Laurence Oliphant.

The land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; online

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University of California.





























iHost respectfullg BetJicatctf,









INTRODUCTION, . . . xiii


Arrival at Beyrout Preparations for the start Sidon Naba-
tiyeh The Metawalies Their religious observances
The Melchites The castle of Belfort The scenery of
the Litany The Merj Ayun View of the Huleh Capa-
bilities of the plain of the Huleh Railway from Haifa to
Damascus Tel el Kadi Banias, . . . . i


Ain Fit An Ansariyeh village The sheikh's house His
reticence Origin of the Ansariyeh The founder of the
sect Their religious tenets Their social divisions
Marriage and other ceremonies Journey to Kuneitereh
A Circassian colony Kuneitereh Medjliss at the Caima-
kam's Present condition and prospects of the Circassian
colonists, ....... 26


We leave Kuneitereh Jaulan Jedur The Lejah Its impreg-
nability and strategical importance Vast extent of pasture-
lands ^Ascent of Tel el Faris Magnificent view Fik, the
ancient Aphek and Hippos The coming of Antichrist, and



Departure from Beyrout Ain Anub A Druse assembly
Druse character Their diplomacy A silk factory
The valley of the Damur Prosperity of the Lebanon
accounted for Der El Kamr The Maronite priesthood
The palace of Beteddin Feats of horsemanship A noisy
welcome Arrival at Mukhtara A native banquet The
Jumbelit family The birth of an heir Great rejoicings
on the occasion, . . . . . . 342


Origin of the Druse religion The Imaumat Connection of
Druse theology with China The origin of evil The
transmigration of souls Divine manifestations Druse
view of Christ The four ministers of truth The day of
judgment Ceremony of initiation Secret organisation
Druse women Ain Matur, ..... 379


Ascent of the Lebanon range The Buka'a Aithi An in-
hospitable reception An educated Syrian Arrival at
Damascus A geological excursion The Baghdad post-
men Dhumayr Wedding festivities at Adra Dervish
miracles Serpent-eating Knife-stabbing and impervious-
ness to fire The dervish sheikh's explanation A Damas-
cus theatre The Arab opera of " Aida," . . . 409


Start for Baalbec and Malula Wadies and saharas Tourist
vandalism at Baalbec Cross the Anti-Lebanon Tunnel
entrance to Malula Its romantic position The Syriac
language Greek monasteries The convent of Sednaya
The miracle-working Madonna Menin Return to Damas-
cus Start for Zahleh Its picturesque situation Cross the
Lebanon Mezra'a Abdulla, the son of Jirius the priest, . 442



Ruins of Kalat Fakra The natural bridge Magnificent

scenery Afka The temple of Adonis We are benighted

Arrival at Ghazir Night quarters Political discussions

Maronite views Ecclesiastical cupidities The Nahr-el-

Kelb Inscriptions Departure from Beyrout, . . 475



Arrival at Constantinople Khaireddin Pasha His successors
Official corruption Procrastination and intrigue Neces-
sity for responsible government Unpopularity of the pres-
ent system Decentralisation and local administrative auto-
nomy The political and strategical importance of Palestine
A possible Russian crusade Beneficial influence of a
Jewish colony The future of Palestine, . . 5^

APPENDIX The Colonisation of Palestine, . 525



The Ruins of Jerash, .


The Gorge of the Yarmuk,


The Castle of Kalat er Rubud,



The Grand Theatre, Rabbath-Ammon,


Ruins, Rabbath-Ammon, . . .


Arak el Emir, ....




Malula, .....


The Natural Bridge, .


