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this part of the plain. One of these, Gazoor, or Yazur, and another called Betafafa, (probably that marked in the maps Beil Dejan,) are but a few cottages standing upon low hills; as the few rising grounds on this immense plain would be always made use of for such purposes in a country so long the seat of war. The former was originally fortified, and some of the works still remain standing. It has a pretty mosque, and by the road side a handsomely constructed fountain, containing the clearest water. Beside the fountain is a chained cup for the traveller's

use.

After two hours' ride we got a view of Ramlah, marked by its high tower; and a few miles to the left lay Ludd—the scriptural Lydda—the minaret of whose mosque may be seen at a great distance. Ramlah, supposed to be nearly the site of the ancient Arimathea, is about twelve or fourteen miles from Jaffa, or about three hours' ride--distance being measured in this country by hours. It is pleasantly situated, surrounded by thick groves of olives and some palms : fine crops of corn, beans, and most luxuriant tobacco border the suburbs—and the enclosures are divided by the impenetrable nopals. It was the Christian Sabbath, and numbers of the inhabitants were lying in groups

following the date of our journey, and viewing it from the tower of Ramlah, says, “I could liken it to nothing but the great plain of the Rhine by Heidelberg; or better still, to the vast plains of Lombardy as seen from the cathedral of Milan and elsewhere. In the east the frowning mountains of Judah rose abruptly from the tract of hills at their foot; while on the west, in fine contrast, the glittering waves of the Mediterranean Sea associated our thoughts with Europe and distant friends. Towards the south, as far as the eye could reach, the beautiful plain was spread out like a carpet at our feet, variegated with tracts of brown, from which the crops had just been taken, and with fields still rich with the yellow of the ripe corn, or gieen with the springing millet. Immediately below us the eye rested on the immense olive groves of Ramlah and Lydda, and the picturesque towers and minarets and domes of these large villages. In the plain itself are not many villages; but the tract of miles and the mountain side beyond, especially in the north-east, were perfectly studded with them; and as now seen in the reflected beams of the setting sun, they seemed like white villas and hamlets among the dark hills, presenting an appearance of thriftiness and beauty, which certainly would not stand a closer examination."-Biblical Researches in Palestine.

CONVENT OF ST. NICODEMUS.

397

among the plantations, basking in the sun. The men in their long silk gowns, fur-trimmed cloaks, and dark, wide-spreading turbans; the children, some of whom were exceedingly beautiful, frisking about in the warm sunshine ; and the women, clothed in long white robes with red borders, and black silk face covers, sitting by themselves in little coteries under the shady olives, and the different groups of pilgrims, in the costume of their several nations, resting after their morning's toil-together with the beauty of the surrounding country and its sacred associations, formed a highly picturesque and imposing scene as we entered the town. The women, both here and at Jaffa, cover their faces entirely with a dark-coloured handkerchief-although, if young and pretty, they take particular care to give you, as if by accident, a look at their features in passing.

We were hospitably received at the Frank convent of St. Nicodemus, the brethren of which are now reduced to three Spanish Franciscans. These were Carlists, and appeared very anxious to hear news from their native country. This convent was destroyed by the Turks after Napoleon's invasion, and the body of the only monk found in it was cut in four pieces! It is a large building, and has very good accommodation, perhaps the best in Palestine ; but as it was Lent, we had to procure every eatable in the town, though one of the Padres had no objection to assist our servants in cooking.

After our arrival, and while dinner was preparing, we walked to the Martyr's Tower,* situated about a quarter of a mile from the town. We found it attached to a building of great extent, consisting of rows of Gothic arches, like cloisters. On proceeding through the ruins, we found that there was as much of the building under ground as what appeared above the surface, and of a similar construction. This square building itself has

* It has received this name from the traditionary account of a number of the martyrs of Sebasti, in Armenia, being buried under its walls. The Mooslims, however, affirm that St. George is interred beneath it. Mejr ed-Diu, an Arabic historian of 1495, states (and probably this is the truth) that one of the Egyptian Kaleefs built a mosque here in 1310 A.D. with a tall slender tower or minaret attached to it. Some modern writers believe this tower to be that minaret.

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much the appearance of one of our old cathedral towers, and the view from the top of it was very splendid. A large marble slab, containing a long Arabic inscription, is placed over the door, but it obviously looks as if it had been inserted at a period subsequent to the original erection of the tower. In the centre of this large enclosure is a small domed structure, resembling a mosque. The whole is now a complete ruin, and is equally neglected by Christian and Mohammadan.

