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for a while motionless, stood up and extended his
hands for a minute, again knelt in the same lowly
fashion. How long he continued I know not, for he
was still engaged when we left, but another joined him
whilst we stood by. I fancy he looked a little
embarrassed at finding himself watched, but if so he
was not hindered, for he began his devotions as his
fellow Moslem was doing. I whispered to M., who is


a stiff High Churchman, " Do you suppose that
prayers so earnest as these evidently are wasted in
the empty air ? " " I am sure they cannot be," was
the reply. And I fully agreed with him. I was
deeply moved by the intensity of their manner, and
trusted that in the church which I know best in
London, the Lord of all souls will give equal earnest-
ness to those whom I see on week days praying there
with a better faith and fuller hope.

The Pyramids I cannot attempt to describe. They
are familiar enough in photographs and books as far
as description is possible. They stand on the edge
of the Libyan desert, and within ten minutes' walk of
them is the great Sphinx. Of all the impressive
figures I have ever seen there is none like that. There
it lies reposing, but with head erect, gazing eastward
with calm, large eyes into the illimitable distance,
and- — yes ! I write it deliberately — giving to all of us
the impression of consciousness. Even as we saw it
surveying the world, Abraham saw it. If the world
shall continue to last as many centuries as the Sphinx
has gazed on it, what further changes will the great
creature behold ? God knows. And all doubts and
fears are stilled in the heart of him who has realised
that the true home of man is in a land as yet unseea


I attended a Coptic Celebration on Sunday morning,
and was agreeably impressed. The language, as
many readers will know, is Greek in basis, with an
intermingling of barbarous words, and written in
ancient characters. I expected to be able to follow it
with a translation, but found myself suddenly thrown
off the line more than once when I was getting along
smoothly. I have heard East-end clergy say that
when they get people to church there are often
complaints that they can't follow the Prayer Book
because of the turning from one part to another. I
used to think this nonsense ; but my own discomfiture
leads me to think there is something in it. However,
a young man by my side helped me several times. It
is really a beautiful service, mostly, I believe, that of
St. Basil. The method of Communicating is very
peculiar. The bread is much like our ordinary kind ;
one of the deacons afterwards gave me a loaf, which I
am taking home. As the priest stands at the altar the
receivers, who have put on a white robe, pass round it,
and he places the holy bread in their mouths. And
they still continue to pass round and to receive again
and again till the whole is consumed. There were
about a dozen, and I think about three of these acts of
reception for each. Then the cup, out of which he
Communicated them with a spoon. Some of the


Communicants were children of seven and eight years
old, and a mother brought a sick baby who was also
Communicated. One Communicant, so I was told,
was the chief judge in the law courts.

We saw a very pathetic scene at Tewfik's tomb,
where his mother was praying for his soul, and each
day a thousand people are fed with bread, meat, and
rice. I was offered coffee and a cigarette, and was
about to refuse, when my neighbour whispered to me
that it would be taken as unkind, so I drank and
smoked. It is, of course, intended to symbolise the
desire for the happiness of the dead. It was note-
worthy that those charged with the feeding of the
multitude caused them to sit down in square patches
of a dozen each, and then placed the dish between
them. It reminded me of the irpacrLal irpaaiai of St.
Mark vi. 39. I have no time to tell about the
Howling Dervishes or of the Cairo Bazaars.


February i$tk.

We left Cairo on the 10th, and went to Alexandria

for a night. Early next morning I gave an old

Moslem a franc to take me to the Church of St.

E 2


Mark, and to my unspeakable disgust he took me to
the English Church. However, there was no time
to remedy matters, for we had to go aboard our
ship, the Mahallah. Had we sailed from Port Said
we should have had a voyage of only twelve hours,
but there was no boat going ; that from Alexandria
to Jaffa took us twenty-six hours. But the sea was
perfectly smooth, and though I am almost always
wretched afloat, I enjoyed this voyage thoroughly.
We were sitting on deck enjoying the bright sun and
cool breeze when Mrs. W. exclaimed, " I think I see
the land." I sat facing her, and for a moment
thought of her as looking west, and so curtly told her
that she might as well expect to see America from
the coast of Cornwall, and did not trouble to look
round. Directly after I saw the absurdity of my own
remark, and turned myself. Yes, it was unmistakable,
a large stretch of coast, most pleasant to behold.
This, then, was our first view of Asia, sand hills on
the Philistine coast, not unlike those which you see
between Calais and Boulogne. Presently Jaffa came
in sight, a bright, handsome-looking town, on a low
rounded hill with a stretch of houses extending along
the level coast. Those on the hill rising tier above
tier with their flat roofs and bright appearance (many
of them being evidently new) reminded one of the


