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Jaffa-Lazarettos-Convents—The ancient IIarbour-Gardens about Jaffa-Plain of Sharon
Its verdure-Recollections on passing through it-Its atmosphere-Villages--Ramlah Pilgrims---Convent of St. Nicodemus---- The Martyr's Tower-Trade of the town-MonksProceed to Jerusalem--Goats--Hill country of Judea-Sterility of Palestine-Beth-horonVillage of Jeremiah-The Terebinthine Vale - The Battle-field of Goliath-An AllegoryFirst view of the Holy City—The Latin Convent—The Hospicium-Father BenjaminVisit to the Superior-His inquiries--Church of the Holy Sepulchre-Its outer courtMohammadan Guards—Anointing stone-Calvary-The place of the Cross--Altars-Emotion of the Pilgrims-The Holy Sepulchre-Its Pavilion-Description of the Tomb-Stations and holy places-Pillar of scourging-Singing--Louis Philip-Disgraceful conduct of the FriarsRecollections of the Crusades--Peter the Hermit-Exciting scenes in the church of the Sepulchre-Sensations produced by the place--The Holy Fire-Its late fatal result-Death of three hundred pilgrims-A midnight scene in Jerusalem-An Armenian Bishop-The identity of the sacred places.
JAFFA, March, 1838.-We are now upon the borders of the Promised Land, eager to investigate its interesting localities; and, with the Scriptures as our guide, to enter upon it with all the fervour and devotion of pilgrims. After a night of the most fearful rolling, owing to a heavy ground swell, we awoke but little refreshed, and landed at an early hour.
We were conducted to the English consul, who was exceedingly civil and attentive to us; and he, with Signior Campanelli, procured mules, horses, and guides for our immediate departure for Jerusalem.
The town of Jaffa, or Yafa, stands on a hill that rises abruptly from the sea, from which, at some distance, it has a very picturesque appearance; but, on closer inspection, the streets are found to be dirty and narrow. The quarantine establishment
lately founded here under Signior Campanelli, is clean and well regulated; separate divisions, with a chapel attached to each, are allotted to the pilgrims of the several nations who visit this place, of whom the Greeks form the majority.
This Lazaretto is a new speculation got up by the convents at Jaffa, for before its erection, all the pilgrims were obliged to land at Beyrout to perform quarantine, and to proceed from thence by land to Jerusalem. The convents having represented this to Ibrahim Basha, and petitioned for leave to form an establishment here, they obtained permission to erect it. There are three convents in this place, Greek, Armenian, and Frank or Latin. We visited the latter, belonging to the Franciscans, and found its superior courteous and attentive. The monks are natives of Spain, and are supported principally by presents from Europe, as there is not now a sufficient number of Roman Catholic pilgrims visiting Jerusalem to support it and the other convents in the Holy Land. The chapel belonging to the convent is a neat little building, with some good Spanish paintings; from the roof and spacious terraces, we obtained a magnificent view of the port and harbour beneath, which was then crowded with numbers of Greek vessels freighted with pilgrims, having the five-crossed flag displayed by the Crusaders of old, flying at the main. This flag, which is white, with five red crosses, said to be emblematic of our Saviour's wounds, is the principal one to be met with at this time of the year in the upper portion of the Levant, and is held under a warrant from the bishop of Jerusalem.
In visiting the places here hallowed or desecrated by tradition, we were shown, among others, the hole into which Napoleon threw some of the bodies of the unfortunate Turks whom he had massacred. It is a deep well, evidently of great antiquity, the upper portion consisting of a round collar of white marble, the inner edge worn into grooves by the friction of the ropes, similar to those found in Greece and Pompeii.
As Jaffa was no inconsiderable post during the days of holy warfare, it was well fortified, and several of the castles, works, and walls erected by the Crusaders, nearly similar in construction to those at Rhodes, yet remain. The ancient harbour of this great sea-port of Judea is still traceable, and the rocks which formed the pier, rise high out of the sea, which breaks upon them with tremendous violence. This pier was evidently an ar
ITS TRADE AND GARDENS.
tificial construction, and although no mortar was used in the building of it, yet the joinings have become filled up, and the whole forms a continuous mass, resembling that at Rhodes and Tyre, though it is much smaller than the latter. The ships of Solomon, at least those trading on the Mediterranean, could not, therefore, have been very large or numerous, or they would not have found accommodation in this harbour. As Jaffa was the only seaport of Judea, it may account in some measure for the small marine of the Israelites, who depended for their supplies more on their adventurous Tyrian neighbours than on any navy of their own. In common, however, with all the cothons of that era, it is now filled up with sand, so as only to allow an entrance to the small coasting craft. Trade was rather brisk at the time of our visit, and the place seemed thriving. The imports were mostly pilgrims, and corn for the Básha's army; and the exports chiefly fruits from the neighbouring gardens. There is a good bazaar, and the gate on the land side is remarkably handsome, and beside it stands a noble Turkish fountain, formed of various coloured marbles, pouring forth jets of the purest water. It furnishes a good specimen of the gate of an eastern town, having within it the seat of judgment, as well as the receipt of custom, and was guarded by a strong military force, who formed a pleasing group as they surrounded its marble deewan.
