« הקודםהמשך »
In Jerusalem alone, of any place upon the earth, is the Hebrew spoken as a conversational language ; for, although the Scriptures are read, and the religious rites performed in Hebrew in the various countries in which the Jews are scattered, yet they speak the language of the nations among whom they are located. And as the last link of that chain which binds them to home and to happiness, they, like other oppressed nations, cling to it with rapturous delight. And it is the only door by which the missionary there has access to the Jew, for they themselves have often said to me—“We cannot resist the holy language.”
Most of the Jews are learned ; and many spend the principal part of their time in studying the Scriptures or the Talmud; while others are engaged in discussing the law, and disputing in the synagogues, or in weeping over Jerusalem. They are particularly courteous to strangers ; and seem anxious to cultivate an intercourse with Franks.
One morning while inquiring about some medicine at the shop of a poor Jew, I was accosted by a venerable rabbi in good English, who invited me to see their new synagogue, of which they are now very proud, inasmuch as it is built on a piece of ground lately restored to them by Mohammad Alee, after a judicial investigation of their right, and after having been withheld from them for upwards of two centuries. It was covered with heaps of rubbish and old ruined houses ; and it is curious that in excavating among them, they found the remains of some very old arches and pillars, which they strongly affirm were portions of a synagogue in days gone by. They were clearing these away at the time of our visit; and some tolerable houses and baths were also being built upon the spot. The altar or holy place, in which are kept some ancient manuscripts of the Pentateuch on parchment rolls, was adorned by representations of the different musical instruments mentioned in Scripture belonging to Hebrew melody, as the harp, sackbut, and psaltery. A compartment was railed off on the left hand for the females.
When I entered the synagogue, I found a number of old men seated at tables, the greater part of whom were reading the Talmud, and some few the Scriptures. All who were so engaged, had small square black boxes, each about two inches in diameter, strapped upon their foreheads, which, on inquiry, I was told were the “ frontlets” that the Jews were directed to bind between their
eyes; others had similar ornaments strapped on the left arm, (Deuter. vi. 8,) and containing a verse of Scripture. Several of these Jews were standing in groups, discussing and disputing' about the law. They reminded me of the doctors in the days of our Lord, when similar scenes may have taken place, even on this very spot. There was a tolerable library attached to the place, where the young men were instructed in the Talmud, the books of Moses, and the mysteries of the Jewish religion, in order to prepare those that are intended for the priesthood, who are the only Jews that leave Jerusalem. The greater number met with in the streets are of the priestly order, marked by their tall black caps, with a band of gray and white muslin bound round them.
Heretofore both Jews and Christians, but especially the former, were prohibited from repairing any of their places of worship ; the permission now granted them speaks well for the mildness of the government of Mohammad Alee. Indeed, that persecution which has ever since Jerusalem's fall been the birthright of the Jew, has been very much mitigated in Palestine, since the assumption of the government by the Egyptian ruler. Nay, I do believe that at no period, since Titus led them captive, to grace his triumphal entry into Rome, was their condition ever so meliorated, or have they enjoyed so many immunities, as under Mohammad Alee. Nor can tradition or historic record show so great a number of Jews, and so secure from persecution, residing in Jerusalem. Many say that this is but a cunning policy, to make a show of liberality ; — but, by whom do kings reign? is a question never asked. Their becoming possessed of this synagogue and the portion of ground around it, after so many years, is the more remarkable, as for many years the Jews were not allowed to possess a single rood of the soil of their forefathers; and the circumstance reminded me of Jeremiah's purchase of the lands of Hananeel, and hiding the bond, in order to enjoy it after the captivity.
The male part of this people are exceedingly handsome; but I must acknowledge that those Jewesses I met in Jerusalem were not as beautiful as those I have seen elsewhere. Many of them had light complexions, which, with the highly marked and prominent features of the Hebrew countenance, is by no means pleasing. Here they do not wear the yashmac or face-cover.
A well-known Jewish convert, who, for political reasons, was some time since denied admission into Egypt, and is now travelling in India, has been pleased to suppose that Mohammad Alee may be the “cruel lord” spoken of in Isaiah, although he is one of those who believe that the restoration of the Israelites is nigh at hand. It should be remembered, however, that Egypt is to be the high-way for the return of the people of the Lord; and do we not see this fulfilling daily, by the mild treatment exercised by this Egyptian ruler towards the Hebrews ?
This very remarkable increase of the Jews in Palestine, and particularly in the city of Jerusalem, must strike even those who do not look upon it as a literal fulfilment of prophecy. Great and mighty events must, however, come to pass ere their restoration is accomplished ; but though “the times and the seasons knoweth no man,” yet the day shall come, when, to use the metaphorical language of the east, those broken pillars, the prostrate columns and ornamental capitals of that noble edifice that once reared its head within that land, shall be raked from out the debris of a world, where they are now scattered and trodden under foot, to deck the polished corners of that gem-studded temple that shall once more crown the hills of Salem.