Mediterranean towns in Italy. We cast anchor
about three-quarters of a mile from the land ; there
is no harbour whatever.

I may take this opportunity of inserting a
parenthesis here. I am writing it a week later. We
had a tremendous storm of sand on Sunday, and I
heard last night that the Jaffa boat was unable to
land for twenty-four hours, and that in all
probability this letter will not reach England for a
fortnight in consequence.

A number of boats lay ready in the distance, but
made no movement towards us. They could not do
so till our doctor had gone ashore to report our good
health. It was evident when he had done so, for
suddenly four big boats darted out, strongly manned.
It was most curious to see the way the men rowed ;
they rose up each time they put in their oar, got a
good purchase by putting one foot on the seat in
front of them, and so pulled in, sitting down as they
did so, then rising as before. As it was what would
in England be a piping hot summer's day, their
condition may be imagined by the time they reached
us. Again the name of " Cook," which we shouted
over the sides, wrought wonders ; a man, with the


same magic word on his collar and cap, came up
with his men, inquired which was our luggage, asked
for our keys (for the custom house) then handed us
over to one of his staff. We saw no more of our
belongings till we came to our hotel, and there was
everything, big boxes, little boxes, bags, wraps,
umbrellas — nothing missing. But what a scene was
that half-mile walk to the hotel. Up narrow winding
alleys, as crowded as any London court I have ever
seen, almost every person in Eastern costume, the
Bedouins with " kefiyeh " (head-dress with long sides
to it hanging down on his shoulders) and striped
garment of camel's hair, and the fellaheen in turbans
and long white robe with an "abba," thrown over it
(a dark cloak). And hundreds of these people were
offering fruits and small manufactures for sale. Now
and then we emerged into a little square with the
sellers all round the sides, and in the midst camels
lying about and children playing among them. The
camel has not a very good character among travellers
He is said to be spiteful, and it may be quite true,
but I have never seen one so among the hundreds I
have seen in the East. It is wonderful to watch
him kneel down at the peculiar cry of the child who
has charge of him, and to see the patient way in
which he goes sturdily on in spite of all sorts of


obstacles. If a storm of wind blows the sand in his
eyes, he turns his head aside, but does not alter his
plodding step. I saw one heavily laden with timber
which was strapped to him horizontally, and now and
then the boards gave him a great knock on the side
of his head. He winced a little, but on he steadily
went, a faithful beast. "Ce vilain [distinctly libellous]
animal est le grand philosophe du monde," said
Chateaubriand. I think he was referring to the
comical way in which the animal lifts its nose in the
air, but the remark will also have force as one sees
how coolly he takes adversity. The weight he is
able to carry is astonishing, and marvellous it is to
see twenty camels tied together and marching along
with their loads, with only one or two men to guide

I had been reading a book of travel which spoke
of Jaffa as an inexpressibly filthy town, and the
approach to the house of Simon the Tanner as
absolutely impassable for ladies. We % found it
nothing of the kind. To be sure, the hot sun had
dried up everything; a wet day might have put the
lanes into a very slushy condition. As it was, I saw
a dead cat by the side of the road, and there was a
mud-heap or two, but I have seen many London
streets very much worse. The flat-roofed hovels that


we passed certainly looked poor enough, but the
people were civil and fairly clean. So in about ten
minutes' walk among the lanes we came to the house
we sought, looked into the dwelling-room (now
turned into a small Mosque), and then mounted by
a stone staircase, out of doors, to the roof. I don't
care much whether the ancient tradition as to this
site be true. It must be like the actual site, it is an
ancient house, and is "by the seaside." Over the
same sea St. Peter must have gazed, and I regretted
much that I had not brought my Christian Year
with me, and read Keble's beautiful imaginings
concerning the Apostle's- thoughts as he looked
wistfully towards the isles of the West and won-
dered what was in store for them in the counsels of

