J. E. (James Eric) Wright.

Round about Jerusalem : letters from the Holy Land online

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* * * c




Right Reverend R. MacINNES, D.D.,





Foreword by the Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of

London vii

Off for Palestine i

The Feast of Purim 21

The Jewish Passover 37

Samaria and the Samaritan Passover ... 81

Daily Sights and Tales ...... 95

Ascension Day, 1912 105

The Convent of the Cross . . , , . m

The Siloam Tunnel 117

"Neby Samwil" 125

The Whirlwind 137

"Petra" 143


Wady Kelt . . . 181

Back to Palestine , . . . . '. . 239




Rebecca's Tomb, Palestine . . . Frontispiece

Jerusalem : Shepherd and Sheep at the Damascus

Gate ....... 7

Friday Afternoon at the Jews' Wailing

Place 11

The Mosque of Omar, with Site of

King Solomon's Temple . . .15

Mount of Olives and Gethsemane . 18

The Garden of Gethsemane. The Olive Tree

Stumps are said to date from the Time of Christ 47

Jericho 63

General View of the Northern Temples and Tombs
OF the Rock City of Petra discovered in 1812,
after having been lost to the World for
1500 Years i47

Petra : The Wonderful Temple of Ed-Dier carved
entirely out of the Living Rock. This Wonder-
ful Deserted City is 70 Miles North-east of
THE Gulf of Ahala 161

At the Well of Cana of Galilee . . . . i97

Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee .... 200

The Wonderful Monastery of Mar Saba, near the

Dead Sea 232


Everything about Jerusalem is read with
the greatest interest, especially now, and
therefore, as Chairman of Jerusalem and
the East Mission, it gives me great pleasure
to write a Foreword to these letters brightly
written by a young clergyman now acting
as Bishop Maclnnes' chaplain, I saw him
as a young layman in Jerusalem when I
was there myself and afterwards ordained
him in London. The letters speak for
themselves and give a clear and vivid account
of what may be seen



St. Barnabas' Day, 1918.


The following are extracts from letters
written home from Jerusalem. The writer
is again in the East and has had no oppor-
tunity for revising them.




Leaving Port Said we found the sea was
absolutely calm, the sky one blaze of stars,
and the air rather chilly. I made up my
mind to spend the night in a deck chair in
order to see the sun rise over the Judsean
hills. The colours of the sunrise were
simply grand, though unfortunately there
was not a cloud to be seen.

We reached Jaffa about 7 a.m., and as
soon as the doctor had been rowed from the
shore, a distance of about half a mile, we
were at once surrounded by a crowd of big
rowing boats full of sailors, porters, etc., all
very anxious to take us to land.

Old Jaffa is built on a hill overhanging
the sea, and is simply one mass of buildings
honey-combed with passages, making a per-
fect maze of tunnels and narrow alleys.


4 ;:RO'Wp;;A;Bau;T'. JERUSALEM

Scarcely anywhere is there a space of more
than lo feet, and in general the streets
seem to be from three to six feet wide a
kind of human ant-heap. I will not attempt
to describe the smells except by saying that
only here and there can you see the cobble-
stones for the refuse thrown out from the
buildings. We climbed upon the roof of the
house said to stand on the site of Simon the
Tanner's home, and in the heat of the morn-
ing we could easily understand how St. Peter
might have dozed off whilst meditating upon
the roof. As I stood there looking over
the sea I thought how wonderfully like a
great sheet it seemed, stretching away to the
horizon ; also the reef of rocks just appear-
ing above the surface, about 200 yards
out, looked quite like animals crawling on
the sheet. I can't help thinking that this
sight might have caused the imagery of
St. Peter's day-dream. He may also have
heard the classical legend which connects
these rocks with the sea monster petrified
by Perseus who saved Andromeda. The
passage through them is so narrow that our
boatmen had to draw in their oars on one


side in order to pass through. No wonder
it is so frequent that landings cannot be
effected. They say that it often happens
that the mail is delayed either way a fort-
night or more, and all agree that we were
very lucky to get ashore so easily.

