Israel-in-Depth with Rod VanSolkema

June 22 - July 4, 2015

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We had another great day in Israel, and we continue to be blessed with safety and good weather. We had a steep climb up Mt. Arbel today with an even more exciting climb down! It definitely challenged several people’s fears of heights, but we all made it to the bottom safely. It has been neat to see our community growing closer together and encouraging each other in different ways! Mt. Arbel is a beautiful spot overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the surrounding towns where Jesus’ ministry took place. This is the mountain that is thought of to be the place where Jesus often went when the Bible says, “Jesus went up to a mountainside to pray.” We were encouraged by the story of Peter walking on the water. Jesus sent the disciples into the storm and then went up to pray. He saw the disciples in the storm before going out to them, which was encouraging to remember that God is with us in our storms. Even though the storms are tough, you don’t get to experience God without the storms. We finished out Peter’s story on the shore of Galilee where Jesus may have called the fishermen disciples to follow Him. While Peter often had times of doubt, he also loved Jesus so much. We were reminded that doubt is part of faith.

We enjoyed a delicious falafel lunch and then headed to Capernaum where Jesus performed many miracles. We went in what’s left of the synagogue that was rebuilt a couple hundred years after Jesus’ time. It is in the same place and is the same size as when Jesus was there. Then we took the very short walk over to where Peter’s mother-in-law lived, where Jesus healed her.


Jesus made Capernaum his home during the years of his ministry: “Leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum” (Matt 4:13).

Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen living in the village. Matthew the tax collector also dwelt here.

Capernaum is one of the three cities cursed by Jesus for its lack of faith.

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Our next stop was Chorazin where we saw a synagogue and an insula where families share life together—live together, eat together, share life together. To them, life wasn’t about the individual but the whole group. We learned about the marriage process and how that imagery is used in John 14 when Jesus talks about returning.


The synagogue at Chorazin is a typical “Galilean” style synagogue. These synagogues are characterized by 1) a basilical shape with three hallways separated by two rows of pillars; 2) three doorways and the central one is the largest; 3) benches around the interior walls; 4) a stylobate to support the weight of the arches.

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We ended our day at the Mount of Beatitudes. Here we were challenged to not just memorize Scripture but really know it. If Jesus is the most important person to us, then His words should also be really important to us, the Sermon on the Mount in particular. As we sat up there and looked over the sea, the Sermon on the Mount was recited to us. It was a really neat to hear Jesus’ words and challenges to His disciples in the same location He would have shared them.

Mount of Beatitudes

The so-called “Sermon on the Mount” is recorded in Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6. The alleged discrepancy between Matthew’s version being on a hill and Luke’s being on a level place is easily reconciled with observation of many level places on the Galilean hillsides. Scripture gives no indication of the exact location of this event, but the Byzantines built a church to commemorate it at the bottom of the hill. Some of Napoleon’s men placed it on the nearby Arbel mountain.

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We continue to enjoy and appreciate being here in this place where Jesus has walked. We all are challenged and encouraged by things Rod, Libby, and Dan share with us. We also continue to enjoy God’s beautiful creation. We are glad we get to enjoy two more nights here at this hotel right on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

- Elizabeth Burgess

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