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as boring a hole through an ironclad. At length we
emerged upon a village, squalid, indeed, for the most
part, but yet with good gardens and other signs of
having well-to-do people. This was Shunem, the
village of the rich woman who provided a habitation
for Elisha. Leaving it we passed round the mountain,
and in an hour reached Nain. The place of the
miracle, so affectingly related by St. Luke, is des-
cribed as being near " the gate of the city." That
probably means merely the entrance, for there are no
signs of walls. At that entrance we rested. There
is a small church built on the spot, and in that we
read the narrative together. Then once more we
continued our journey over the plain, and so began
our ascent of the hills of Galilee. On our right we
saw Endor about two miles off, the scene of Saul's
interview with the witch : and we passed along the
foot of Tabor, a lofty, rounded top abundantly
wooded, very much in appearance like the Yorkshire
Penygent. The road to Nazareth is an ascent of
about two hours, and I am ready to confess that it
proved less interesting to me than any town I had
yet visited in the Holy Land. True that our blessed


Lord spent thirty years of His life here, but no
incidents of that life are recorded beyond the fact
that He " was subject to His parents." Consequently
there are no localities on which the imagination can
dwell. Nazareth is more like a European town than
any that we have seen in this country. I even saw a
steam engine working a mill. And the houses have
doors and windows. But closer acquaintance is not
pleasing. As we rode along we saw a new house
being built, and I was grieved to see women carrying
heavy loads of stone, and if I am not mistaken,
working the trowel. Our road had an open sewer
all down the middle of it, and there lay a dead dog
and a dead horse, both of which had certainly been
there a considerable time. We passed, at the entrance
to the more crowded part, a fountain which probably
was there in our Saviour's time, and in that case His
blessed Mother must have oftimes been there with her
pitcher, as we saw the women. The Franciscans have
a convent, beneath which is the alleged house of
Joseph and Mary, but I was not impressed by it, and
do not believe that it was genuine. The synagogue
of Luke iv. which I visited was more probable ; it is
an ancient plain building, and this and the fountain
were the only sites in Nazareth that I could accept
as possibly genuine. The " Mount of Precipitation "


(Luke iv. 29) may be so : but the city is not built
upon it. The passage may mean the brow of the
range of the hills — it overlooks the Vale of Esdraelon.

We spent Sunday there, and had a Communion
together in camp, as there was none in the English
church. My friends went to morning service after-
wards and heard a service in Arabic at which "Jesus
lover of my soul " was sung in that tongue. There
appears to be good work going on here. Mr.
Gollmer, the clergyman, came to see me, a very
good and sensible man.

Our next destination was Mt. Carmel. A long
ride to the south-west brought us once more to the
Plain of Esdraelon on the western side. It was a
wide, shallow stream where we forded it, and the spot
is named Hartyizeh. It is the " Harosheth of the
Gentiles," where Sisera dwelt. We carefully surveyed
the field of battle from the hill above. The Taanach
and Megiddo of Deborah's song were within sight,
on the south of the Plain. The encounter took place
in the plain itself, near these towns. Sisera was dis-
comfited ; a storm of wind and rain favoured his
adversaries, and the Kishon became impassable. It
is no wonder, for the river is one of the most dangerous


rivers in Palestine at such times. As we crossed it
on our way to Nazareth, we had a heavy shower,
almost the only rains that we had, and our dragoman
was very anxious in consequence, and when we had
to ford it further down, he not only made careful
enquiries beforehand about the condition of the river,
but employed a native to go with us and pilot us.
Mr. Gollmer told me that he was once riding hither
with a guide, and one of the Turkish police told the
latter that if he dared take his companion across in
the present state of the river he would report him and
have him imprisoned. It is not so much that the
river swells rapidly as that the alluvial banks are soft
and treacherous, and the horses are terrified to find
themselves losing their footing. The manner of
Sisera's defeat is as clear as any military narrative that
I know. In our case we rode down the river and
explored our way carefully before fording it. At our
crossing place it is about five and twenty feet wide.