Map showing the proposed Railways, and Site of

THE proposed CoLONY, . . . . 302

Map of Palestine, showing the Route taken by

Mr Oliphant, . . . .At the end


The travels recorded in the following pages were
undertaken in pursuance of an idea which occurred
to me shortly after the conclusion of the Treaty of
Berlin, and when it became evident that the Eastern
Question was about to enter upon a new phase. It
was manifest that the immediate effect of that treaty
would be to render inevitable an external inter-
ference in the domestic affairs of Turkey, of a
more pronounced character than had ever existed
before ; and that this interference was calculated
sooner or later to produce most serious complica-
tions, unless it could be averted by reforms in the
administration springing from the initiative of the
Sultan, which should anticipate any such forcible
intrusion from without. Whereas the Treaty of
1856, which resulted in the promulgation of the
Hatti Houmayoun, carefully provided against any
intervention on the part of foreign Powers to en-
force the fulfilment of that or any other reformatory
measure, the Treaty of Berlin expressly stipulated
in favour of such interference in the event of the


expectations of the Powers remaining unsatisfied ;
and by the Cyprus Convention the Government of
the Sultan came under special obligations in regard
to the whole of Asia Minor. Having visited Turkey
upon three former occasions in the years 1855,
i860, and 1862 and travelled pretty extensively
through the country, I thoroughly realised the fact
familiar to all those acquainted with its administra-
tion that any reform, to be effectual, must begin
with the official system at Constantinople ; and that,
in default of that being possible, the only chance of
reform at the extremities, was by a process of decen-
tralisation, which should more or less provide for the
administrative autonomy of the provinces to be re-
formed, and for the immovability during a term of
years of the valis or governors-general. As, how-
ever, it was scarcely to be expected that the Turkish
Government would consent to adopt a radical meas-
ure of this kind, and apply it throughout the extent of
its vast Asiatic dominions, it occurred to me that an
experiment might be made on a small scale, and that
an evidence might thus be afforded to the Porte of
the advantages which would attend the development
of a single province, however small, under conditions
which should increase the revenue of the empire,
add to its population and resources, secure protec-
tion of life and property, and enlist the sympathy of
Europe, without in any way affecting the sovereign
rights of the Sultan. As the objection to all reforms


proposed was, that they involved an increased ex-
penditure which the finances of Turkey were unable
to meet, it seemed possible that a scheme which
should bring foreign capital with it to carry it out,
might be favourably regarded at Constantinople,
provided it was not accompanied by obnoxious pro-
visions in regard to foreign supervision a point
upon which the Sultan and his Ministers are not
unnaturally extremely sensitive. It appeared to me
that this object might be attained by means of a
Colonisation Company, and that one of those rich and
unoccupied districts which abound in Turkey might
be obtained and developed through the agency of a
commercial enterprise which should be formed under
the auspices of his Majesty, and have its seat at
Constantinople though, as in the case of the Otto-
man Bank and other Turkish companies, the capital
would be found abroad, provided the charter con-
tained guarantees adequate for the protection of the
interests of the shareholders.

The next questions which naturally presented
themselves to my mind were, first, the locality to
be selected for the experiment ; and secondly, the
class of people who should be invited to come as col-
onists. The objection to foreigners who were at the
same time Christians seemed insurmountable, as by
the existing colonisation law it was made a sine qua
non that any colonists permanently settling in Turkey
in Asia should become Ottoman subjects a provi-


sion with which foreign Christians were extremely
unlikely to comply, as they would thereby forfeit all
special privileges of consular protection, and lose the
benefit of the capitulations. Moreover, the rivalries
of the various Christian sects, already productive of so
much mischief throughout Turkey, and the jealousy
of the Powers supporting them, would certainly ren-
der all attempts at harmonious colonisation abortive.
The idea, therefore, of colonising with European
Christians was speedily dismissed. The possibility
of finding, under the auspices of such a Company, an
asylum for the thousands of Moslem refugees, who,
driven from their homes in Bulgaria and Roumelia,
were starving in various parts of the empire, also
suggested itself ; but the difficulty in this case arose
from the extreme improbability of finding the capital
in Christian Europe which would be required for the
transportation of thousands of penniless men, women,
and children, and establishing them under conditions
which should enable them to subsist through the
early stages of the development of a new country:
the houses to be built, the stock and farm implements
to be provided, and the facilities of transport to be
created, would all fall exclusively upon the Company.
The chances of remuneration, therefore, were not
likely to tempt capitalists, while European sympa-
thies in favour of poor Moslems were not sufficiently
strong to make it likely that the charitable public
would come forward to a sufficient extent in favour


