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ITS CHARACTER AND PRODUCE.
long green catkins ; and here, for the first time in our travels, we met the thorn becoming white with blossom, and reminding us of the lawns and hedge-rows of our own far-distant homes. A few fields of corn, by their fertility, caused by the moisture which is more abundant on these elevated regions than on the plains, showed what could still be effected by cultivation on the limestone soil of Judea, and on the terraces between these bands of rock, which act as
so many retaining walls to the scanty earth. Much was originally, and much could still be effected in the growth of the vine and the olive on the sides of these hills. Those who exclaim against the sterility and barrenness of this country, should recollect, that want of population and proper cultivation gives it much of the sterile and barren appearance which it now presents to the traveller. The plough in use here is one of the rudest instruments of the kind that I have ever seen ; it resembles the ancient Egyptian plough, and does little more than scratch the soil, making a furrow scarcely three inches in depth.
About midway to Jerusalem we passed through a deep narrow gorge, wooded to an extent that we could scarcely have anticipated from the rocky and barren desert in which it is situated. The ascent out of this valley is fearfully precipitous, and has long been noticed in modern history as the hiding-place or fastness of the lawless Bedawee. Some time previous to our visit, a large band of Egyptian cavalry were completely destroyed in this ravine. The huge rocks, the close wood on either side, and the overhanging crags, form a complete cover for an enemy, who might attack the largest body of men passing through it, while they would remain secure, especially from horsemen. Thanks to the rule of Ibrahim Basha, whatever be his faults, and I believe he has many, we passed through this part of Palestine in perfect security, and without the slightest interruption. In the bottom of this waddy or ravine is a ruined khan, overhung by some splendid lotus trees; and by the way-side were some enormous rocks, which, in several places, contained excavations, under which we rested for some time, enjoying their cool shade, thankful, in a country like this, for those inestimable blessings—a well of water, and the “shadow of a great rock in a weary land”—blessings that can only be known and appreciated by those who may have panted on the thirsty mountain side, or toiled in the heat of the day,
over the dreary waste of the Eastern desert, or among the lonely hills of Palestine. To our left lay Beth-horon, a valley of a similar character ; where we are informed, in the book of Joshua, when the Canaanites were flying from Gibeon, Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah.”
Ascending from this valley, the traveller again enters upon the rugged Appenine country, from whose heights he has a last glimpse of the blue waters of the midland sea. We next arrived at Kuryet el Euab, the scriptural Kirjath Jearim, and sometimes called by modern travellers, the village of Jeremiah, situated in an extensive valley, bounded on all sides by bold crags and barren fells. The vale itself, however, contains some rich fields of corn, and the sides of the lower hills are studded with full-grown olives that thrive upon the parterres between the rocks, and appear luxuriant, if such a term can be applied to those seedy-looking trees, whose rusty-coloured leaves have so little of that verdant freshness which we are wont to associate with vegetable beauty. The olive is the peculiar tree of Palestine, and its fruit forms at present a principal article of diet, as its oil did in the days of Solomon. During lent it is the chief food of the inmates of the convents; and I shall not easily forget the grimace and the shrug of Padre Benjamin, when, a few days after we arrived in Jerusalem, we invited him to partake of some at our dessert. Some of the largest olive trees now known grow in Syria, among which we might instance those found at Gethsemane and in the plain of Sharon.
While our horses were feeding, and luncheon was preparing, I visited the old church-a gothic building, which is chiefly remarkable for the vast thickness of its walls, and its arched roof, supported by two rows of pillars. The door is low, and flanked by two strong buttresses. The windows are placed at the top of the building, and admit but scanty, light, and from the defensive appearance of the place it has more the look of a fort or magazine than of a church dedicated to the worship of God. The state of the country at the period of its erection required that it should be constructed in this form, in order that the infirm and defenceless might have a place of refuge to fly to in case of invasion. Of late years this valley has become a place of celebrity, from its
THE TEREBINTHINE VALE.
being the residence of Aboo-Goush, the chief of the Arab plunderers that inhabit these regions. His house is in the vicinity of the church ; and as we passed it, a few discontented and ferociouslooking men were seated on its front terrace, abusing some of the women and children who ran out to see the Frankees.
