Israel-in-Depth with Rod VanSolkema

Jun 28 - Jul 10, 2019

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Another Day of Awe

As we were on the bus ride to our first destination, we were remembering the first couple of days in the bus. We would see a high peak or mountain and think “surely we would never go there.” But now on day 6, we look for the highest point in view and say, “that is obviously where we are going!” Rod and Libby have continued to push all of us to limits we never could have imagined. Today we had an incredible climb followed by a descent from a mountain that was fully dependent on metal holds imbedded in the side of the rock, support from our spouse and encouragement from friends. Rod had nothing but belief and confidence in his sheep that they would get down safely.

The morning began with a devotion from Libby about a begging boy who came across a wealthy traveler. He was asked to give the traveler all of what he had in his beggar’s cup, but the boy decided to only give half since he was poor and only had four kernels of rice. The wealthy man returned the cup with a gold nugget in place of each kernel that was given, and the boy instantly wished he would have given it all. This was a great reminder that God wants us all in and not just what we have left over or what fits into our routine! Are we ready to get in the game!

First stop of the day was the epic climb at Mount Arbel as described above. This is likely where Jesus went to pray on behalf of His Disciples when the Bible says, Jesus went up to a mountain to pray. We sat overlooking the Sea of Galilee and were taught that the sea was considered a place of chaos. Fishing was not a common profession yet 5 of the 12 disciples were fishermen. In beautiful imagery, Jesus explained to them that the fish from the fresh water will come in many kinds and flow into the sea. As followers of the King, called to be fishers of men, the disciples were commanded to spread the Good News to all mankind as well.

Mount Arbel

Mount Arbel (Hebrew: הר ארבל‎‎, Har Arbel) is a mountain in The Lower Galilee near Tiberias in Israel, with high cliffs, views of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights, trails to a cave-fortress, and ruins of an ancient synagogue. Mt. Arbel sits across from Mount Nitai; their cliffs were created as a result of the Jordan Rift Valley and the geological faults that produced the valleys.

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We continued our journey to Capernum. Rod emphasized the “chutzpah” of Jesus here because this is where he made His new headquarters which was right under the nose of Herod. Jesus continued to pray for his chosen disciples as he walked. The picture of Jesus walking in the hot sun sweating, tired and in pain is an example of how he wants us to follow. This group has been very open and raw with each other sharing stories of hurt, agony and grief. A life in pursuit of Jesus is not accompanied but by all sunshine and roses. But just as Jesus did for the disciples in the midst of the storm, He gets into the boat with us to join in our journey. What a joy to remember who we are and whose we are. Rod also challenged us to consider the discipleship we have in our own lives. Who goes before you and who is following behind you?


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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Rod also reviewed the story of the Jairus and his daughter. Jairus had to wait while Jesus healed the bleeding woman who touched His robe. The “interruption” seemed to take too long and the girl was proclaimed to be dead…until Jesus gently commanded her to wake up. Jairus asked for healing but instead received a resurrection. The bleeding woman just wanted a “touch and run” knowing that would be enough to be healed; but Jesus gave her WAY more than she anticipated. Even the things that seem to be dark valleys in our lives are a small thing in the eyes of the Lord and He repeatedly treats them as “a good night’s sleep.”

Our last stop was in Bethsaida where we entered a synagogue. The image of a family Bet Av (house of the father) was depicted with the father as a strong head of the community. This lifestyle was the central part of Jewish culture. Everything the father did was for the benefit of the Bet Av and all share in the joys, sorrows and struggles of the individuals. The father was respected, admired and led the home with honor. This emphasizes the unfortunate situation of Ruth (a powerless widow) and her daughters-in-law when they had no Bet Av to belong to. Boaz was their redeemer as was Hosea to Gomer. This group is becoming more and more of a community of believers where we share in each other’s struggles, take on each other’s burdens with support and prayer and rejoice in the joys of the day or the victories we have had in our lives through Faith in the True Shepherd, Jesus Christ.


The northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee is a fertile plain where the feeding of the 5,000 likely took place. Israeli maps and excavators currently locate the New Testament city of Bethsaida at an ancient ruin known as “et-Tell.” The excavation team, headed by Rami Arav, is insistent that this site be identified with ancient Bethsaida. Others suggest that Bethsaida may be better located at el-Araj near the lakeshore.

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We finished our day with a surprise stop at the kibbutz nearby our hotel, where we were able to witness authentic Olive Oil production and sample a beautiful array of hand made olive oil, lotions, and other things made right here in the Galilee. This was another first for Rod and Libby as they haven’t had the time to do this in the past. It was inspiring to experience some of the local industry and support our neighbors.

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Experience Israel & Jordan for 11 days in the context of biblical history and personal faith.

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