of any such enterprise. There was, in fact, only one
race in Europe who were rich, and who did not,
therefore, need to appeal to Christian capitalists for
money to carry through the whole undertaking ; who
were not Christians, and to whom, therefore, the
objections of the Porte to the introduction of more
rival Christian sects did not apply ; who had never
alarmed the Turkish Government by national aspira-
tions, but, on the contrary, had always proved them-
selves most loyal and peacable subjects of his Ma-
jesty; who were nevertheless strongly attached by
historical association to a province of Asiatic Tur-
key, and to whom the inducement of once more be-
coming proprietors of its sacred soil might prove
strong enough to tempt them to comply with the
probable conditions of the Turkish Government ;
more especially as the persecution to which they
were subjected by some Christian Governments in
Europe, contrasted most unfavourably with the tol-
eration with which they were treated in Turkey itself.
It was thus that I found myself, by a process of de-
duction, compelled to turn for the locality of the col-
ony to Palestine, and for the colonists to the Jews.
The more I examined the project from this point of
view, the more desirable on political grounds did it
appear. "^The establishment of a Jewish colony in
Palestine, under the Imperial auspices, was not likely
to excite the suspicion or arouse the hostility of the
Powers of Europe, and much less of the Sultan him-


self. On the contrary, his Majesty, by affording an
asylum for this people, so much oppressed by certain
Christian Governments, had an opportunity of con-
trasting his clemency with their severity, of enlisting
sympathy in behalf of Turkey in those countries
which have espoused the Jewish cause, and of prov-
ing that in a province to which the capitulations did
not extend, a community might be formed under con-
ditions which afforded greater guarantees for order
and good government than could be found in those
provinces where conflicting consular jurisdictions
were a perpetual source of disturbance.

The Jews themselves have borne repeated testi-
mony to the fact that, so far as they are concerned,
Christian fanaticism in Eastern Europe is far more
bitter than Moslem ; and indeed the position of Jews
in Turkey is relatively favoured. They are, as a
rule, on good terms with the people amongst whom
they live, and enjoy the protection of the Govern-
ment, such as it is. In illustration of this, I may
quote the concluding paragraphs of the firman
granted by the Sultan Abdul Medjid to the Israel-
ites in his empire, at the request of Sir Moses Mon-
tefiore, in 1840. It is addressed to the Chief Judge
at Constantinople, and at the head of the document
the Sultan wrote with his own hand the sentence
" Let that be executed which is prescribed in this
firman." After alluding to an ignorant prejudice
which prevailed among the Mohammedans, and


which seems to have led to persecution, that the
Jews were "accustomed to sacrifice a human being
to make use of his blood at their feast of the Pass-
over," and stating, "the charges made against the
Jews and their religion are nothing but pure calum-
nies," it concludes :

" For this reason, and the love we bear to our subjects,
we cannot permit the Jewish nation (whose innocence of the
crime alleged against them is evident) to be vexed and tor-
mented upon accusations which have not the least founda-
tion in truth, but that, in conformity to the hatti scherif
which has been proclaimed at Gulhane, the Jewish nation
shall possess the same advantages and enjoy the same
privileges as are granted to the numerous other nations
who submit to our authority.

"The Jewish nation shall be protected and defended.

"To accomplish this object, we have given the most posi-
tive orders that the Jewish nation dwelling in all parts of
our empire shall be perfectly protected as well as all other
subjects of the Sublime Porte, and that no person shall
molest them in any manner whatever (except for a just
cause), neither in the free exercise of their religion, nor in
that which concerns their safety and tranquillity. In con-
sequence, the present firman, which is ornamented at the
head with our hoomaioon (sign - manual), and emanates
from our Imperial Chancellerie, has been delivered to the
Israelitish nation.

" Thus you, the above-mentioned judge, when you know
the contents of this firman, will endeavour to act with great
care in the manner therein prescribed. And in order that
nothing may be done in opposition to this firman at any
time hereafter, you will register it in the archives of the
tribunal ; you will afterwards deliver it to the Israelitish


nation ; and you will take great care to execute our orders
and this our sovereign will.

