James Silk Buckingham.

Travels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) online

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the following part of St. John's narration, who
describes the wonder of the people at finding
Jesus on the other side of the sea, believing him
not to have entered into the boat with his
disciples ; since, if Gennesaret and the point
from which they departed were on the same side
of the sea, the passage from one to the other
would have been as easy by land as by water,
and would have excited no surprise. Besides this,
it is said, " Howbeit, there came other boats

* St. Mark, vi. 4,5. \ Ibid vi. 53. % St. John, v. 16, 1/.
B B %


from Tiberias nigh unto the place where they
did eat bread, after that the Lord had given
thanks." * Now the place here fixed on by tradi-
tion and bearing the name of Khamsi Khabshaat,
is nearer to Tiberias than to any other part of the
sea, being nearly two hours from the edge of
the lake in a westerly direction, and on the top
of a high and rocky hill ; so that it does not cor-
respond with the local features of the place de-
scribed in any one particular, and may be cited
as another proof of the bungling ignorance of
those blind guides, who so proudly call them-
selves the guardians of the holy places, t

* St. John, vi. 23.

f I remember the anger which Chateaubriand expresses
against those who dare to examine for a moment into the evi-
dence on which such traditionary localities as these rest, and
the implicit confidence with which he would have every one to
believe all that might be told him by his spiritual superiors. He
asks, " What would be thought of the man who should travel
over Italy and Greece, and criticise Homer and Virgil at every
step ?" I should answer, " He would be thought a tasteless
and fastidious pedant." — " Yet," says he, " it is thus that
travellers go over the Holy Land, which, if only to be examined
for such a purpose, is not worth the coming so far to see."
But M. Chateaubriand will surely admit that there is a wide
difference between the licence universally allowed in a mere
poem, and the accuracy required in the Word of God and in
those who call themselves the expounders of these writings,
and the guardians of the scenes of his Son's miracles. We
take up the Iliad and the iEneid as works of taste and genius,
and read them as much for amusement as instruction. W r e
take up the Bible as a work which we are taught to consider


From Khamsi Khabshaat we arrived, in about
half an hour, opposite to Loobee, a considerable
village, seated on the top of a high hill. We
passed beneath it in the beaten track, leaving the
village itself about a quarter of a mile on our
left. It now grew dark, and the rest of our
way was indistinct. We passed, however, several
smaller villages, on our right j and, just as the
moon rose, we entered Kusr Kelna, the Cana of
Galilee> where water was turned to wine at a
marriage feast* ; and which was, at one time,
the abode of Joseph us, the historian t, and, at
another, the head-quarters of Vespasian's army. X
We halted here for a moment to refresh, and
await the higher rising of the moon to light us
on our way ; and in half an hour set forward
again, going by El Misshed, and Arreyna, over
hilly and rugged ground. It was about ten
o'clock when we entered Nazareth ; but the
doors of the convent were readily opened to us,
and we were kindly received.

infallible, and whose contents must be believed ; so that we
examine all that can tend to its illustration, with more than
ordinary rigour, as we know that truth must always gain by
investigation, and shine forth with increased brightness, when
the dark clouds of error with which human weakness has ob-
scured it are in any degree removed.

* St. John, ch. ii. throughout.

f Life of Josephus, s. 17. v. 1. p. 14.

% Wars of the Jews.

( 378 )



JTerrujry loth. The whole of the day was
directed to enquiries about the best method of
proceeding on my journey to the northward,
when I learned that a caravan, with a large
escort, would be departing from Nablous for
Damascus on Saturday ; and it was recom-
mended to me to hasten thither, in order to join
it, as the most secure mode of prosecuting my
way. It was late at night when we learned this,
but as there was still a hope of my being able to
reach Nablous in time, I determined to set out
on the following day.

The road even from hence to Nablous was
thought to be so bad, that few people would at-
tempt it without a caravan. By great exertion we
procured, however, a man of that town, who was
settled here, to accompany us thus far for fifteen
piastres ; and obtaining from Mr. Catafago a let-
ter to his friend Hadjee Ahmed Gerar, the Chief
of Sanhour, we left Nazareth about ten o'clock
on our way thither.