From Jaffa we went to Ramleh the same after-
noon, about six miles, passing, as we left Jaffa, the
alleged house of Tabitha, now dismantled, but a
drinking fountain is attached to the wall. All along
the road are orange and lemon groves, some with
the fruit still ungathered, but not all. They sold us
oranges, eight for a piastre (about twopence), and I
never before tasted any half so good. The gardens
are protected from the road by hedges of huge


cactus, or prickly pear, and most formidable they
are. Dr. Geikie, commenting on the statement in
2 Sam. xviii., that "the wood devoured that day
more than the sword," points out that these great
bunches of cactus are sufficient to kill a man who
is driven into them, and the rocks and ruts which
we saw in some of the woods increased the danger
a hundred-fold. We gathered many beautiful scarlet
anemones and white irises as we passed through the
plain of Sharon. As to whether either of these was
"the rose" so named, I must leave the reader to
judge after he has consulted any of the excellent
new Bible Helps of the Universities and Messrs.

Ramleh is beautifully situated on the plain. It has
a most picturesque cemetery with many trees, and
there is a ruined Mosque with a lovely tower, 120 ft.
high, in the style of that of an Early English church.
The guide-book says that from the top you can see
Mount Carmel and Beersheba, the Mediterranean,
and Mount Pisgah — in fact a panorama of the whole
country. But the day was closing in, and we did
not make the ascent. It was a novelty in our quiet
walk through the tombs to hear the sharp snarling
bark of two or three jackals in the neighbouring


thicket. Biblical students are aware that the word
translated foxes means jackals, and that it was these
animals with which Samson amused himself at the
expense of the Philistines (Judges xv. 4). Our
dragoman stopped our carriage on our way to tell us
that we were on the spot where he did it. Of course
it was somewhere in the neighbourhood, for we were
going through the Philistine district, and it would
have been unkind of me to have asked him how he
knew the exact spot.

We supped and slept comfortably in a comical
hotel at Ramleh, and next morning pursued our
journey. In a glorious sweep of the plain, stretching
as far as we could see right and left of us, and with
bold hill peaks a mile or so in front, our guide
stopped us again to tell us that we were in the
valley of Ajalon. A peak to which he pointed
among the hills to our left he said was the Lower
Bethhoron. I found on careful examination that he
was right about this, and though my map marks
Ajalon as some two or three miles north of our road,
I quite realised that the fugitive army which fled
before Joshua on that memorable day of Joshua x.,
must have been scattered far and wide over our plain
as he drove them pell-mell down the heights. Stanley's


wonderfully vivid description of the scene will be
familiar to many readers.

After crossing the " Shefelah " (translated so many
ways in our version, " low country," " low plain,"
"vale valley") we came at length to a rough place
called "the Gate of the Mountain," and here we
stayed half an hour to rest our horses. For now we
were at the end of the valley, and were about to
mount into the hill country of Judaea. I was much
interested to watch the incidents of the moment.
An old labourer, almost naked, drawing up water
from a well and sending some of it through a trough
to a cistern below to water the animals, and his
pretty daughter, a girl of about fifteen, bare-footed,
and with only a single garment except a long mantle
hanging round her from her head-dress, very graceful
and becoming, who kept coming with a great earthern
water-pot sideways on her head, filling it and return-
ing with it upright, one hand steadying it at
rough places, but otherwise both hands down.
Once I saw a man ride by, and he asked for a
draught. With a grace which Rebekah might have
envied, she let the pitcher down on one arm while
her brother filled him a cup full ere he went on
his way.