"Given at Constantinople, the 12th Ramazan, 1256 (6th
of November 1840)."

That the Jews would respond to an invitation from
the Sultan to return and take possession of the soil
in a district of their own ancient heritage, I did not
doubt, notwithstanding the reflection which a few of
their co-religionists in the great centres of European
civilisation have cast upon their devotion to the land
of their fathers.

I append two articles from the ' Jewish Chronicle'
of the 9th January and nth June 1880, which, as
that paper is the leading Hebrew organ in this
country, does, it may be assumed, represent the
feeling of the nation on this subject ; ^ and in this
impression I have been strongly confirmed by Jews
with whom I have since conversed in the East. The
total number of the Hebrew race to-day is between
six and seven millions. There are in Europe about
5,000,000 ; in Asia, over 200,000 ; in Africa, nearly
100,000; in America, from 1,000,000 to 1,500,000.
More than half the European Jews 2,621,000
reside in Russia; 1,375,000 inhabit Austria, of whom
575,000 live in the Polish province of Galicia ;
5 1 2,000 live in Germany ; Roumania is credited
with 274,000, and Turkey itself with over 100,000.
There are 70,000 in Holland, 50,000 in England,

^ See Appendix I.


49,000 in France, 35,000 in Italy, and the other
European countries contain very limited proportions.
Of the Asiatic Jews, 20,000 are assigned to India
and 25,000 to Palestine. w/ As the area of land which
I should propose in the first instance for colonisa-
tion would not exceed a million, or at most a million
and a half of acres, it would be hard if, out of nearly
7,000,000 of people attached to it by the tradition
of former possession, enough could not be found to
subscribe a capital of ^1,000,000, or even more, for
its purchase and settlement, and if, out of that
number, a selection of emigrants could not be made,
possessing sufficient capital of their own to make
them desirable colonists. I should not expect such
men to come from England or France, but from
European and Asiatic Turkey itself, as well as from
Russia, Galicia, Roumania, Servia, and the Slav
countries where they are more especially oppressed,
and where there are many among the richer classes
who would gladly exchange the persecution under
which they live for the freer air which they would
breathe under Turkish rule in the land of their fore-
fathers. It is true that about 25,000 are there
already ; but they are, for the most part, of a men-
dicant class, and are deprived of that protection
which they would enjoy under the auspices of a
company and a charter securing them a certain
amount of self-government. As it is, the condition
of the Sephardim Jews in Palestine contrasts favour-


ably with that of the Jews in Russia or Roumania ;
while in other parts of Asiatic Turkey they form in
many instances the richest section of the community,
and contribute largely by their capital to the pros-
perity of the country. Mr Geary, in an interesting
account of a journey recently undertaken from India
to Europe through Asiatic Turkey, thus describes a
community of Jews which he visited near Bagdad :

*' The Jews of the town of Hillah," he says, " form
a large body, and the capitalists among them advance
money to the cultivators to make irrigation-cuttings
and plant crops. It is said that agriculture, such as
it is, of half Mesopotamia, would come to an end if it
were not for the Jews of Bagdad and Hillah, who
are in that country what the Soucars are in India.
They carefully abstain from buying land, and, as a
rule, from building houses, so that when the moment
comes that summons them to Jerusalem, they may
not be delayed by the necessity of turning irremov-
able property into ready money. For the most part,
they are the descendants of the Jews of the Captivity:
a Jewish community has lived in this strange land
by the waters of Babylon since Israel was led captive;
but it has never ceased to yearn for a return, more
or less triumphant and miraculous, to the heritage of
the seed of Abraham."^

It has been objected that the Jews are not agricul-

^ Through Asiatic Turkey (G. Geary), vol. i. p. 189.

The following letter which appeared not long since in a Jewish


turists, and that any attempt to develop the agricul-
tural resources of a country through their instrumen-
tality must result in failure. In the first instance, it
is rather as landed proprietors, than as labourers
on the soil, that I should propose to invite them to
emigrate into Palestine, where they could lease their

paper published in the United States, called the ' American Hebrew,'
shows that these expectations are not confined to the Jews of Hillah :

" Back to Palestine.
" To the 'American Hebrew.'