Our course was directed to the southward,


going in which direction for about half an hour,
we began to descend the steep range of hills by
which Nazareth is bounded on the south. Dis-
mounting here, we reached the foot of it in
another half-hour, and came out on the Plain of
Esdraelon, very near to the ravine on the west
side of which is the mountain of the precipita-
tion, before described. At the foot of this hill
were now some Bedouins' tents, and a few flocks
grazing, but the soil and its produce was so
burnt up by the long drought, that every species
of animal suffered the want of food.

Continuing in a southerly direction across the
plain, we reached at noon the small village of
Mezra. This, from its being enclosed by walls
with loop-holes in them, and having only one
gate of entrance, appears to have been once a
fortified post, though of the weakest kind. It
is at present destitute of any other inhabitants
than the herds of cattle which are driven within
the enclosure for shelter during the night. Near
its southern angle are two good wells, which are
still frequented, and we observed here several
sarcophagi of a grey stone, of the common ob-
long form, extremely thick, and rather larger
than the ordinary size. Though all of these
were much broken and defaced by the action of
<he atmosphere, the sculpture on the side of one



was still distinct, representing pillars, festoons,
and wheels.

Continuing over the plain in the same direc-
tion, we passed at one o'clock, under the village
of Fooli, leaving it a little on our left. We ob-
served here the fragment of a large building still
remaining, whose wall seemed to be of Saracenic
structure, and at the wells without the village
we saw two pent-roofed covers of sarcophagi ;
one of which was ornamented with sculpture,
the raised corners being the same as those at
Geraza, and at Gamala, except that here the
edges of them were sculptured, and that all the
covers at the two former cities, as far as we ob-
served, were plain.

On the west of this village, about a mile, is
Affouli, built like this on a rising ground, and
containing only a few dwellings. On the east
of it, about two miles, is the larger village of
Noori, surrounded with olive-trees, and there
are besides several other settlements in sight
from hence, all inhabited by Mohammedans.

We now kept in a south-easterly direction,
having shut in Mount Tabor, and passed Mount
Hermon, which we kept on our left, and at
three o'clock we reached the village of Zara-
heen. This is larger than either of the former,
and is peopled also by Mohammedans. It is
seated on the brow of a stony hill, facing to the


north-east, and overlooking a valley into which
the plain of Esdraelon seems to descend ; and
through the openings of which the mountains
on the east of the Jordan are visible. It has a
high modern building in the centre, like that at
Shufammer, and perhaps about fifty dwellings
around it. We saw here also several sarco-
phagi, both plain and sculptured, corresponding
in size, form, and material, to those seen before.

To the east of this place, in a vale, is another
village, and a smaller one is seen in the same
direction on the peaked top of a high hill.
Of these our guide knew not even the names ;
but all of them, he said, were peopled by

At four o'clock we came to a ridge of stony
ground, interrupting the general line of the
plain, and passed another deserted village, called
Makhaebly, leaving it on our right. It has a
ruined mosque in its centre, and a white-washed
tomb of some saint a little to the left of it. From
hence we continued again in a southerly direc-
tion, over uneven, and generally stony ground,
until at five we came in sight of Jeneen.

The approach to this town from the north-
ward is interesting, as it is seated at the southern
edge of a small but fine plain, cut off from that
of Esdraelon only by the stony ridge of low
land just passed over. Behind it is a low range


of grey hills, and in front some woods of olives
give great relief to the picture. The minareh
and dome of a mosque are seen rising above a
mass of flat-roofed dwellings, and from the gal-
lery of the former the call to evening-prayers
was heard as we entered the town. It does not
appear to possess more than a hundred habita-
tions in all, but it is furnished with a bazar and
several coffee-sheds. The ruins of a large Gothic
building are seen in the centre of the town near
the mosque, and around it are several palm-
trees, which, from their rarity here, struck me
as more beautiful than I had ever thought them