So crossing the plain we came at length to the
slope of Mount Carmel, our destination for the night.
I hardly know why, but I have always imagined this
mountain to be like Beachy Head, a mere promontory.
No conception could be more inadequate to the
reality. Carmel is a great and broad mountain



range, a group of the Alps on a small scale. This
will be seen if I succeed in giving a clear idea of our
journey over it. Our halting place was the scene of
Elijah's sacrifice (i Kings xviii.). The site is indicated
by the name, " The burning." There is a little chapel
on the top of the range, but the Editor of Murray
thinks the actual place a quarter of an hour's walk
lower down, and has good reason for his conjecture.
It is fully in sight of Jezreel, which is right across the
plain in front of us, sixteen miles off. Below us
flows the Kishon. On a great natural platform on
the height where we stand a vast crowd could have
easily stood that day, arid there is a spring of water
there which has never been known to be dry, from
which the water that drenched the prophet's bullock
could have been drawn. Our editor even conjectures
that two great masses of limestone in the midst of the
plateau may have served for bases of the rival altars.
Right below us on the bank of the Kishon is a great
mound, unquestionably artificial (such a one I once
saw on Towton battlefield), and to this is given the
name Tell-al-Kassis, " the hill of the priests." It is
no extravagant conjecture to fix this as the scene of
the slaughter (i K. xviii. 40). After it was ended,
Elijah went higher up the mountain, and sent his
servant (according to tradition, the youthful Jonah)


to the summit to watch for the promise of

Next day it took us nine hours to ride to the end of
the promontory, to the modern town of Haifa. That
ride revealed to us what a very large range it is. It is,
of course, not Alpine ; there are no snow peaks or
barren ranges. But there are heights and valleys quite
hidden from below, rocky gorges and precipices,
secluded valleys as there are in the Alps, some with
flocks of sheep upon them, others with fat kine, others
with fruitful fields of growing corn. There are no
great trees. Fuel is one of the scarcest of articles in
Palestine, and, except fruit trees, very few survive.
But there is abundance of brushwood, shrubs, and
thorns, and several times we came across charcoal
burners at their work, their material being this rough
shrubbery. For the first time, as I passed along
among this luxuriant vegetation, I seemed to under-
stand such expressions as "the forest of his Carmel,"
in Isaiah's message to Hezekiah, " the excellency of
Carmel," etc. " The sides of Carmel" are surpassed by
few places in the country for fertility and varied beauty.
On our way we passed Dalieh, a hamlet which figures
much in the religious vagaries of Mr. and Mrs.
Laurence Oliphant, and I believe the people there

K 2


still remember gratefully the generous kindness which
outweighed the eccentricities. We also went over the
famous monastery at the head of Carmel, where one
of the Brothers, a bright, sweet-mannered, intelligent
Frenchman, showed their treasures, such as they are,
took us on the roof, and pointed out Acre across the
bay, and in the far distance beyond it Tyre, on the
other side Caesarea. It was hazy, or we could have
seen Jaffa. I noticed a set of Newman's works in
their library, which some visitor had given them last
year, and among the " prohibited books " were a novel
or two of Dumas, a history of Indian missions, and — a
Bible. Lastly, the good monk showed us his plank
bed, whereat my bones ached for the rest of the day.
I forgot to mention that to-day we saw a herd of wild
gazelles on the side of the mountain, beautiful grace-
ful creatures, and a jackal, not beautiful. One spot I
was sorry to be hindered from visiting through lack of
time, a large cave in which Elisha is said to have
lectured " the school of the prophets." His traditional
seat is shown.

Our journey next morning lay at first along the south
side of the Bay of Acre. Our sight of the famous town
of St. Jean d'Acre was thus only such as we obtained


across the bay. It was, of course, all clear enough in
outline, even without our glasses. But, considering
what history has to tell of it, one was startled by the
insignificance of its appearance. The Israelites could
not wrest it from its Phoenician inhabitants (Judges i.
31), nor could Simon the Maccabee. The Crusaders
failed at their first siege, but took it at the second (A.D.
1 103). Saladin recaptured it after his bloody victory
of Esdraelon ( 1 1 87) ; it was recaptured by the Christians
in 1 191, after a two years' siege, at a loss of 60,000 men,
and a century later its recapture by the Moslems put an
end to the Crusades. In 1799 Buonaparte besieged it in
vain against Sir Sidney Smith, and in 1840 it was
captured by Sir Charles Napier. It looks now as if
a single ironclad could blow it all to pieces in an hour,
and this is probably the case ; but, in truth, its
importance as a military position is departed. It was
once the only entrance into Palestine from the north,
and a garrison there could keep all invaders at bay.
Modern warfare sets all such exclusiveness at