At length we started again, and strange and never-
to-be-forgotten were our sensations as we steadily
mounted up into the mountain region. It was like a
Swiss pass, except that for pine trees we had olives.
Of course we had no lofty heights as in the Alps, but
got into a mean height of about 3,000 feet, valleys
and hills undulating very beautifully. The road is
a noble bit of engineering as good as any Alpine pass.
For a good while I was struck with dismay at the
desolate appearance of everything. Olive trees there
were in plenty, but the whole ground, far and near,
seemed covered with boulders and heaps of stones.
It has taken me a week to correct my first impressions.
A man who has lived in the rich soil of the midlands
will be greatly scandalised by the heaps of flints in a
cornfield in the South Downs, and both he and
the Southerners would stand aghast at the rough
character of a Swiss farm. But they all find that the
land answers to the demands made upon it. I am
here in February. It hardly looks as if any crops
could be got out of soil so unpromising. But a good
deal is got by good management, and if one could be
here in harvest time that would be made manifest.
The villages we passed looked lonely and poverty-
stricken. I saw that the houses had walled gardens
with little in them, but they will in a few weeks be


gay and rich. It looked very like a Scotch moor,
only grayer. No time remains to describe the
incidents of our journey as we went on through
historic scenes, until at half-past three we went
through a massive gate-way in an ancient wall. We
are in the holy City of Jerusalem, and the first object
which meets our eyes is the castle which covers the
site of David's Palace, afterwards rebuilt by Herod
the Great. I wish I could show the reader that noble
citadel as it is to-day ; for the recent researches of ex-
plorers has confirmed the opinion that the foundations
up to about twelve or fourteen feet from the ground
are the very work which David built.


February 22nd.

I WILL try in this letter to give the reader some idea
of Jerusalem. A map, of course, is impossible, but I
venture to recommend to everybody the sixpenny
Bible Atlas of the S.P.C.K. There are one or two
inaccuracies revealed by late investigations, but the
original compilers — one living, one dead — were two as
painstaking students as ever lived.

I am lodging outside the walls on the N.W. corner
of the city, and from this I start. There is now a


large extramural suburb, a very large portion of which
is occupied by Russians. Their consulate, like our
own, is in this suburb. They have built a very large
and imposing house for it, besides a great hospice
" for Greek Pilgrims," which, being interpreted, means
for barracks, whenever they get the opportunity of so
using them. Rumour goes that one consul has re-
ceived his dismissal because when a contiguous piece
of land was in the market he did not buy it for his
Government. It is now being laid out as a public
recreation place. There are two or three streets, in
this part, which are in a very rough, unpaved, un-
finished state at present; but bid fair to make a
handsome show by and bye. Everything here looks
new, and is so. Old descriptions of the City all dwell
on its confinement within the walls. It is "built as a
city that is at unity in itself."

About ten minutes' walk from this corner of the
walls is a valley which here comes to an end, rjsing
gently to the level of the surrounding land. This is
the valley of Gihon, and just at the spring of it is the
" Upper Pool." Following this valley down, we
approach very near the western wall of the City,
passing the imposing "Jaffa Gate." Close to tin's is a
magnificent square pile of masonry, now a Turkish
barrack, but known at the time of our Lord's birth as


Herod's Palace, and it was hither that the Wise Men
came (Matt. ii.). But Herod had only beautified and
partly rebuilt the palace of King David. The im-
mense stones which rise up in sloping form to the
first string-course are almost to a certainty the work
of David. This point then is the N.W. extremity of
Mount Zion, the M upper city " which the great king
took from the Jebusites. The meaning of the Psalm
flashes forth as you stand outside and look up from

the valley : " The hill of Zion is a fair place on

the north side thereof lieth the city of the Great King."
A little farther to the south is the lower Pool of Gihon,
and here the valley changes names. It gets a great
deal deeper, and is known as the Valley of Hinnom.
At the bottom of it the City is quite out of view. It
turns eastwards, and your left hand now, therefore, is
toward the southern wall of the City. And here let
me pause to mention an inaccuracy in the S. P. C. K.
map of ancient Jerusalem (No. 8). The wall is now
proved to have bent eastward immediately W. of the
Palace of the High Priest. If the reader will draw a
line from that point, through the letter E in the word
" Essence " (which, by the way, is a misprint for
" Essenes "), to the wall as shown in the map he will
correct the error. Recent discovery has shown that
this was the course of the wall in S.W. Zion, and


what is more, the part unearthed is part of the
old Jcbusite wall, older than the date of David's