Jeneen is governed by a Sheikh, who is tri-
butary both to Acre and Damascus, as it is
considered to be the frontier town between these
two pashalics. It has, however, no military sta-
tioned there, and its inhabitants are all Moham-
medans. Without the town, to the northward,
are several saints' tombs, and in the hills to the
southward are many rude grottoes. The range
of hills, at the northern foot of which the town
of Jeneen is seated, may be considered as the
southern boundary of the great plain of Esdrae-
lon, and as the limit between Galilee and Sa-
maria ; for between it and the range on which
Nazareth stands, there are only a few interrup-
tions of rising ground here and there, without


any marked boundary. The whole of this ex-
tensive space is covered with a fine red soil,
and had once several considerable settlements
on it, as may be inferred from the sepulchres
and sarcophagi at Eksall, at Mezra, at Fooli, and
at Makhaebly, all seated on small eminences
admirably suited for the situation of agricultural
towns. It is now, however, lying waste, except-
ing only a few patches ploughed for cultivation
towards its southern edge.

Jeneen, or Genin, is no doubt the Ginea * of
some writers, and the Geman t of Josephus,
as he calls it, a village situate in the great plain
of Samaria, it being the boundary between that
province and Galilee ; and he describes a fight
which happened there between some Galilean
Jews, who were going up to Jerusalem to the
feast of tabernacles, and the Samaritans of
Geman who opposed them. {

We passed on through Jeneen without halt-
ing, going by a narrow pass between stony hills

* r<va/«. Vicus qui Samaritin a septentrione terminat, in
campo situs. — Vide et vocem Geman. Illic loci situs est
hodieque vicus Zjennin, vel ut alii scribunt Jennin, dictus, et
transeunt ilium qui Ptolemaide Samariam, atque ita Hiero-
solymas, tendunt. Reland. 1. iii. de urbibus et vicis Palcestinse,
p. 812.

f I>xav. Vicus situs in magno campo Samaritidis. Ibid,
p. 803.

+ Joseph. Jewish Wap, b. ii. c. 12. s. 3.


to the south of the town. As the sun was now
set, and the sky overcast, it grew too dark to ob-
serve any thing of the road beyond, except that
it was rugged and bad. In about two hours
after quitting Jeneen, we reached the village of
Cabaat, where our entrance was so opposed by
the dogs, that we were almost stunned with their
barking. Some of the Mohammedan villagers
seeing us journeying on our way at so late an
hour, brought us bread and water while on
horseback, without even being solicited to do
so, and when we halted to accept it, both com-
pliments and blessings were mutually inter-

Our road now improved, and about ten o'clock
we reached the foot of a steep hill, on which the
walled town of Sanhoor is built. We alighted
and walked up to the gate, demandingadmission
for an English traveller on his way to Nablous,
who brought a letter from Catafago at Nazareth,
and sought protection from Hadjee Ahmed
Gerar, the chief of the place. The terms of
our demand were immediately communicated
to the venerable pilgrim, and in a few minutes
the gates were opened to us, and we were saluted
and welcomed as strangers but yet as friends.

On being conducted to the chief, we found
him sitting on a stone bench in the court of his
house, and surrounded by a circle of dependants,

vol. j i. e c


who seemed to think themselves honoured by
being admitted, like Mordecai of old, to sit at
the king's gate. All rose at our entrance, a
carpet and cushions were placed for me on the
right hand of the master ; our horses were fed,
a supper provided, and every mark of hospitality
and attention shown to us.

In the ardour of conversation with this seem-
ingly estimable man, I had quite forgotten to
deliver my letter to him, until our supper was
finished, and he had presented me with his own
Nargeeh * As soon as he received it, a young
scribe was sent for, who read the contents of
the epistle aloud, and all listened and applauded,
for it was full of the most extravagant enco-
miums, It was gratifying to me, however, to
consider, that such false representations of
wisdom, talents, honour, and wealth, had no
share in obtaining for me the kind reception
given to our party ; and happily, as the utmost
had already been done, even such a letter could
not draw more from our benevolent host.

Our conversation of the evening was chiefly
on the state of Europe, on the countries I had
visited, and those I hoped to see. As the chief

* jjjk-.. py the Persian name for a cocoa-nut, which, as
that fruit is not a production of Arabia but of India, is adopted
by the Arabs, and in this case applied to an apparatus for
Smoking, the body of which is made of a cocoa-nut shell.


had been himself twice at Mecca, making the
journey from Damascus, I learned from him
also some interesting particulars on that route,
and we talked a great deal of those parts of
Arabia which we had both seen, namely the
ports of the Hedjaz. An excellent bed was
prepared for me in a separate room, with clean
sheets, and cushions covered with silk, and
every arrangement was made for my comfort
that I could possibly desire.