The town, from not being enclosed with a wall, and its suburbs being thickly wooded, with several palm and other large trees growing among the houses, has a rural air, but the streets and bazaars are miserable in the extreme. The principal trade seemed to be in shoes and fruit, two very necessary comforts for the pilgrims, who generally rest here for the night. The fruit, which a bounteous Providence here supplies in rich abundance, forms not only a grateful refreshment, but a considerable portion of the food of those people. In addition to the justly celebrated water melons and pomegranates, grown at Jaffa, we procured some very fine sweet lemons, the only ones I had seen since we left Portugal. In the vicinity of the town are some very large cisterns, which (as every thing here must have a name and legend attached to it) are said to have been constructed by St. Helena. At the time we visited them we had an opportunity of seeing the troops of Ibrahim Basha, who were exercising in the neighbourhood. They were all young Egyptians, and I have seldom seen soldiers who appeared in better health and spirits ; they manæuvred with astonishing exactness and rapidity. Returning to the convent, it was some time before we could gain admittance, as the fathers were at their evening worship in a small adjoining chapel, which does not deserve any particular notice. The only means of access to the convent is by a small, low, and iron-studded door, like that which usually forms the entrance to a dungeon. The walls are of a great height, and all such buildings in Palestine resemble, in external appearance, fortifications, more than places of religious worship. It was, however, necessary that they should be constructed in this manner, in order to protect the harmless, inoffensive inmates from the incursions of the predatory Arabs, whose attacks, up to the period of the Egyptian invasion, were unceasing. Since that period, however, the very name of Ibrahim Basha is sufficient to

READING OF THE SCRIPTURES.

399

keep these lawless robbers under some degree of restraint. The interior of this establishment, contrasted with its external appearance, quite surprised us; and in the court-yard were some lovely lemon trees, then covered with their light and elegant blossoms, which scented the whole place.

The Padres came and sat with us in the evening; they were anxious to hear of Europe, and in particular of their native country, while we were anxious to learn something of the antiquities and scripture localities of the neighbourhood. But they were not able to gratify our curiosity, or communicate to us any information ; for on these subjects they, as well as all, or nearly all, the monks whom we met in the Holy Land, were lamentably ignorant, and knew nothing of either the geography or enthnography of the places around them; or if they had any tale to tell, it was that of some hacknied tradition, or some saintly legend equally false and absurd. The life led by those three monks was one of extreme indolence. The two elder seldom left the convent walls. The

younger, who was the curé and the cook, informed us, that of late he had frequently been obliged to go out among his flock, consisting of a few Maronites, to correct the awful heresy of reading the Scriptures, which had made considerable (and in his eyes lamentable) progress, since the English and American missionaries, and Bible agents had been labouring among these simple people. Some of them, he said, he had brought back to the bosom of the mother church, yet many, he regretted to say, were incorrigible, and, like the Bereans of old, were determined to search the Scriptures, to “see whether these things were so.” All the ecclesiastics speak favourably of Ibrahim Basha, owing to the protection he has afforded the Christian religion ; and the different convents look upon his occupation of the country as a blessing. The monks remarked, that from the protection he afforded, a much greater intercourse with Franks had taken place

This alone will have the most salutary effects; for it cannot fail, after some time, of introducing our customs, and of overcoming many of the prejudices of the Mooslims, as the roughness and the inequalities of the rocky fragment, swept down by the mountain torrent, become smooth, and even by mingling with and rubbing against the polished pebbles on the beach, where the ebbing and flowing waves in time roll all to an equal polish.

We rose early next morning, having enjoyed more rest that the

of late years.

400

THE HILL COUNTRY OF JUDEA.

trumpeting of musquitos and the howling of jackals at first promised. In order to avoid the attacks of the former, I think it a good plan, when the traveller is not provided with a net, to leave a lamp burning in the apartment during the night, as it attracts the insect, and generally proves the means of its destruction.

We again set forward on our journey towards Jerusalem. The plain on which Ramlah stands, extends further eastward for about five or six miles, and then the land rises in gentle slopes towards the mountains, still, however retaining its verdure, its beauty, and its fertility. This part of the country was well cultivated, but the crops of wheat, oats, millet, and barley were all suffering from extreme drought, for no rain had fallen for a long time. On this account the barley was in ear, though it was not more than eighteen inches high.

The hill country is entered by a narrow pass at a place called Ladron, where are the remains of an old fort, and the gothic arches of a large church. The former was probably erected as a resting place, and also as a defence for the pilgrims, as this spot has ever been the haunt of the Arab robbers.

Several flocks of gazelles bounded across our path, and numerous herds of small black goats, with long silken hair and beautiful pendant ears almost reaching to the ground, followed the steps of the goat-herd as he led them along the different mountain passes. The tinkling of their little copper bells, when heard among those solitary hills through which our road lay, had a pleasing effect, and helped to beguile the tedium of our way. We had reached the hill country of Judea, and as we ascended a complete change came over the scene. The eye was no longer refreshed with the verdant sward and the beauty of the plain which we had traversed after leaving Jaffa ; the hum of bees, the low of cattle, and even the music of the goat's bell was no longer heard. A solemn wildness reigns in those elevated regions, the hills of which rise in amphitheatres, or rather in concentric circles, one above another. The strata of grey limestone protrudes its naked head through these hills at regular intervals, like so many seats in a stadium; there is no vestige of human beings, and the road becomes a mere horse-track, with scarcely room for two to pass abreast ; yet the dreariness and monotony of the view is occasionally relieved by valleys and ravines clothed with low woods of dwarf oak, which was then putting forth its young leaves and

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