The road along the coast has two remarkable
features ; first, the great dunes, sands running far
inland over the level plain ; and, secondly, a magnifi-
cent forest of palm trees, said to be the finest in


Palestine, which lies along the outskirts of these dunes.
The palm trees, so differing in size and height, with
their dark green foliage against the sand, the white
houses, the grey haze of the mountain behind, all make
a glorious landscape. We presently crossed the
Kishon again, now a broad estuary, over a long
wooden bridge, once more struck across the Valley of
Esdraelon, and again ascended the hills of Zabulon.
Shefr 'Amr, the seat for awhile of the Jewish
Sanhedrim, has some fine rock tombs, where members
of the Great Council were buried. The greater number
of the inhabitants at present are Christians. The
C.M.S. and Roman Catholics both have schools here,
and it pains me to write it. u That they all may be
one" is a text which has echoed in my ears
unceasingly since I read it aloud on the spot where it
was uttered, and have seen the rivalries of Christians
all through the country. By the way, I am informed
by one who has been here for years that the common
statement that the Turks have to keep a detachment
of Mahometan soldiers to prevent the Greeks and
Latins at the Holy Sepulchre from killing each other
is quite untrue. These soldiers are here to see that
the precious Government gets its proper amount of
baksheesh out of the income.


Our resting place this day was SefTurieh, the
Sepphoris of Josephus. It lies on the side of a valley
embosomed among the hills, not far from Nazareth,
on the north of it. In fact we could just see the tops
of one or two houses at Nazareth on the hill above us.
Sepphoris is not mentioned in the Bible, but it was an
important place in New Testament times. Herod
Antipas made it the capital of Galilee, and tradition
gives it as the home of Joachim and Anna, the parents
of the Blessed Virgin, and her birth-place. After the
fall of Jerusalem it was the principal city in Palestine
for a while, and it was also an important stronghold in
crusading times. It is now a village of two or three
thousand people, all Mahometans. It was the first
place where the people were not civil to us. When we
reached our camp, which, as usual, was all set up by
the time we reached there, a good many of the
inhabitants had turned out to look at us. This
was nothing unusual, but these looked sullen and
spiteful. Our dragoman as usual went to a house
near to ask for water, and the woman refused him.
He is a big powerful man, and flourishing his horse-
whip he told her that there were only two alternatives ;
he would beat her and take it by force, or pay her for
it. She accepted the latter alternative, sulkily filled a
large vessel for him, and took his money without a


word of thanks. He evidently saw that he had better
make his ground good, and sent for the sheik who
soon came down, a fine-looking, middle-aged man.
Our man produced cigarettes, and they smoked peace.
The sheikh selected from the bystanding population
two strong men, told them (so I was informed) that
we were English nobles, who were the staunch friends
of the nation against the Russians, and that they were
to watch through the night that nobody robbed us.
Our dragoman at once felt that all was right; our
newly appointed guardians at once went heart and
soul into our service, took our horses down to the
pond, and made themselves every way useful. We
had no sort of annoyance afterwards here. Next day
they received a good baksheesh, as did the sheikh
himself. The dragoman is certainly a man of resource.
A few days later, when we found our tents in close
vicinity to an enormous Bedouin encampment, he
again made play with the sheikh, and secured him with
a promise for the morrow, but he also told the swarm-
ing race that we were princes, and that they had better
not come near our tent ropes, for we were heavily-
armed and peppery-tempered, and would instantly
fire upon all trespassers. I beg here to say that none
of us were parties to this " white one," but nobody
who was human, I think, could help laughing at it


when it was afterwards translated to us. He certainly
knows how to manage the people he meets. In
appearance I fancy him like Mr. Bucket the detective,
and certainly he is like him in character. He invari-
ably becomes the confidential friend of everybody that
we meet, "reckons them up," secures their co-operation,
and suppresses all extortion with imperturbable good-
will and jocosity. It is now six weeks since we have
been under his guidance, and in all our knockings
about and movings none of us have lost a single