We went over the C.M.S. hospital, which
seems to be doing a good work, and is
crowded with both in- and out-patients. Of
course these buildings, like many others, are
outside the real town of Jaffa, where there
is more room. We lunched at the Jerusalem
Hotel, where the bedrooms are named after
the twelve Apostles and other saints.

The Plain of Sharon and Valley of


At 1.30 we boarded the train for Jeru-
salem, but from the pace it went and from
the look of the carriages it was more like
four trams linked together and pulled by an
asthmatical steam-roller. For some way we
went through the middle of a large orange-
grove, where the oranges were hanging in
clusters, which made one wonder how the


small trees could possibly stand the weight.
We then passed out on to the absolutely
level Plain of Sharon, all under cultivation
and very fertile. But for the range of Judaean
hills in the distance one might have been
between Peterborough and King's Lynn.
Here the Philistines used to live as they did
also on the rolling hills which we had to
ascend before reaching the foot of the pre-
cipitous Judaean mountains.

One gets a very fine view here of the
Valley of Aijalon, and one hardly requires
any imagination to picture the Canaanites
rushing away down the valley before the
pursuing Israelites. Barren and rugged as
it is (it reminds one of Kirkstone Pass,
Cumberland), it can in no way be compared
to the awful grandeur and indescribable soli-
tude of the rock chasm into which we next
entered. The whole of the rest of the way
(some 20 miles) to Jerusalem is up this
barren valley. The higher we go the less
precipitous are the sides. From time to
time we cross " wadies," or dried-up torrent-
beds, as they run into each other on their
way down to the plain. I rode all the way


sitting on the step of the car, and seriously
thought once or twice of getting off to take
a photo, and then get on again further down
the train.


The Jerusalem station is at the top, of this
long winding valley, on a plateau, but a, good
way from the city, which stands on a hill
between two **wadies," which go down the
other side of the ridge towards the Dead

After a few weel^s.on.e begins to sort out
the various impressions, which at first are most
overwhelming. This country seems to be
chiefly charc^cterized by its inextricable con-
fusion. The4anguage, time, money, stamps,
posts, religions, calendars, seem all in a per-
fect state of chaos. The time, for instance.
There is Arabic time, which has to vary
from day to day, as it must begin ^ from sun-
set. There are several of these clocks.
Then there is European time, but as this is
not official it is not standardized. Each
vessel which arrives at Jaffa coming from
different ports brings its own particular


version. This finds its way up to Jerusalem,
and affects some though not all of the clocks
here. Mine plods on and manages to keep
in with the chimes of a big " Latin " clock
close by, but the little watch has entirely
lost its head, and by varying its pace strikes
out quite a new line of its own. The
Moslem time seems something similar to
ours under the Daylight Saving Bill.

To-day is Sunday, the Jews keep Saturday,
and the Moslems Friday ; but this is not all.
The Hotel Calendar tells me that to-day is
the 1 8th of the month (English), the 5th
(Greek), nth (Coptic), ist (Moslem), and
30th (Jewish). Of course, Easter is on
different dates. Not only are English and
French coins in circulation, but the Turkish
coins vary in value in different towns. It is
a profitable trade to change '' metaliks " into
*' bishliks " here, and change them back
again at Jaffa. Money changing must be
very profitable judging from the number of
"tables of the money changers" I pass
every day. These are little tables with
glass or wire-netting tops and a drawer full
of coins.


The Germans, the Austrians, the French,
the Italians and the Russians, etc., have each
established their own postal system in spite
of the official Turkish post, but they are not
allowed by the Government to use the train
for Jaffa. Europeans do not use the Turkish
post, as it is so uncertain, the result being
that the Turks sometimes waylay the other
postal vans, lest their own should be entirely
neglected. An extremely complicated list
is put up in the hotel each week, saying
when the various mails may come or go if a
landing is possible at Jaffa or not. To crown
all, the whole military and civil system is an
absurd tangle of intrigue, suspicion, and
bribery. It took several months to get the
Christ Church tubular bells out of the
Custom house, as the officials, seeking a
bribe, made out that we wanted to use them
as guns. Whilst I am writing, a recruiting
sergeant is extorting money out of a waiter
who does not want to be a conscript, by a
system of blackmail. One can easily see
how the old ''Publicans" must have been