Our party, which consisted of ten persons, all armed and accoutred, made a very formidable cavalcade as we left the town at about twelve o'clock at noon. For nearly two miles after leaving the town our road lay through the richest and most beautiful gardens of orange and lemon trees, then covered with fruit and flowers; and tall waving cypresses, corals, sycamores, and fragrant mimosas; intersected with enormous nopals or prickly pears, with the scammony in flower, twining through their invulnerable armour. These productions, as well as the exceeding beauty of the scene, and the balmy freshness of the atmosphere, have obtained for this verdant spot the appellation of the gardens of the Eastern Hesperides. The inhabitants of Jaffa, who, though mostly Christians, are dressed in the eastern costume, have bowers and summer-houses in these gardens; and as we passed, we observed them enjoying their sherbet seated in the cool shades of those lovely retreats. On the broad sandy track that winds through this fertile spot we passed numbers of
THE PLAIN OF SHARON.
pilgrims hastening toward Jerusalem ; with the wild Arab of the desert seated on his camel, and wrapped in the folds of his voluminous burnoose, looking down with disdain upon the richly caparisoned horse and glittering accoutrements of the modern Egyptian officer.
From hence to Ramlah our way lay through one of the most fertile and extensive plains we had yet beheld in the east. Although not a sixth part of this plain is cultivated, yet where it was tilled, the crops of corn, which were about a foot high, looked most luxuriant. I do not think we passed a dozen head of cattle of any kind, but the monotony of the plain is occasionally relieved by groves and clumps of aged and magnificent olives, which give it quite the appearance of a well laid out English park or demesne. Most of these olives must be centuries old from their great size and proverbial slowness of growth; and are, probably, the lineal descendants of those we read of in David's time, which were so plentiful in the low plains, that Baal-Hanan the Gadite was placed as
over them. Numbers of tall white storks paced about through the groves, like so many spectres enjoying their solitary grandeur amid the scenes of other days. The day was delightful; a light breeze refreshing the traveller and the weary pilgrim as they journeyed to the Holy City; the fields were decked with thousands of gay flowers; the scarlet anemone, and a beautiful specimen of small red tulip,* intermingled with the white cistus, the pink flox, and the blue iris, and with crimson and white asters, asphodels, and lilies, forming an enamelled carpet that perfumed the air, and offered a scene replete with everything that could gratify the eye or charm the imagination. This plain of Sharon is about fifteen miles broad, and nearly twice as many long, bordered on the one side by the blue waters of the Levant, and by the rugged hill country of Judea on the other. How writers could have described this “goodly land” as so unfertile as to warrant the assertion of Voltaire, that he would not receive a present of it
* The tulip is a flower of Eastern growth, and highly esteemed; thus, in the Ode of Meshle, “The edge of the bower is filled with the light of the ahmed, among the plants the fortunate tulip represents its companions."
RECOLLECTIONS ON PASSING THROUGH IT.
from the Sooltan, I know not, as the appearance of this plain would alone refute so gross a misrepresentation.
It was not the appearance of the plain alone that struck so forcibly upon our minds. It was the recollection of where we were ---the holy ground whereon we trod, and the wondrous scenes which the land had witnessed since the creation. To our right lay the plain of Ascalon, where the soldiers of the cross achieved so glorious a victory over the Mooslim, and made doubly impressive by the remembrance of a Saladin and a Cour-de-Lion. How many a proud knight of the flower of European chivalry careered across this plain ; his tall crest waving in the breeze, his shield emblazoned with the bearings of our proudest barons, his arm bound with the scarf of his lady-love, and his heart beating in the cause of holy warfare—where are they now?
“ The knights are dust,
Their swords are rust,
Their flesh have fed the kites and ravens, and their bones have whitened those very fields, once crimsoned with their blood. But those scenes have passed away, and the land looks as smiling as when described by the prophets of old; and the lark that sung above our heads seemed to welcome us to the land of promise. We rode over the lovely vale of Sharon, still producing those roses, * whose beauty and fragrance have been described by Solomon in the sweet strains of Hebrew poetry. Around us was an atmosphere such as can only be perceived and breathed in the East-no palpable sky--no cloud traversing a canopy definite in extent, but an ethereal expanse about and above us—terminating only where the powers of vision fail-and creating the thought that we looked into the regions of boundless space.t
No detached houses, and but two villages, are within view on
Much has been written and many opinions expressed regarding the rose of Sharon. I agree in opinion with those authors who state, that it is not a rose but a cistus, white or red, with which this vale in particular, and other parts of Judea abound.
+ The beauty of the plain of Sharon has not passed altogether unnoticed by modern writers. Dr. Robinson, who visited Palestine in the June