Among the party assembled around the fire in
the court, (for the evening was bleak and cold, j
was an old amateur of muskets and pistols,
called Sheikh Ibrahim, who asked me a thousand
questions about the names of the celebrated
makers in the different capitals of Europe, and
brought me at least twenty different pieces to
examine. His passion for arms was so strong,
that he had brought up his son as a gun-smith,
though he himself had been self-taught, and
among some locks that were shown to me as the
work of the son, in imitation of English ones,
with the name of Wilson upon them, there were
several that would not have disgraced an Euro-
pean artist. When we talked of the perfection
to which this manufactory was brought in Eng-
land, and the improved methods used in the
working of metals there, as far as I was myself
imperfectly acquainted with them, the old man
cc 2


swore by his beard, that if I would take him to
that country, only for a few months, that he
might witness these wonders, as he called them,
he would serve me in the capacity of servant, or
soldier, or groom, or any thing in short that I
might command, during the whole of the way.

We continued up until past midnight, with
scarcely an interval of silence ; and every thing
that I saw of the venerable pilgrim-chief, during
that time, impressed me with an idea of bene-
volence, meekness, and goodness of heart, supe-
rior to any thing that I had ever yet witnessed
in Turk or Arab. To increase the obligation
under which he had already laid us to his kind-
ness, he insisted upon our being accompanied,
from hence to Nablous, by one of his own
horsemen, who would be answerable for our
security, as the road, he said, was perfectly im-
passable without some protection of that kind.
This was, therefore, ordered, and bidding this
excellent old man adieu, as we intended to depart
at sunrise, we all retired to repose.

17th. We were stirring with the dawn, but
early as the hour was, we were not suffered to
depart without our morning cup of coffee, and a
supply of provision for the way.

Our route lay to the southward, in .which
direction we went for about an hour, in a narrow
valley, with stony hills on both sides, when at


eight o'clock we reached a large village, called
Jabbaugh. This is seated on a hill, and sur-
rounded by valleys filled with olive-trees. Seve-
ral marks of superior industry began to appear
in the cultivation of the soil ; and the face of
the country, though more rugged, was far more
fertile than before.

After quitting this village, the road was very
hilly ; but instead of the parched brown of the
plains below, we were gratified by the sight of
young corn and verdant spots, even to the moun-
tain top. Small villages were seen on eminences
around us in every direction, and the whole
scene bore an appearance of active industry.
This striking difference between the state of the
hill-country and the plain, is to be sought for,
perhaps, rather in the character of the inhabit-
ants of these separate districts, than in the in-
fluence of its respective governments, as imagined
by some travellers. * The tyranny of Djezzar
no longer remains to check the efforts of indus-
try through his fine territory ; but, on the con-
trary, Suliman, the present Pasha of Acre,
bears universally a higher character for benevo-
lence, equity, and liberal government, than any
of those who have lately held the pashalic of Da-
mascus in their hands.

* Dr. Clarke's Travels, vol. ii. c. 15. p. 503.


The country known by the name of Samaria,
joined to Galilee on the north, and to Judea on
the south ; and commencing at Ginea, Ginnan,
or Gennin, at the termination of the great plain
of Esdraelon, extended as far as the toparchy of
Acrabatena, towards Jerusalem. The descrip-
tion given of the face of the country, its soil, and
productions, as resembling that of Judea, is so
far true, that both are composed of abrupt and
rugged hills, and differ essentially from the
plains of Galilee. But while in Judea the hills
are mostly as bare as the imagination could paint
them, and a few of the narrow valleys only are
fertile; in Samaria, the very summits of the
eminences are as well clothed as the sides of
them. These, with the luxuriant valleys which
they enclose, present scenes of unbroken verdure
in almost every point of view, which are delight-
fully variegated by the picturesque forms of the
hills and vales themselves, enriched by the oc-
casional sight of wood and water, in clusters of
olive and other trees, and rills and torrents run-
ning among them.