Our next day's ride was one of as great interest as
we had had at all. It was at first ascending, and, as
usual, some of it was rough, though not so much so as
the country of the central mountain district. The
hills of Naphtali are rounded and not so high as those
of the southern country. Two places which we soon
passed were familiar from Holy Scripture. The one
is now Kefr Kenna, the other El Meshed. The latter
is the Bible Gathhepher (2 Kings xiv. 25), the village
of the prophet Jonah, and where his tomb is shown.
Kefr Kenna is Cana of Galilee. There is another
place, indeed, not far off, which claims the honour, but
Christian tradition has so entirely and constantly
asserted this to be the scene of the first miracle that it


is perversity to dispute it. It is a Christian village,
and a very pretty one — fig trees, pomegranates, and
olive trees girding it round. An old Greek monk,
whom our dragoman sought out, conducted us over
his church and showed us two of the water pots,
affixed to the wall. They are very heavy and enor-
mous stone basins of the roughest workmanship. I
have seen some of the water pots in a church at
Cologne, the whole six, if I mistake not ; so I was
forced to be sceptical concerning the relics of both
one place and the other. Close by is a Latin Church,
and the monks there insist that theirs is the scene of
the miracle. Our dragoman, who is a Maronite (they
have their Liturgy in the Syriac tongue, but are in
communion with Rome), was of course in favour of
the second site. One locality, however, we frankly
accepted as genuine, a beautiful fountain just below,
where doubtless the water pots were filled at the
Lord's command. There were half a dozen women
doing the same thing now. As we rode out of the
village we passed a house, on the front of which was
inscribed the statement that it was the house of

It was an exciting moment — we all drew rein to
gaze — when we came at length to the first view of the


Lake of Galilee, " the most sacred sheet of water in
the world," as Stanley well calls it. We had been
aware for some time of its situation, for the shelving
rocks marked unmistakably the basis of the lake
below, but it was the blue water which we so rejoiced
to see. It lay far beneath us, for this lake, too, is
650 feet below the Mediterranean level. We knew,
therefore, that it would take us some time to
reach it.

Meanwhile there was another object of absorbing
interest to look upon. A hill on our left rising out of
the undulating plateau, known as Kurun Hattin, i.e.,
"the horns of Hattin." The meaning of Hattin is
unknown ; the " horns " are the names given to the
two points which rise above the flat middle. This is
claimed by tradition as the mount on which our Lord
preached His great Sermon. There is so much in
this view which attracts me that I am loath to state
my difficulties, but I find them ; and the question is
one which interests me so deeply that I would fain
discuss them, and ask the reader to help to decide.
But this must be in my next paper, for it is needful
first to look carefully into the question of places on
the Lake of Galilee, which will come naturally
next time.


The road down to the lake is so steep that it may
be almost called precipitous in places. Once I saw
my way to a short cut among the zig-zags, and suc-
cessfully managed it, but the dragoman gave me such
an awful blowing up that I did not try it again. Our
destination was Tiberias ; the ground at that part of
the lake is elevated, whereas the Plain of Gennesareth
on the northern side is marshy and malarious. The
town of Tiberias is not mentioned in the Gospels, and
there is no evidence that our Lord ever visited it. It
was a Roman built city and inhabited by that people
and not by the House of Israel. It is, like the other
Palestine cities, much decayed, but the ruins of its
fortresses are imposing, especially from the water side.
It is the only place, at present, on the Lake which
has any population. They are mostly Moslems of a
very fanatical type. It is not safe to go into the city
without escort. We encamped about half a mile
from the town on some rising ground in front of the
Lake, and very delightful were the three days' rest of
that encampment. On the first morning we simply
strolled about by the water, picked up shells (which
lie on the shore in millions, minute cowries and bival-
ves), and cut ourselves walking-sticks out of the
" Nubk," or Spini Christi trees, which grow abundantly
all over the district. We went down also ten minutes


