Nine men and women – Christians, Jews and Muslims from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the former Soviet Union and the USA – came together in mind, body and spirit to cross the Sahara desert and the territories of five different countries and cultures.
The participants confronted physical and spiritual terrain that has witnessed conflict throughout the centuries. They tested themselves against the challenges of their surroundings and their own conflicting relationships.
On March 7th 2006, the participants embarked on a month-long journey from Jerusalem to Tripoli. Each of them had experienced strong traumata caused by hate, conflict and terror. How would these traumata play out under the stress of a journey, traveling 4.000 km in an old fire truck, on camel and on foot? What would be the stories these strangers would tell each other during a time that was anything but a holiday? Could they relate to each other?
The journey officially started in Jerusalem with a press conference at which Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres welcomed the team members to Israel. In the next four weeks, the team would travel from Israel to the Palestinian territories (where they met with the chief of staff of the Palestinian Authority), to Jordan and to Egypt with destination Libya.
On their way, they were accompanied by a film crew as well as by representatives from the international press. With mounting international media pressure, the team was hoping to be allowed to enter Libya. At the border, two team members where not allowed in, because they were from Israel – a state that Qaddafi’s Libya did not recognize. The team decided to stay together and returned to Sinai, ending the journey on Mount Sinai, a place where Christians, Muslims and Jews all have claims. They planted „Oliver“, the olive tree they had brought from Jerusalem in a garden at the foot oft he mountain.
The documentary „The journey of an olive tree“, produced by Breaking the Ice and German director Marc Rothemund has been screened on international film festivals to critical acclaim.
Born in Afghanistan in 1967, as a young boy, Yahya Wardak witnessed the death of innocent victims during the Soviet invasion, including several of his relatives. To help the victims of war, Wardak decided to become a doctor and left Afghanistan to study medicine in Czechoslovakia. Although he had planned to return to his home country after his studies, the political situation there had worsened by this time and Wardark was forced to seek asylum in Germany with his father.
He was now a Muslim living in a Western country. Not allowed to leave Germany, nor work as a doctor there, Wardak concentrated his efforts on helping to push the peace process forward in Afghanistan and on creating a better understanding between the Christian and Muslim world.
In 1993, Wardak founded an organization in Germany called AFGHANIC that supports Afghan refugees and prepares development aid volunteers for missions in Afghanistan. As part of this program, he arranges “Afghanistan Weeks”, where German and Afghani families spend one week together learning about one another’s culture, religion, and traditions.
Wardak believes that the 9/11 attacks should be condemned, as Islam does not allow people to commit suicide nor to kill people. Fundamentalists, he says, misuse Islam the same way that the Soviet regime misused the ideology of socialism.