had announced its intention to reinstate the Israel program in March, though the webpage promoting Sierra Club’s travel to Israel had been offline until late last week.
Anti-Israel groups, furious with the reversal, lashed out, with Adalah Justice Project and the indigenous rights group NDN Collective writing that they “condemn Sierra Club’s upcoming trips to apartheid Israel that green light Israeli colonialism and harm indigenous Palestinians,” labeling the trips as “apartheid tours.”
The two-week trip is scheduled to depart on March 14, 2023, and will include Dead Sea exploration, a Masada hike and an excursion to the southern port city of Eilat, along with a visit to a Druze village, the Bahai Temple in Haifa and a so-called “eco-village,” where Israelis and Palestinians combine their efforts on water conservation.
Joint water tech projects are more common in the Middle East, where desertification presents challenges, and have become part of the work associated with the Abraham Accords between Israel and Arab countries.