further south to the hot springs, which burst out of
the rock in a clear stream and flow into the lake. I
had not a thermometer, but the water was too hot to
hold my hand in. A great portion of the stream is
diverted into two bath-houses. I looked into one,
but the stifling heat and steam drove me out again in
a minute. There were a great number of men being
rubbed and thumped in the water. In the afternoon
we arranged for an excursion on the lake, but it was
a failure. Our object was to cross to the other side
to Gergesa, about six miles. I do not care to repeat
Mark Twain's somewhat irreverent jest about the
boatmen on this lake, but I entirely agree with him
as to their laziness and cowardice. Long before we
had got halfway across, our rowers pointed to the sky
and explained to us that a storm was coming, and
there was nothing for it but to return. However, we
" took it out " of them by making them row for the
stipulated time along the shore. Storm there was
none. We saw plainly enough the " steep places "
on the eastern shore, but we never crossed to them.

The next day we made a great excursion. Our in-
defatigable dragoman had got a good crew together
and immediately after an early breakfast we started
for the north-end of the lake. There were the whole


six of us in the boat, besides our dragoman and his
assistant and seven boatmen, fifteen in all. The boat
was covered in at the two ends, and had one mast
with a very tall sail. On the upper deck in the
hinder part sat C, myself, and my wife, besides M.,
who acted as steersman. What I had been looking
for I believe I saw at once. When the Gospel says
that our Blessed Lord " was in the hinder part of the
ship asleep on a pillow," it must mean on this upper
deck. There is just room enough for a man to lie
outstretched in such an attitude. He might, it is true
have been underneath it. One or two of the sailors
who were not engaged for the time in rowing lay
down under this deck ; but the place of dignity was
certainly above, and there, I doubt not, Christ slept.
That that boat was to all intents and purposes like
our own I also take as sure. Outward things have
changed very little in the East — witness the monu-
ments — for thousands of years. But I must defer the
details of our voyage till my next letter, and close
this with a light incident. In the course of our
voyage our dragoman's assistant bought a young dog
at a Bedouin tent. It was brought into camp, and
made much of, and when we started again three days
later the dog followed as a faithful dog should. But


by luncheon time he was dead tired, and his feet hot
and blistered, as M. discovered. So a place was
found for him on one of the luggage mules, and ever
since the dog is delighted to lie on his perch, and go
from place to place, looking round him with supreme
complacency, and evidently considering that it is all
for his amusement. He is a great character in the
camp, and an immense favourite.


OUR sail upon the Lake of Galilee was first directed
to the northern extremity. We landed at the point
where the Jordan enters it, and walked for some time
on the bank of the river. The mountains recede on
both sides sufficiently to leave a bright green valley
with shrubs plentifully bedecking the banks, but, as
usual, with hardly any large trees. On the eastern
side of the stream two spots were well within sight ;
the one nearly opposite to where we stood, a slope on
the side of the hill, the other two miles to the north,
also a slope, beside a ruined village. These are the
two sites put forward by differing writers as the scene
of the feeding of the 5,000. The first-named is that
commonly believed in ; the Editor of Murray contends
for the latter. There seems to me not sufficient


evidence to decide this point. After filling our
pockets with shells, and picking a few flowers, we
went aboard again, and sailed to Tell Hum, the site
beyond any reasonable doubt of our Lord's " own
city," Capernaum. As I have already said, the Plain
of Gennesareth, i.e., the north-western portion of the
coast, is now fever-begetting, and therefore almost
deserted. A halt there for one night is said to have
killed Laurence Oliphant and his wife. In the days
of Christ it was the most populous part of the shore.
Tell Hum is a desolation ; on the hill above it are a
couple of ruined houses, the only remains of Chorazin ;
at a bend of the lake a little south of Tell Hum is
Tabighah, ancient Bethsaida, " the city of Andrew and
Peter," also only a hovel or two. Continuing along the
coast is the district named in the Gospel, " the parts
of Dalmanutha," and there is a larger village, Medjel,
anciently Magdala, the home of that Mary who was
named after it. A scene of loneliness and desolation.
A few Bedaween were tenting about, but except at
Magdala I doubt if there was a single occupied
house. But let us look at Tell Hum again.

We landed at the end of a garden which has been

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Online LibraryWilliam BenhamThe letters of Peter Lombard (Canon Benham) → online text (page 9 of 16)