Israel-in-Depth with Rod VanSolkema

Jun 28 - Jul 10, 2019

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Who do these people say the Son of Man is?

On the bus ride to Gamla (word for camel), Nadav explained “Shabbat” as a time to halt, pause and reflect. We were challenged to ask ourselves if we take and set time aside to reflect on what God has done in our lives.

At Gamla, we learned the fate of the 9,000 Zealots who lived there by the hands of the Roman army. 4,000 died by the sword and 5,000 were chased down the cliffs. The passion of the Zealots can be imagined by being in the location where the people stood their ground until the castle wall was breached and dyeing for their religious belief.

Also noted was that one of the Zealot Generals turned on his people and was given the new name of “Flavius Josephus”, who turned into a historical record keeper of the events which took place.

A Bible reading from Luke 9:10-17, Jesus was in a remote location near Bethsaida and fed the 5,000 people with 5 loaves (Torah) and 2 fish (Tablets) and had enough leftovers to fill 12 Baskets (Tribes of Israel).


Known sometimes as the “Masada of the North,” Gamla is most famous for its strong defense against the Romans in the Jewish Revolt in AD 66. The site is bordered on all sides by deep wadis of the Golan Heights and is approachable by only one footpath from the northeast. The earliest settlement was in the Early Bronze Age and the site was reinhabited by returning exiles from Babylon. Herod the Great settled Jews here to populate his border cities.

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On the bus ride from Gamla to the next stop, the route went through the Golan Heights in the northwest corner of Israel and Nadav explained the 1948 war of independence and the border war of 1967 and the complex status of the people in the area , some becoming Israelites and others of the same community becoming Syrian or Lebanese. Remaining mine fields were pointed out and a brief history of Eli Cohen (James Bond of the Mossad) was told.

Mt. Hermon was visible with snow (not a mirage) off in the distance and this was noticed as we walked through the tree line area and crossed over the rushing waters coming down from the mountain. Arriving at the Tel of Dan, 1 King-28 was discussed how Jeroboam opened areas in Bethel and Dan for people to worship (gods , such as the golden calf) in order to draw people away from Jerusalem and he could stay in power.

Also, Judges 17-18 was read and how Micah broke commandments by stealing and worshipping false gods in his shrine. This helps to remind us to live whole heartedly for God as we are not able to serve two masters.

This site also had an inscription found recording the victory of King David and his family along with a city gate from the time of Abraham (Genesis 14:14).

Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus visited, (Matthew 16:13) was the next stop and the history of the city was as a worship center “Place of Pan” (half goat/half man, satanic) where Jesus asked the question “Who do these people say the Son of Man is ?” Peter is identified as a rock where that the gates of hell cannot overcome. We are reminded that we also have the assurance that Jesus stands with us each day and with Him we will not be overcome.

Caesarea Philippi

This abundant water supply has made the area very fertile and attractive for religious worship. Numerous temples were built at this city in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.

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The day ended at the Roman city of Susita (Hippos) which was a center of attraction built on the top of the hill and worshipping the god Dionysus. The scripture reading from Luke 8:27 challenged us to “get out of the boat” when we come to situations for which we do not have the immediate answer to and with the help of Jesus we can stand up to the challenge.

We also had the opportunity to set a rock on the “Standing Stones” which was placed by faith that members of our families will see the saving power of Jesus through which we can do all things. (Matthew 6:33)

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