Israel-in-Depth with Rod VanSolkema

June 22 - July 4, 2015

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Mount Carmel

“You do not support the root. The root supports you.”

Our group pondered these words as we stood overlooking a group of olive trees growing on the side of the mountain. The trees thick trunks grew upwards in a disorderly sort of fashion, bending and twisting as they made their way toward the sky. Their branches, bearing many small silvery leaves, reached out in all directions.

We were stopped on the side of the mountain, admiring the trees the Lord references so much in his word. These trees that can live up to 2,000 years. These trees that, acceptingly, allow foreign branches to be grafted into their very shoots. When an olive tree stops producing fruit its farmer needs only to trim it of each and every failing branch, until only a stump remains, for new growth to begin.

As Rod related our relationship to Jesus and the roots of our Christian heritage in Judaism to that of the olive tree, it began to sink in where we were actually standing.

Our group was halfway up the side of Mount Carmel. The same mountain at whose base the prophet Elijah called upon our Father to rain fire from the sky and prove to every last person there that He really is the one true God.

The last few days of difficult hikes and little sleep seemed to catch up to the majority of the group today. The talking was a little less frequent, the concentration a little more focused, and the level of sweating a whole new world. Despite the challenges, every last person in our group made it to the top, with smiling faces and happy hearts.

At the top, Rod shared the story of Elijah and the prophets of baal. To hear this old familiar story at the very place it occurred was a surreal experience. The Lord’s presence is palpable in this place. His story, and the richness of its history is evident in every tree, every mountain, every piece of dust.

Mt. Carmel

Biblically, Mt. Carmel is referenced most often as a symbol of beauty and fertility. To be given the “splendor of Carmel” was to be blessed indeed (Isa 35:2). Solomon praised his beloved: “your head crowns you like Mount Carmel” (Song 7:5). But for Carmel to wither was a sign of devastating judgment (Nahum 1:4).

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While we were sitting on the top of Mount Carmel we heard hymns being sung in the background. A group of Christians were singing hymns in a church nearby. Following the sound, we made it to the steeple, where our entire group squeezed into a tiny, yet grand house of the Lord and worshiped. It was beautiful. Our voices bounced off the walls, the acoustics highlighting our voice and bringing life to our harmony. At the end of the last song there was a moment of unplanned silence, where we all seemed to rest in the resonance of the final chord, drinking in the splendor and majesty of our God. The same God who grafted us into his family and adopted us as sons and daughters. The same God who doesn’t leave us to whither when our branches bear no fruit, but instead trims and prunes until all we have left is Him and He can build on us anew. The same God who rained fire down from heaven and burst into flames the inflammable pile of wood at the base of the very mountain we now stood atop. How incredibly awesome is our God!

It was a pure moment and just what we needed to rejuvenate our spirits for the last hike of the day.

After touring the old Greek town of Caesarea and the remains of what was once one of Herod’s many palaces, we ended the day driving north to Galilee where we got our room set up for the next three nights. Shore front rooms on the Sea of Galilee.

I know I can speak for our entire group when I say how thankful I am to be here and how excited I am for what is yet to come.

- Tennyson DeWitt

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