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THE CA VE OF MACHPELA H. 39
We thus rise from the bottom of the cliff, in the face of which was the entrance of the cave, up to the top. Into the cave itself no one is allowed to enter. Even the mosque is guarded with jealous care. No Jew or Christian had been permitted to set foot within it, until, after immense difficulty, permission was granted to the Prince of Wales and his suite in the year 1862. Within the last few years the severity of the restriction has been somewhat relaxed. In the year 1873, I was allowed to go about halfway up the flight of steps outside the mosque, and to put my hand through a hole in the wall which I was told led into the cave. I was then led round the outside on to the roof, that I might look down through the lattice-work of a tower into the mosque. All, however, was perfectly dark, and I could see nothing. The locality of the shrines was pointed out to me, which agreed with the description given by Dean Stanley in the narrative of his visit with the Prince of Wales. It is to Dean Stanley that we are indebted for our knowledge of so the interior. He found the chapels or shrines of the patriarchs and their wives, arranged in order, over the places where the bodies were o * JAcob said to lie in the cave beneath. They stand as in the annexed plan. As we turn away from the secret and mysterious cave, where lie the ashes of the illustrious dead, under the jealous care of their Arab guardians, hallowed memories and ARRANGEMENT OF TOMBS IN CAve of MACHPELAH. yet more hallowed hopes suggest themselves. The hushed silence of well-nigh four thousand years shall one day be broken, and He who is ‘the resurrection and the life’ shall call forth the sleepers from their resting-place of ages.
‘What though the Moslem mosque be in the valley
Though faithless hands have sealed the sacred cavel
And the red prophet's children shout “El Allah"
Yet a day cometh when those white walls shaking
Shall give again to light the living dead;
And Abraham, Isaac, Jacob reawaking
On the return from Hebron a slight detour by a road leading through vineyards brings us to a magnificent tree known as ABRAHAM's OAk. Here, according to tradition, Abraham sat at the door of his tent, when he received
the visit of the angels." It is a stately Syrian oak, of the species known to the Arabs as Sindián. Though of great age it is obviously later than the Christian era. Yet it well deserves a visit, not only for its great size and beauty, but as the last survivor of the grove of oaks which stood here in Patriarchal and Hebrew times. It measures twenty-three feet round the trunk, and its branches cover an area in one direction of fifty feet, and of ninety feet in another. Its situation answers admirably to the Biblical description of Mamre, being ‘before ' or ‘over against Machpelah, whilst from the hill above it a view, already referred to,” of the plain of Sodom is gained. Here, therefore, I should fix the site of Mamre rather than at Rhamet el Khulil (the Hill of the Friend), which stands some distance to the north.
* Gen. xviii. 1–8. * lbid. xix. 28.
AltRAIIAM's OAK, NEAR HEBRON
BETIILEIIEM To THE DEAD SEA.
as we rode along the hill-side over the Wady Urtas from Solomon's Pools to BETHLEHEM. The turf was vividly green, gemmed with innumerable flowers. Orchards of peach, apricot, and pomegranate with their white and scarlet blossoms, succeeded one another in an unbroken series along the valley. The conduit, which conducts the water from Solomon's Pools to Jerusalem, and which in ancient times supplied the Temple, was open in various places, and we could see the crystal stream flash past on its way to “make glad the city of God.'" The Jebel Fureidis, a steep conical mountain, visible from almost every point in Southern Palestine, formed a striking object in the landscape. ‘The little hills rejoice on every side; the pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.’” Wherever we turn our eyes the words of the Psalmist are suggested as the aptest description of the scenery. It was easy to see where the Shepherd of Bethlehem drew the materials for his poetry.
CARPENTER MAKING A Plough.
* Psa. xlvi. 4. It has been conjectured that the reference in the text is to the bringing of this very stream to Jerusalem. A river, in the common sense of the term, there could never have been in or near the city. * Psa. lxv. 12, 13.
Soon Bethlehem' comes into view—a white-walled village of about three thousand inhabitants, all professedly Christians. They are, however, a turbulent, quarrelsome set, ever fighting amongst themselves or with their neighbours. In the disturbances which take place so frequently at Jerusalem, it is said that the ringleaders are commonly found to be Bethlehemites. The women are remarkable for personal beauty. I saw more handsome faces here in a few hours than elsewhere in the East in many days. The dress, which is peculiar, is very becoming. A sort of tiara of some bright metal encircles the head, over which is folded a white cloth which hangs down upon the shoulders. The men are strong, lithe, well-built fellows, and I saw several young shepherds, who were models of manly vigour. Here, as elsewhere in the East, the
GATE of BETHLEHEM.
pastoral pipe is in constant use. The shepherd-lad makes it for himself shaping the mouth-piece out of some hard wood, and using a hollow reed for the pipe; . I cannot say much in praise of the music they produce. Bethlehem stands on the crest of a ridge of Jurassic limestone. As it is surrounded by higher hills, however, the view from it is not very extensive. Jerusalem, though only six miles distant, is hidden by an intervening height; but through the valleys stretching away eastward to the Dead Sea, fine views are gained of the mountains of Moab, and from the flat roof of the Latin Convent part of the Dead Sea itself is visible.
' The name Bethlehem—the house of bread—is probably a translation of the older name Ephrath, or Ephratah—the Jruitful. The modern name, Beit-lahm—the house offlesh—is an Arabic reproduction of the sound and meaning.
RUTH AND MA OMI. 43
Passing over the two disgraceful events connected with Bethlehem, during the period of anarchy described in the concluding chapters of the Book of Judges,' we come to that exquisite idyll, the beauty of which, apart from its
WOMEN OF BETHLEHEM.
religious bearing, invests the scene with a charm amounting to fascination. Read the history of Ruth on the spot, and every minutest detail acquires a new interest and meaning. We can trace the journey of Elimelech and his
* Judges xvii., xix.