After three days* wind, hail, and wet, the



weather is again beautiful. The rain comes
at intervals of two or three weeks during
the winter, but it is perfectly dry from May
to October, when a storm would destroy the
harvests (cf. i Sam. xii. 16-19, ^^^ Prov.
xxvi. i) ; hence these rains are extremely
valuable, and every square yard of roof
space is used for collecting the water which
goes down into large underground cisterns,
where it is kept cool and fresh, though it
has to be filtered before using. When it
does rain, it comes down with tremendous
force. You can imagine the state of these
dirty roads. I am reading through Ezra
and Nehemiah, and after wallowing along in
the mud appreciate the difficulty in Ezra x. 9.
The cistern just in front of my window as I
write is as big as two or three rooms put
together ; just now it is quite full, and yet
they tell me that they often have to send
miles away to springs before the winter rains
begin again.

It seems curious that this little spot (for
the whole city is very small, and I could
easily walk round it in an hour) should be
such a centre for religions, and exercise such


an attraction to pilgrims of all nationalities
and creeds. It is the centre and only con-
solation of the Jews, who have always had
an almost fanatical love for the place which
they claim " God chose to set His Name
there." Their great hope is the ultimate
possession of the place, when they will be
able to continue the sacrifices which they
may only offer here, and which therefore
they have been unable to offer for all these
centuries. It is quite an inspiration to go
down to their wailing-place where remain
the huge blocks of stone supporting the area
on which their Temple once stood (where the
mosque now stands). The wailing is not in
the least a ceremonious kind of service of
any particular form, though they do have
such services there, but you see them quietly
and alone with the tears streaming down
their faces, stroking the stones in a loving
way with their hands, kissing them, burying
their heads in their hands and sobbing, lean-
ing up against the wall and imploring God
to take pity upon them and restore again
to them their city. The scene is most im-
pressive and pathetic. It is similar, though


not nearly so impressive, at Rachels tomb
on the way to Bethlehem (cf. Gen. xxxv. 19,
20). The Jews here are very much on the
increase and a large part of Jerusalem is
known as the Jewish quarter. They are
still very exact in keeping the Law. They
mostly close their shops some hours before
sunset on Friday to make quite sure of being
on the safe side ; the result is that Saturday
is a much quieter day in the city than

A large party of us have been to King
Solomon's quarries. We entered through the
only known opening (a hole in the rock
under the wall by the Damascus Gate) ; for
an hour and a half we walked about through
the most wonderful passages cut in the rock
under Jerusalem, almost all broad enough,
if level, to drive three carriages abreast, the
sides and roof being of pure white stone.
We had candles, lamps, torches, and bits of
magnesium wire. Here and there were vast
halls large enough to take literally thousands
of people. Everywhere were huge blocks of
stone partly quarried out in varying stages,
so that you could see exactly how it was


done, and everywhere mountains of chips
showing that they had been dressed before
removing (cf. i Kings vi. 7). Everywhere
were swarms of bats. In two places they were
clustered on the ceiling like a swarm of bees.
We also went to the leper hospital, a
beautiful house and grounds belonging to
the German Moravians, but the patients
were too awful to describe. What a sacri-
fice to give up one's life to nursing such
repulsive objects ! It always attacks the
hands, feet, face, and throat first, but not
the body, so that many of them can neither
walk, work, nor speak ; they are fearful to
look at, blind, and have a peculiarly horrible
smell of decay. The disease is not catching,
but hereditary, hence those in the house are
not allowed to marry or beg, and for this
reason they cannot persuade some to come
into the house. It is thought that the lepers
mentioned in the New Testament had a
different form of the disease or else were
not in a bad stage, as they were able to cry
" Unclean !" These lepers are not allowed
inside the city. (For the various kinds cf.
Lev. xiii. and xiv.)


Life is very full. The other afternoon I
went alone and sat for an hour on the Mount
of Olives facing the Temple area, the other
side of a deep valley, and could see all
Jerusalem, the hills round and behind the
Mountains of Moab, the Dead Sea, Plain
of Jericho, and mouth of the Jordan.