I do not stay to remark on the historical associa-
tions of the Valley of Hinnom. The reader can seek
them out for himself. Let us clamber up to the
northern top of it, to the level of the City. The
present boundary has receded (see map 14), and much
that was within the ancient wall is now outside.
Notably this is the case with the tomb of David, the
Palace of Caiaphas, the room of the Last Supper. As
I have said, the remains of the ancient wall enclosing
them are discernible, but they are on the open hill,
and therefore I may speak of them here. The tomb
of David is empty. Herod broke it open in order
to find treasure, but found, to his disgust, that some
other robber had been before him. It is now closed,
but over it is a cenotaph covered with rich cloths in
a carpeted room, just as Stanley describes those of
Abraham and Sarah in the Cave of Machpelah. The
" Room of the Last Supper " is really under the
same roof. It is a " large upper room," its roof
supported by plain stone pillars, and with no orna-
ments about it. As to the authenticity, who shall
say? The tradition is no doubt very ancient. If it
be a true one, might not one venture to surmise that


our Lord was asserting His royalty in choosing the
place which adjoined the tomb of His ancestor? The
" Palace of Caiaphas " is now an Armenian Convent.

Passing on eastwards, on the north side of the
Valley of Hinnom, I see opposite me, on the south side,
a large cemetery, covering, in fact, the whole side of the
valley. There is an enclosure with a few olive trees
in it, and some tombs which have been appropriated
by some of the very poor as habitations. And this is
no other than Aceldama. To get there would have
involved descending the valley and climbing to the
other side, and it was more than I felt equal to in the
hot sun. The ground everywhere is covered with
great boulders, and walking upon the stony paths is
very hard work.

Yet further east we came to a black, hideous stream,
offensive to eye and nostril, and to a pool where a
woman was washing clothes. I thought at first that
the stream and the pool were connected, but am
rejoiced to believe that it is not so, for this pool is
none other than the head of —

Siloah's brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God.

It is the pool of Siloam, and at best its water is not

appetising to look upon. But the black stream is the

open sewerage of the city, too horrible even to think



of a second time. The sight of it brought to my
memory a sad passage or two from the Lamentations,
and also the bright promises of Ezekiel xlvii. And
now another valley, that of Jehoshaphat, comes down
from the north and joins Hinnom, and they both go
away together southwards like two rivers that have
met, and spread themselves out into the Vale of
Rephaim. (See 2 Sam. v. 17 — end.)


As I pass up through the Valley of Jehoshaphat the
eastern city wall is again well in sight. For I am on
the opposite side of the ravine, the valley, as before,
below my path. That path is sometimes not above a
foot wide, stony and precipitous, but a donkey of this
country is as calm and sure-footed over it as was ever
horse on an English turnpike, and I give him his head
and look about me. Well ; first, there is the Temple
wall on my left. More of that hereafter. On my right
is the Mount of Olives, but as I am close under it
only the foot is visible. The olive trees are thick on
the side. My path is among thousands of tombs, all
I believe Jewish, and some of them are of sur-
passing interest. The most prominent is that of
Absalom. Close to it is that of St. James-the-Less,
Bishop of Jerusalem, simple, yet handsome, three
columns supporting an entablature. He was martyred


by being hurled from the pinnacle (pterugion) of the
Temple, almost exactly opposite. And next to that
is the tomb of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada, a
square tomb supporting a pyramid. This is a
Hebrew tomb, and almost certainly was there in our
Lord's time. It had recently been erected by the
priesthood, and it is no extravagant flight of fancy to
suppose that Christ was actually pointing to it from
P the Temple area (where I have seen it a second time
this morning) when He uttered St. Matt, xxiii. 29-31
and 35. This was the spot where Josiah burnt the
idols, and where Athaliah was slain.

A few minutes further, and we are on yet more
sacred ground. With my right hand on the enclosure
of Gethsemane, I pointed out to my companions the
little bridge over the Kidron on our left, with the
certainty that there within the circle of half-a-dozen
yards the xviith of St. John must have been uttered.
We took off our hats and spoke with bated breath.
Then we entered the " Garden," first taking note of
our guide's words that on the great mass of flat stones
outside the gate eight disciples slept, while three were

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Online LibraryWilliam BenhamThe letters of Peter Lombard (Canon Benham) → online text (page 5 of 16)