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    Chapter 56

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    Chapter 57
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    We visited all the holy places about Jerusalem which we had left
    unvisited when we journeyed to the Jordan and then, about three o'clock
    one afternoon, we fell into procession and marched out at the stately
    Damascus gate, and the walls of Jerusalem shut us out forever. We paused
    on the summit of a distant hill and took a final look and made a final
    farewell to the venerable city which had been such a good home to us.

    For about four hours we traveled down hill constantly. We followed a
    narrow bridle-path which traversed the beds of the mountain gorges, and
    when we could we got out of the way of the long trains of laden camels
    and asses, and when we could not we suffered the misery of being mashed
    up against perpendicular walls of rock and having our legs bruised by the
    passing freight. Jack was caught two or three times, and Dan and Moult
    as often. One horse had a heavy fall on the slippery rocks, and the
    others had narrow escapes. However, this was as good a road as we had
    found in Palestine, and possibly even the best, and so there was not much
    grumbling.

    Sometimes, in the glens, we came upon luxuriant orchards of figs,
    apricots, pomegranates, and such things, but oftener the scenery was
    rugged, mountainous, verdureless and forbidding. Here and there, towers
    were perched high up on acclivities which seemed almost inaccessible.
    This fashion is as old as Palestine itself and was adopted in ancient
    times for security against enemies.

    We crossed the brook which furnished David the stone that killed Goliah,
    and no doubt we looked upon the very ground whereon that noted battle was
    fought. We passed by a picturesque old gothic ruin whose stone pavements
    had rung to the armed heels of many a valorous Crusader, and we rode
    through a piece of country which we were told once knew Samson as a
    citizen.

    We staid all night with the good monks at the convent of Ramleh, and in
    the morning got up and galloped the horses a good part of the distance
    from there to Jaffa, or Joppa, for the plain was as level as a floor and
    free from stones, and besides this was our last march in Holy Land.
    These two or three hours finished, we and the tired horses could have
    rest and sleep as long as we wanted it. This was the plain of which
    Joshua spoke when he said, "Sun, stand thou still on Gibeon, and thou
    moon in the valley of Ajalon." As we drew near to Jaffa, the boys
    spurred up the horses and indulged in the excitement of an actual race
    --an experience we had hardly had since we raced on donkeys in the Azores
    islands.

    We came finally to the noble grove of orange-trees in which the Oriental
    city of Jaffa lies buried; we passed through the walls, and rode again
    down narrow streets and among swarms of animated rags, and saw other
    sights and had other experiences we had long been familiar with. We
    dismounted, for the last time, and out in the offing, riding at anchor,
    we saw the ship! I put an exclamation point there because we felt one
    when we saw the vessel. The long pilgrimage was ended, and somehow we
    seemed to feel glad of it.

    [For description of Jaffa, see Universal Gazetteer.] Simon the Tanner
    formerly lived here. We went to his house. All the pilgrims visit Simon
    the Tanner's house. Peter saw the vision of the beasts let down in a
    sheet when he lay upon the roof of Simon the Tanner's house. It was from
    Jaffa that Jonah sailed when he was told to go and prophesy against
    Nineveh, and no doubt it was not far from the town that the whale threw
    him up when he discovered that he had no ticket. Jonah was disobedient,
    and of a fault-finding, complaining disposition, and deserves to be
    lightly spoken of, almost. The timbers used in the construction of
    Solomon's Temple were floated to Jaffa in rafts, and the narrow opening
    in the reef through which they passed to the shore is not an inch wider
    or a shade less dangerous to navigate than it was then. Such is the
    sleepy nature of the population Palestine's only good seaport has now and
    always had. Jaffa has a history and a stirring one. It will not be
    discovered any where in this book. If the reader will call at the
    circulating library and mention my name, he will be furnished with books
    which will afford him the fullest information concerning Jaffa.

    So ends the pilgrimage. We ought to be glad that we did not make it for
    the purpose of feasting our eyes upon fascinating aspects of nature, for
    we should have been disappointed--at least at this season of the year. A
    writer in "Life in the Holy Land" observes:

    "Monotonous and uninviting as much of the Holy Land will appear to
    persons accustomed to the almost constant verdure of flowers, ample
    streams and varied surface of our own country, we must remember that
    its aspect to the Israelites after the weary march of forty years
    through the desert must have been very different."

    Which all of us will freely grant. But it truly is "monotonous and
    uninviting," and there is no sufficient reason for describing it as being
    otherwise.

    Of all the lands there are for dismal scenery, I think Palestine must be
    the prince. The hills are barren, they are dull of color, they are
    unpicturesque in shape. The valleys are unsightly deserts fringed with a
    feeble vegetation that has an expression about it of being sorrowful and
    despondent. The Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee sleep in the midst of a
    vast stretch of hill and plain wherein the eye rests upon no pleasant
    tint, no striking object, no soft picture dreaming in a purple haze or
    mottled with the shadows of the clouds. Every outline is harsh, every
    feature is distinct, there is no perspective--distance works no
    enchantment here. It is a hopeless, dreary, heart-broken land.

    Small shreds and patches of it must be very beautiful in the full flush
    of spring, however, and all the more beautiful by contrast with the
    far-reaching desolation that surrounds them on every side. I would like
    much to see the fringes of the Jordan in spring-time, and Shechem,
    Esdraelon, Ajalon and the borders of Galilee--but even then these spots
    would seem mere toy gardens set at wide intervals in the waste of a
    limitless desolation.

    Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes. Over it broods the spell of a
    curse that has withered its fields and fettered its energies. Where
    Sodom and Gomorrah reared their domes and towers, that solemn sea now
    floods the plain, in whose bitter waters no living thing exists--over
    whose waveless surface the blistering air hangs motionless and dead
    --about whose borders nothing grows but weeds, and scattering tufts of
    cane, and that treacherous fruit that promises refreshment to parching
    lips, but turns to ashes at the touch. Nazareth is forlorn; about that
    ford of Jordan where the hosts of Israel entered the Promised Land with
    songs of rejoicing, one finds only a squalid camp of fantastic Bedouins
    of the desert; Jericho the accursed, lies a moldering ruin, to-day, even
    as Joshua's miracle left it more than three thousand years ago; Bethlehem
    and Bethany, in their poverty and their humiliation, have nothing about
    them now to remind one that they once knew the high honor of the
    Saviour's presence; the hallowed spot where the shepherds watched their
    flocks by night, and where the angels sang Peace on earth, good will to
    men, is untenanted by any living creature, and unblessed by any feature
    that is pleasant to the eye. Renowned Jerusalem itself, the stateliest
    name in history, has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a
    pauper village; the riches of Solomon are no longer there to compel the
    admiration of visiting Oriental queens; the wonderful temple which was
    the pride and the glory of Israel, is gone, and the Ottoman crescent is
    lifted above the spot where, on that most memorable day in the annals of
    the world, they reared the Holy Cross. The noted Sea of Galilee, where
    Roman fleets once rode at anchor and the disciples of the Saviour sailed
    in their ships, was long ago deserted by the devotees of war and
    commerce, and its borders are a silent wilderness; Capernaum is a
    shapeless ruin; Magdala is the home of beggared Arabs; Bethsaida and
    Chorazin have vanished from the earth, and the "desert places" round
    about them where thousands of men once listened to the Saviour's voice
    and ate the miraculous bread, sleep in the hush of a solitude that is
    inhabited only by birds of prey and skulking foxes.

    Palestine is desolate and unlovely. And why should it be otherwise? Can
    the curse of the Deity beautify a land?

    Palestine is no more of this work-day world. It is sacred to poetry and
    tradition--it is dream-land.
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