An hour and a half's ride then brought us to Kulonieh, in the Terebinthine vale, memorable as the battle-field on which the stripling son of Jesse prostrated the vaunting champion of the Philistines. A narrow bridge here crosses a small stream, in which it is said the youthful warrior filled his scrip with the smooth pebbles, one of which laid Goliath in the dust, and achieved such a glorious victory for the army of Israel. The scene instantly calls to mind the position of the two armies placed upon opposite hills, with a valley running between. The hill to the left is now occupied by a considerable village of low, square Arab huts. Along the banks of the rivulet are some lovely gardens, adorned with apple trees, apricots, almond trees, orange and acacia groves, together with rose-laurels, figs, and sycamores.*
All this hill country belonged originally to the Philistines, whose feelings and habits, like those of most other mountaineers, were deeply tinged by the wild scenery amidst which they dwelt, and the mode of life which they pursued, all of which, doubtless, contributed in forming that warlike disposition which marked their character. The inhabitants of this country are considered to be what is usually called a “ bad set ;” and they gave much annoyance to the Básha while he was encamped at Jerusalem, by interrupting his communications, and robbing his couriers, so that several important despatches fell into the hands of the enemy. At length one of his messengers adopted the following successful expedient;-he inserted the letter into the long tube of his pipe; and although his person was diligently searched, they never thought that the pipe, which he continued to smoke during the examination, contained the object for which they were so anxiously looking. Josephus mentions that in his day the conveying of despatches through this country was always attended with diffi
* Dr. Robinson has lately denied this locality to the battle-field so memorable in Scripture story, and places it at Socoli, a valley to the S. W. of Jerusalem, on the road to Gaza.
FIRST VIEW OF JERUSALEM.
culty and danger ; and that inany disasters befel the messengers who were engaged in carrying communications to Titus.
On ascending out of the valley, we passed several caves in the rocks, some of which were natural, and others formed by the hand of man, the latter probably for village sepulchres. These natural caves, we are informed, were the habitations of the early inhabitants or aborigines of the land. As we advanced, the features of the country became still more wild and barren, the steeps more rugged, and the descents more precipitous, until we approached near to Jerusalem, and arrived at our journey's end. Indeed the whole of the journey to Jerusalem forms a striking analogy to that experienced by the spiritual pilgrim, and would form the subject of a beautiful allegory. Tossed and buffeted by the tempestuous waves of the Mediterranean ; endangered, when on the very entrance to the promised inheritance, by the rocks, the shoals, the quicksands, and unsafe anchorage at Jaffa—the plain of Sharon for a while cheers his onward course, and strews his path with flowers—then intervene the ascents, the difficulties, the fatigues, and the dangers of the hill country of Judea, to check his pride, to try his faith, and to prepare him for the glories of Jerusalem, the long sought object of his fond desires.
Hippolite, our guide, now informed us, that we were approaching near to the Holy City; when all became excitement—enthusiasm appeared in every face—anxious hope beamed in every eye—each pressed forward beyond his neighbour ; we quickened our horses' paces, and every turn and rising ground upon the road was gained with accelerated speed, in order to catch the first distant view of the city. At length we arrived at an old marabut, where the country became more level, but still presenting the same stony character; and here we caught the first glimpse of Jerusalem, at about a mile's distance. The first object which attracted our attention, was a line of dead wall, flanked by two or three square towers, above which could be distinguished a few domes and minarets. Such is the appearance which the city presents when seen from this point. Beyond the city, on the eastern side, rose a threecapt hill, whose highest point was surmounted by a white dome and one or two straggling buildings; its sides, which were studded with low shrubby plants, exhibited a brown and rugged aspect. This is the memorable Mount of Olives.
Our party reined in their horses and stood in motionless silence for some
ENTRANCE INTO THE HOLY CITY.
minutes gazing on the scene. The expectations we had formed respecting the appearance of Jerusalem were disappointed, but our enthusiasm had not, in the least degree, abated. For myself, I confess, that as I gazed upon the north-western angle of that solitary embattled wall, sorrow came over my heart ; no living thing could be seen on the intervening ground; nothing stirred, and solitude seemed to reign within. The Lamentations of the prophet are now truly applicable—“How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! How is she become a widow, she that was great among the nations, and princes among the provinces, how is she become tributary! and from the daughter of Zion all her beauty is departed.” It was then approaching towards the close of day, and every thing we saw appeared lone and desolate ; so quiet and solitary did the city appear, that it looked as if its inhabitants had been asleep for years, and that we had come to awaken them from their slumbers. As we approached the city, the line of wall which we had first seen, opened out and extended to the right. We passed the upper pool of Gihon, and met a few Arab crones going with their pitchers on their heads to draw water from a neighbouring well. They appeared like so many of those witches described in works of fiction, coming forth to meet us from the silent city. Turning a sharp angle of the wall, we reached a large massive square building, commonly called the castle of David, and now known as the citadel of the modern city. To the left of it is the Jaffa gate, which was guarded by a few Egyptian soldiers, who offered no obstruction to our entrance.
We rode on through a narrow street with a low dead wall on both sides. On our left lay a piece of waste ground, covered with old walls, broken cisterns, and prickly pears of an enormous size, jumbled together. On our right, the apertures in the broken wall afforded us occasional glimpses of the minarets and domes that rise throughout the lower and more populous parts of the city. A few minutes more conducted us to the Latin convent, which we entered by an arched gateway that rang with the sound of our arms and the horses' hoofs, which echoing through the old building, soon aroused its inmates. Presently, we found ourselves in a square court, from whose surrounding windows, numbers of bearded monks peered forth, astonished at our appearance, and wondering who the party could be that had created such an unusual stir within their solitary dwelling.