" While I admire your wisdom in what you so happily have termed,
steering clear of the ' Scylla of Orthodoxy and the Charybdis of
Reform, excuse me if I draw your attention to the significancy of Mr
Oliphant's scheme, which is attracting such wide and remarkable
attention, and which has received already the unofficial sanction of
such influential powers as the Earls of Beaconsfield and Salisbury.

" As far as I understand, reformers in this country only abandon
the doctrine of the re-establishment of our State. Orthodox Jews do
not; and while they declare that it does not necessarily imply that all
the Jews in the world shall be caged up between the Euphrates and
the Mediterranean, any more than all Americans are in America or
Frenchmen in France, they say, and with justice, that the geographi-
cal position and extreme fertility of Palestine point to a grand future
for it, as soon as it is rescued from the incapable government of the
Porte, sublime only in its indifference to progress in all sublime parts
of its happy empire.

" Now, as an attentive reader of the Bible, I cannot but be struck
with the fact that a realisation of Mr Oliphant's scheme would be a
wonderful coincidence when compared with the announcements in the
sacred volume. A colonisation of Palestine by the Jews, with the
sanction and assistance of the various kings and potentates, would be
in strict accordance with such passages as Isa. ch. xlix. v. 22, 23,
where it says. Gentiles shall be the active instruments of the restora-
tion, kings and queens the prime movers. See also ch. Ix. v. 3, 4, 5 ;
Ixi. V. 4, 5 ; Ixvi. v. 20.

" I would like some abler pen to write upon this subject than that

of M. H. BiRNEBAUM."



own land at high prices to native farmers if they
preferred, instead of lending money on crops at 20
or 25 per cent to the peasants, as they do at present,
and for which they have no landed security ; but it
is probable that the prospect of a large remunera-
tive return for the investment of their capital would
soon induce them to acquire a knowledge of farming
themselves sufficient for all practical purposes. At
Lydda, about ten miles from Jaffa, fifty- five Jewish
families, composed of Sephardim and Ashkenazim,
have recently established themselves on a tract of
upwards of 2000 acres of land, which they are culti-
vating with great success. Indeed, among the Se-
phardim in Palestine many excellent agriculturists
are to be found. In the Sandjak of Acre, Lieu-
tenant Kitchener came upon a village in the course
of his survey, the whole population of which were
Jewish agriculturists, who maintained that their an-
cestors had tilled the same soil from time imme-
morial. In Morocco and other parts of Africa, Jews
are to a considerable extent employed in agriculture,
while in Russia agricultural colonies of Jews have
been tried with marked success. In a recent number
of the ' Times ' one of its own correspondents re-
marks : " The Russo-Polish and Lithuanian towns
are swarming with such a large and unemployed Jew-
ish population, that the civic authorities are no
longer able to support them, and the Government
have therefore resolved to found more agricultural


colonies in the various provinces for the reception of
this superfluous Hebrew proletariat, those created
several years ago having of late shown signs of pros-
perity, a remarkable truth, I may take the liberty
to add, in view of the fact that in no country what-
soever, where they settle, do the gifted descendants
of Jacob show anything but the most deep-rooted
aversion from manual labour." There can be no
doubt that this inaptitude and dislike to field-labour
arises partly from the religious sentiment which has
operated to prevent their becoming landholders any-
where except in their own country, and partly from
the difficulties which both the Governments and the
peoples in many countries have opposed to their
becoming proprietors of the soil ; but their early his-
tory testifies that no such objection to a rural life
existed in former days, while in some parts of Asiatic
Turkey they to this day retain those pastoral habits
which especially characterised the race. In the
Kurdo-Jewish district the shepherds are principally
Jews ; while several wandering tribes of the Arabian
desert, though called Arabs, are purely Jewish, and
to this day pasture their flocks of sheep and camels
upon its oases. I am well aware that the Alliance
Israelite Universelle has established an agricultural
school at Jaffa known as the ** Mikveh Israel," con-
sisting of 780 acres of market-garden, where Jewish

Online LibraryLaurence OliphantThe land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; → online text (page 1 of 35)