Sunday, ^tL Walked along the hill track
towards Neby Samwil (House of Samuel),
a wild desolate-looking country, with out-
crops of rock everywhere, in which are
countless sepulchral caves. Here was a
fellah (peasant) scratching the little soil
between the rocks with his native plough
drawn by his ox and his ass yoked together
there on the higher hills was a native shep-
herd wandering about in the midst of a
flock of sheep and goats, which fed on what
little scrub and weeds grow between the
rocks. The other day I walked over from
the Mount of Olives to Bethany, watched
the women and girls coming out to the old
well, chattering and drawing out water;
when I reached them they let down again
and drew for me to drink. Everybody
here is most kind, and all seem to have


combined the English openness and lack of
ceremony with the Eastern boundless hos-
pitality. I am very fortunate in having
expert guides to all the different places, as
of course some of the missionaries here are
quite the best authorities.

Jerusalem has a great fascination not only
for the Jews and the Christians, but also for
the Moslems. To a Mohammedan this
place is only exceeded in sanctity by Mecca
itself, since from the rock in their mosque
on the Temple area Mohammed is said to
have ascended to heaven, and it will be here
in the Valley of Jehoshaphat that the last
judgment (so they say) will take place, when
all will have to cross the valley on one of
Mohammed's hairs stretched from Mount
Moriah to the Mount of Olives. The
wicked will fall into the valley and be dashed
to pieces, but the righteous will be borne
along safely to the other side. They very
jealously guard the Temple area where now
their mosque stands, and if any Christian
attempts to go near it without a soldier, they
wave their hands menacingly in front of
him, and if he pushes on will draw out


daggers and guns. If a Jew goes near they
will set on him and stone him at once. On
the other hand, it is said that no Jew would
think of going there, for since he does not
know the exact spot on the area where the
Temple stood, he might by mistake tread on
the " Holy of Holies." We are accustomed
to look upon Palestine as the home of the
jews, but that is not at all the idea out here.
The natives or fellaheen are descendants of
the inhabitants of the land before the Israel-
itish invasion, and are apparently entirely
distinct from Jews, Turks, and Christians
or Arabs. The Turks are the governing
race (like the Romans of old) and the Jews
and Europeans are only here on suffer-
ance ; their quarters are called Jewish colony,
German colony, etc., and yet there are more
Jews here than any other single nationality
(i.e in Jerusalem only). It seems to us a
freak of Mohammedanism that they allow
no one to go to Mecca or to their mosque
here without a Government permit and
guards, but the Greek Christians are as bad,
for they would stone any Jew who dared to
cross even the courtyard in front of the


Church of the Sepulchre. It was only last
week that, when out for a walk with one of
the boys, I had to abandon a short cut home
as I found the boy dare not cross the court-
yard, yet the Turkish soldiers stand inside
the church itself with bayonets or rifles to
prevent disturbances, just as of old Roman
soldiers kept watch over the Temple courts
to prevent such a disturbance as took place
in the time of St. Paul. The cases are
parallel. In each the necessity for such a
guard seems a scandal, yet there is none the
less a necessity. In each case the guard is
hated, yet they act with apparent justice
and though not with reverence, at least

Where once the story was Roman, Jew,
and Gentile, now the only difference is
Moslem, Gentile, and Jew. In spite of the
divergence in beliefs it is curious that all
hold that the last judgment will take place
in the Valley of Jehoshaphat between the
Mount of Olives and the Temple area, the
result being that one slope is now almost
covered with Jewish graves, the other with
Moslem ones. The Jews have a curious


superstition that all, when the last day
comes, will have to worm their way along
through the earth from their various graves
to this place. They call it *' The Gilgalim "
or ** rolling " ; this is the reason why they all
wish to be buried here, so that they will not
have so far to come. It is a wonder they
don't practise burrowing like rabbits, and the
Moslems tight-rope walking.

We have been for a walk on the Mount
of Olives and to see the Chapel of the
Lord's Prayer, where this prayer is written
on the walls in thirty-seven different
languages, so that all pilgrims may find their
own. If any one does not find it in his
tongue he gives money towards having it
put up. This costs ;^40.