At nine o'clock, continuing still over hilly
ground, we reached the village of Beit-Emireen *,
which contains about forty dwellings. It is

j xj e^Ju the house of the two princes.


seated on a rising ground, on a chalky soil, and
surrounded by valleys thickly wooded with olive-

At ten we were nearly opposite to Subussta,
having it on our right ; and as it formed a con-
venient spot to refresh at, we turned out of the
common path about a furlong to make our halt
there. A circular ruin, appearing to be the
eastern end of an old Christian church, made a
picturesque appearance as it rose on the brow of
the hill ; and beyond it, towards the summit,
several columns of some more ancient buildings,
were still erect. In entering Subussta, we saw
in the road an old sarcophagus, and not far from
it a pent-roofed cover, both at the foot of the
hill on which the present village stands. This
village consists only of about thirty dwellings,
all extremely humble, and the place is governed
by its own Sheikh, who is himself a husbandman.
It is seated on a stony hill, but is surrounded
by fruitful valleys and abundance of olive-trees,
and occupies a commanding, as well as a pleasant

The city of Samaria was the capital of the
country included under that name, and stood
pretty nearly in the centre of it. Its first foun-
dation is ascribed to Omri, who, after the death
of his rival, Tibni, was acknowledged by the
people of Israel as their king, in the thirty-first
c c 1


year of Asa king of Judah. " And he bought
the hill Samaria, of Shemer, for two talents of
silver*, and built on the hill, and called the
name of the city which he built after the name
of Shemer, owner of the hill, Samaria." t

After an evil reign, Omri was himself buried
there ; and his son, Ahab, who succeeded him,
set up an altar, with a house or temple which he
had erected to Baal the god of the Sidonians, in
the city of his father. J The name of the
country, however, seems to have been established
before ; as in a preceding part of the same
chronicles, the cities of Samaria, and all the
houses of the high-places within them, are spoken
of. Some, indeed, have thought this said of the ,
city of Omri in anticipation, by a prolepsis ; but
when the country retained always the name of
Samaria, as well as this city standing on the hill
of Shemer, it is easy to conceive the preceding
passage as applying to the high places of idola-
trous worship which existed previous to the
building of the city, in the towns of Samaria

It was during the reign of Ahab, the son of
Omri, that this city was besieged by Ben-hadad,
the king of Syria, who led with him all his host,

* Equal to 684/. 7s. (jd. sterling. -j- 1 Kings, xvi. 24.

$ 1 Kings, xvi. 28—32.


and carried thirty and two kings with him from
beyond Euphrates *, in his train. The insolence
of his message, and the servility of the answer
returned to it by Ahab, could scarcely be justi-
fied in either, even by the presence of such an
overpowering force ; but the effects of such
submission were, as they always are with tyrants,
to heighten arrogance. Not content with being
allowed to say, " Thy silver and thy gold is
mine, thy wives also and thy children, even the
goodliest, are mine, ,, he desired that the lowest
of his servants should lay their hands on whatever
was pleasant in their eyes. The infuriate and
boasting vow which followed the refusal is quite
in the spirit of eastern bombast : " And Ben-
hadad sent unto him and said, the gods do so
unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria
shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that
follow me." While the sarcastic defiance which
such a proud message extorted, even from the
wavering Ahab, is equally characteristic of the
concise sententiousness that as often marked the
sayings of the times. " And the king of Israel
answered and said, Tell him, Let not him that
girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that
putteth it off." The result proved the difference
between these contrasted moments, and showed

* Joseph. Ant. Jutl. 1. 8. c. 14. s. 1.


that a confidence of victory is not always followed
by the attainment of it. *

The people having attributed the victory of
the Israelites to their gods, as gods of the hills,
advised their leader to draw them into the plain,
and instead of the useless kings, to put as many
captains in their place. He listened to their
voice, and numbered again an army like the
army he had lost, horse for horse, and chariot
for chariot. It was at the return of the year
that he went up a second time with this formi-
dable host against Samaria, where, as it is em-
phatically said, " The children of Israel pitched
before them like two little flocks of kids, while

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Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 21 of 26)