The Journey of Understanding: Joining Ta’Shuf Tours

By: Nils von Kalm

When I visited Jerusalem and the West Bank in 2016 on a work trip, it affected me so much that I always wanted to go back. So, when I found the website for Ta’Shuf Tours, particularly the Journey of Understanding, it was one of things that I just had to do.

I am a student of history and culture, so if I was going to go on a journey to the Holy Land, I didn’t want to just see the biblical sights; I wanted to get to know the people themselves, the ‘Living Stones’ as they are so eloquently called.

The reason I chose the Journey of Understanding was because it coincided with the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem and took in visits with people who could relate to us their current experience of living in the melting pot that is the mix of ancient cultures in this fascinating place. The fact that it also took in a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee was the icing on the cake!

The tour group I was with were about 30 beautiful Christian people, led by gracious, committed Christian leaders who were well prepared and experienced in these types of trips. Marianne, Steve and Cathy are people I would recommend to anyone going on a pilgrimage like this.

People have asked me what the highlight of the tour was for me, and I can honestly say there were so many that to mention one would be to take away from the others. The best way I can describe the journey we undertook is to recall the day we visited Yad Vashem and then met two people from the Parents’ Circle Family Forum. The idea of the tour was to gain an understanding of the current conflict between Israel and Palestine. This day of all days on the tour summed that up perfectly.

Yad Vashem is the Holocaust Museum just outside of Jerusalem. We were taken there to gain a perspective and understanding of why the land of Israel is so close to the identity of the Jewish people.

As we walked through the museum, with its exhibits, its photographs and videos, I was gradually struck with the reality of evil. I had read a lot about the Holocaust, but this was different. This was seeing it in shocking detail, in the very land where its victims are from. On top of that, I have German heritage, so it hit me quite hard indeed. I lasted about half an hour before I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. As I watched the lines of local Israelis taking in the exhibition, I just wanted to tell them all that I’m so sorry for what the people of my heritage did to them.

Visiting Yad Vashem made for a heavy morning, but it didn’t stop there. That evening we met Rami and Aarab from the Parents’ Circle Family Forum. This is a group of about 600 people, Jews and Palestinians, who have all lost loved ones in the current conflict. Rami is a 68-year-old Jew whose father survived Auschwitz and whose daughter was killed in 1997 by Palestinian suicide bombers. She was 14. Aarab is a 24-year-old Palestinian man whose sister was shot dead by an Israeli sniper in 2007. As these two people from enemy cultures describe their lives, they put their arms around each other. They see each other as father and son. The ministry of reconciliation was being lived out right in front of me.

There weren’t many days on this tour that I didn’t want to just sit and cry, either in sadness at the reality and brutality of the current occupation, or in awe, joy and hope at the peacemakers I saw in front of me.

If you want to make a trip to the Holy Land, I would recommend Ta’Shuf Tours to anyone. The way it was structured was with a thoughtful blend of heavy experiences, topped off at the end with some lighter historical exploration. I might just have to do it again one day!