One gets a glorious view from the Mount
of Olives of the Jordan and Dead Sea. It is
perfectly marvellous what you can see from
the spot where the Ascension took place.
Right down to the Mount of Hebron in the
south, the Dead Sea, the Mountains of
Moab and the Jordan Valley seem directly
in front of you they are really over 20
miles away. You can see over the Judaean


hills to the Mediterranean, and up north to
the hills which divide Judsea from Samaria ;
in fact, the whole of Judaea and a good deal
of Moab. Jerusalem itself is so surrounded
by hills that this view makes a wonderful



The 4th of March is the Jewish Feast of
Purim, when they commemorate the salvation
of the Jews by Esther and Mordecai ; as a
rule they are extremely temperate, but on
this day it is their duty to drink and make
merry, and this they do till they cannot
distinguish between Haman and Mordecai.
In the evening their Rabbi reads in the
synagogue the book of Esther, and all attend
to jeer every time the name of Haman is

I went down with Mr. H and others

into one of these synagogues. The scene
was truly remarkable. The synagogue is a
big room newly decorated and painted up,
almost square. In the centre of the east
side is a kind of gorgeous bookcase with
curtains in which is kept the particular copy
of the Law belonging to that congregation.
In the centre is a raised platform in size and

23 ,


shape just like a band-stand. On this plat-
form at a table sat the Rabbi with his pray-
ing shawl over his head, reading from a
huge roll the book of Esther, and pausing
each time for the jeers at the name of
Haman. Crowding round him looking over
his shoulders, and all round the room at
little desks were Jews following in their own
rolls and in a few cases books, almost all
in a very merry state, anxiously waiting to
make the most fearful din and uproar every
time the name was mentioned. You can
imagine the scene. I got one fellow to find
the place in my Hebrew text for me ; it was
the sixth and seventh chapters they were
reading, where the name comes every two or
three verses. Children were playing hide and
seek and " last touch " in amongst the desks,
which were just scattered about in any order
and direction. Everybody was violently
swaying his body back and forward, keeping
more or less in time with the Rabbi, as he
sang out the words. The noise and con-
fusion was considerable all the time, but at
the name of Haman all stamped, thumped,
beat the desks with sticks, and even fired off


toy pistols and crackers. It reminded one
of an exciting auction or the senseless
speeches and applause at the close of a
Cambridge **bump supper." All seemed in
the best of spirits. Of course it seems very
terrible, but then the synagogue is only a
room in which they meet. I do not think
the Jews attach any idea of sacredness to it,
and I suppose they cannot really worship
according to the Law, till they have a
Temple here again ; then also the synagogue
may be to them only a means to keep alive
the old traditions and customs, to teach the
children and kindle a kind of patriotism
which will preserve the race till their golden
age returns. If that is so, such scenes and
festivals would be very natural. A synagogue
is not a temple or a church. But then the
idea of behaviour in churches here is very
different from our own. The churches are
open all day long, there are no seats, but
people are all strolling about talking to each
other and standing about in groups. They
will chatter for some time, and then without
any ostentation will kneel down or even lie
down, and pray, and then wander off and



join in with a service being sung by some
priest at some altar, or perhaps some pro-
cession wandering round the church. The
whole idea seems extremely curious to us,
but then it only depends upon what one's
idea of a church is. I suppose their idea of
a church is God's House, not that He dwells
in temples built with hands, but the house
where His children may meet, not so much
with Him, for they can do that anywhere,
but with each other.

There is now in Jerusalem an enormous
party of Americans (600 in all) and every
hotel is packed. Americans are funny
creatures; some of them seem about as
ignorant of what they have come to see as
if they were discovering a strange land.
One of them told me the other day that
the Mosque of Omar was the same as the
Church of the Sepulchre. Another when
he came back from spending a morning in
the Church of the Sepulchre wanted to
know if it was known what had become
of the Body of Christ, as he found the tomb
was open and empty ! I asked another what
he thought of the place, and he said it was


all right, but he did not believe it was as
many feet long as the guide books said, and
he was determined not to be taken in at
Samaria, so had procured a piece of string
with a weight at the end to test the depth

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Online LibraryJ. E. (James Eric) WrightRound about Jerusalem : letters from the Holy Land → online text (page 1 of 10)