صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[blocks in formation]

building, and these are surmounted by a kind of cornice, which gives to the whole an imposing effect.

"We then called upon the sheik of the mosque, Hadji Halil, to gain admittance, if possible, into the interior. He is a venerable, amiable-looking Mussulman, with a long, flowing white beard. He received us very kindly, and at once admitted us through the large gate within the outer wall. As we were about to ascend the broad steps that lead to the mosque, however, a crowd of bigoted Moslems gathered around, and declared in the name of the prophet that we should not be permitted to enter. The old sheik then conducts us in a very friendly manner to his own house within the court that overlooks the building and the grounds around, remarking, at the same time, 'I myself would gladly admit you. There is nothing in my religion to forbid it, Mohammedans and Christians are all children of God and brothers together (most liberal sentiments to come from a Moslem sheik), but I dare not do it. My enemies would at once excite opposition, and create an insurrection in the town.' Meanwhile he gives us a very hospitable entertainment of coffee, raisins, fruit, &c., in oriental style, and favours us with many interesting items of Mohammedan tradition in regard to the lives and history of the ancient patriarchs. It was most pleasant to find such a spirit of enlarged kindness and liberality in a Moslem dwelling in Hebron, where they are reputed the most bigoted and fanatical in all Palestine. Departing thence, we rode a short distance from the town. to visit the large terebinth tree called Abraham's oak.' We found many acorns upon the ground, and also some upon the tree. It is of immense dimensions, very venerable, and of great antiquity. Returning on our way, we

K

6

146

RETURN TO JERUSALEM.

soon came in sight of Nebby Jonas-'the grave of the prophet Jonas.' Here the pilgrims have erected piles of stones, as is their custom, to mark their first point of view of a prophet's tomb. Then retracing rapidly our course, we at length come in sight of Mount Moriah and Jerusalem. And we are reminded of the journey of Abraham over the same path, from Beersheba to the land of Moriah, at the command of the Lord, to offer up his only son Isaac upon one of the mountains there. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off."

[ocr errors]

As we approached, the sun was gilding the mountains of Moab, the summit of Olivet, the domes, minarets, and towers of the Holy City, with purple and golden light, reminding us also of the New Jerusalem,' with its walls garnished with precious stones, its gates of pearl, and streets of pure gold, 'wherein shall in nowise enter anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie, but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life; and the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.'

'How constant and lasting are such scenes to the Christian traveller in the Holy Land, and how they fondly linger in memory like a spiritual vision to elevate the soul from earth to heaven!

"C. N. R."

CHAPTER XVII.

JORDAN AND THE DEAD SEA.

"WE made our next excursion from Jerusalem to the Jordan and the Dead Sea. Passing out of the Jaffa gate, and crossing the aqueduct from Solomon's pools, we rode along the valley of Hinnom, and passed Aceldama, or the Field of Blood, filled with caves, sepulchres, and dead men's bones. This was long used as a burial-place for strangers, and is at present entirely neglected and despised. The brook Kidron now flows in from above, and winds through the valley. Our path stretches over the hillside, and we enjoy the beautiful views of Mount Zion in the distance, which the Psalmist describes, 'Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion, on the sides of the north. Viewed from this point in the morning sunlight, Zion rising majestically on the north, seemed worthy of the fullest praises of David's harp.

[ocr errors]

The country around presents a pastoral scene, and reminds us of patriarchal days. Sheep and goats are feeding upon the hillsides, and the shepherds' tents are pitched in the valleys. The road, however, is not entirely free from danger of attack. An armed Bedouin sheik accompanies us as guide and escort on our journey. In a short time we come to an encampment of black tents. Several armed men mount their horses as we approach,

148

CONVENT OF ST SABA.

and much alarm is excited in our party.

But they prove to be government soldiers in search of robbers, looking more like the robbers themselves of whom they are in pursuit. They gallop around in Arab style, and make many warlike demonstrations, as they cross over the mountain.

"We now come to a vast gorge winding through the rock, several hundred feet deep, wild and grand beyond description. At the end of this natural chasm stands the rock-built convent of St Saba, on the borders of the wilderness of Judea. Here a company of forty or fifty Greek monks spend their time in watching, fasting, and prayer. A more desolate and dreary spot could scarcely have been selected. The walls are built high and strong around to guard against the attacks of the Arabs; for the monastery is possessed of immense wealth, the gift of pious pilgrims. They let down a basket from an upper window to receive and examine our letters of introduction, and then admit us through a heavy iron door below. We visited the church, rich with paintings, golden crowns, and gold and silver lamps, where vespers are chanted every evening by the monks. The principal then conducts us to a side chapel, in a cave, wherein are gathered 14,000 skulls of Christians, slain by the Moslems in the Holy Land. Afterwards he points out to us the primitive cave which St Saba entered when he came here to found the convent. It was inhabited by a lion, but the saint ordered him to retire, which he did at once, and faithfully kept guard fourteen years at the entrance of the cave. The rough walls are covered over with the crosses of pilgrims who have travelled here from afar, and fully believe the story.

[blocks in formation]

"He also opened for us the chapel tomb of the saint. This is hung around with pictures of his prayers and miracles. One of these represents a pillar of cloud shewing him the place to found his convent, a gazelle directing him where to find water, and the lion pointing out a place of safety. There are several small gardens in the grounds of the monastery, and one tall palm-tree, planted, it is said, by the hand of St Saba. The rooms for the entertainment of visitors appeared neat and comfortable, and we would gladly have spent the night within the walls. But there was a lady in our party, and the monks resolutely refused to grant her admittance, saying, 'if they did so, an earthquake would shake down the monastery, and there would be a famine for a year throughout the land.'

"We were accordingly obliged to remain in our tents; and there, commending ourselves to the protection of God, we slept peacefully through the night, awaked only by the ringing of the convent bell that summoned the monks to their midnight prayers.

"In the morning our friends of the monastery manifested their hospitality by bringing us bread, dates, and cheeses, as is the oriental custom, and we gave them of our stores, in return. Two Bedouin sheiks now join us as an escort on the journey, and we set out for the Dead Sea. Our path winds up the mountain side, and from the summit we have a commanding view over the Sand Mountains, even to the wilderness of Engedi, where David fled from the pursuit of Saul, among the rocks of the wild goats.' The mountains rise around like Alpine summits, clothed down their side with verdure, where sheep, goats, and camels are feeding. The Arabs point out the tomb of Moses on our left, and yonder stretch the dark waters

6

« السابقةمتابعة »