The very wars and rumours of wars at present throughout the world tell us that we are on the eve of great events, and that the redemption of Judah draweth nigh. The flapping wings and soaring flight of
“ The dark banner'd eagle, the Muscovite’s glory,"
before she stoops upon her quarry, are already heard, speaking in accents that cannot be mistaken. Come those sounds for nought, or are they the distantmurmur of those northern powers, whose part in that drama is so plainly spoken of by the inspired heralds of prophetic Scripture?
But of all the phases under which the Jews can be seen, the most deeply interesting is that exhibited, when they collect to weep over those stones of Jerusalem that I have already described as belonging to the ancient city, and situated in the western wall of the court of the temple.“ In front of it," (the mosque of Omar,) writes Benjamin of Tudela, “ you see the western wall, one of the walls which formed the holy of holies of the ancient temple ; it is
called gate of mercy, and all Jews resort thither to say their prayers near the wall of the court-yard.”
One day during my stay, upon the anniversary of the great earthquake at Saphet, where so many of their brethren were destroyed, the whole congregation met for this purpose. It was a touching sight, and one that years will not efface, to witness this mourning group, and hear them singing the songs of David, in the full expressive language in which they were written, beneath Mount Sion, on which they were composed -and before those very walls, that in other times rang with the same swelling chorus. But not now are heard the joyous tones of old; for here every note was swollen with a sigh, or broken with a sob—the sighs of Judah's mourning maidens, the sobs and smothered groans of the patriarchs of Israel. And that heart must indeed be sadly out of tune, whose chords would not vibrate to the thrilling strains of Hebrew melody, when chanted by the sons and daughters of Abraham in their native city. Much as they venerate the very stones that now form the walls of this enclosure, they dare not set foot within its precincts; for the crescent of the Mooslim is glittering from the minaret of Omar, and the blood-red banner of Mohammad is waving over their heads.
Were I asked what was the object of the greatest interest that I had met with, and the scene that made the deepest impression upon me, during my sojourn in other lands, I would say, that it was a Jew mourning over the stones of Jerusalem. And what principle, what feeling is it, it may be asked, that can thus keep the Hebrew, through so many centuries, still yearning towards his native city-still looking forward to his restoration, and the coming of Messiah? Hope. Hope is the principle that supports the Israelite through all his sufferings—with oppression for his inheritance; sorrow and sadness for his certain lot; the constant fear of trials, bodily pain, and mental anguish ; years of disgrace, and a life of misery ; without a country and without a home; scorned, robbed, insulted, and reviled ; the power of man, and even death itself, cannot obliterate that feeling. It is hope that binds the laurel on the warrior's brow; that leads the soldier on to conquest, and bids him face the battle's dread array ; that, pointing to the enjoyment of earthly honour and greatness in time, cheers man amidst every discouragement he
may have to encounter, and leads him to overcome every diffieulty and obstacle for their attainment; and, when elevated and directed to higher objects by the influence of religion, gives him the cheering prospect of happiness in eternity. It is the very life-boat of our existence—the oil that calms that sea of trouble on which man launches at his birth. What would the poor despised Jew be—what would man be without its cheering influence? Yes, though clouds of doubt and mists of uncertainty may hover round, and for a while obseure our horizon, it is hope can
“Smile those clouds away,
Independent of the death-like stillness that prevails without the city, as we remarked upon first approaching it, there is a stillness and solitude within its walls, that could hardly be imagined in a place containing so many thousand souls. This may arise from the inhabitants not being engaged in manufacturing or commercial pursuits ; for, except those things absolutely requisite for supplying the common necessities of the population, there is little bought or sold in Jerusalem ; and, consequently, the bustle of traffic, and the busy hum of men, are. never heard within its streets. As religious worship in some form or another is the object for which the greater number of the inhabitants have come to Jerusalem, they make it the daily business of their lives ; and so much respect do the Mooslims pay to their Sabbath, that the city gates are always closed during the hour of prayer (from twelve to one); and no inducement could prevail upon the officer of the guard to open them for us one day that we wished to get out, until their service was concluded. A tradition is reported to exist among the Mohammadans that on some Friday (their Sabbath) during this hour, when all are engaged in prayer, the Christians will surprise them and retake the city—this is said to be the cause of closing the gates.
That portion of the town that encloses a part of the brow of Sion, is almost a waste; sunk in pitfalls or thrown up into mounds by ruined buildings, and overgrown with weeds and enormous cacti. This sacred spot is now the district allotted to the lepers, great numbers of whom are constantly met near the