Narrative Of The United States Expedition To The River Jordan And The Dead Sea/7
FROM ST. JEAN D’ACRE TO DEPARTURE FROM THE SEA OF GALILEE.
TUESDAY, APRIL 4. The daylight brought disappointment. As Sa’id Mustafa was not to be found, I sent the dragoman to our consul, requesting him to call immediately upon the governor, and demand more camels; for I had determined that I would not, under any circumstances, again present myself before him. By 8 o’clock, two additional camels arrived, and, at 9 o’clock, we took up the line of march after the boats, — sixteen horses, eleven loaded camels, and a mule.
As we were starting, Sa’id Bey had the effrontery to send to me for a letter, stating that he had rendered all the services I had required. I sent him word in reply, that he had done nothing to assist us; and that of his gross attempt at extortion, I had apprised our government at home, our minister at Constantinople, and his superior, the Mushir, at Beïrût.
Following the beach to within two hundred yards of the town, we turned off to the east, and skirted a hill, whence, on the left, we saw an aqueduct, and the garden of Abdallah Pasha, — a grove in the midst of a verdant, but treeless plain. Pursuing the same route taken the evening before, we crossed the great plain of Acre, enamelled with flowers, and struck into a rolling country of gentle undulations. Besides the profusion of flowers, a stunted tree was here and there presented.
The evening before, I had promised ‘Akil to visit him in his mountain fortress, if I could, and one of his followers now presenting himself as a guide, we rode ahead of the caravan. The village of Abelin was soon visible on the summit of a high hill, rising abruptly from the southern slope of the plain. To the east and south-east, in the far distance, were two other villages; all else was a nearly level plain, with broken ground in front. Riding over the shoulder of the hill, we opened upon the head of a ravine, — wide at first, but narrowing to a gorge as it descended, and swept around the bases of the hills. Crowning the one opposite, Abelin looked like an inaccessible lion’s hold. I had been cautioned to be upon my guard; knew nothing of ‘Akil , except that he was a daring Arab chief; had never before seen my guide, and was uncertain whether he would prove treacherous or faithful. I had accepted the invitation, for I was anxious to prevail on ‘Akil also to accompany us, and I felt that it would not answer to show distrust. To guard against the worst, however, I gave to a fellah, whom we met, a note for Lieut. Dale, directing him, if I should not return, to push on, without delay, and accomplish the objects of the expedition.
The steep rugged path had never before been trodden by any other than an Arab horse; and but that the one upon which I rode was singularly sure-footed, he would have often stumbled and dislodged me, for I could not guide him, so much were my senses engrossed by the extraordinary variety, fragrance, and beauty of innumerable plants and flowers.
The village, perched upon the loftiest peak, commands an extensive view from the “Album promontorium” to the Convent of Mount Carmel. But, if the situation be beautiful, the place itself is indescribably poor and filthy. The houses, built of uncemented stones, are mostly one story high, and have flat, mud roofs; and without, and encircling the whole, is a row of small, dome-roofed hovels, made entirely of mud, and used for baking bread; all enveloped in a most offensive atmosphere, tainted by the odour of the fuel, the dried excrement of camels. There appeared to be as many as one of those little hovels to each dwelling.
After having been detained in an open court until I became impatient, I was ushered into a large room, open in front, with a mud floor and smoke-stained rafters, covered with twigs. A collection of smouldering embers was in the centre, stuck into which, a small and exceedingly dirty brass coffee-pot stood simmering; and, seated at the farther end, a short distance from it, were the Sherîf,‘Akil, and a number of Arabs, armed to the teeth. I had parted with the first, at a late hour the previous evening, when he started for Haifa, ten miles in another direction; and how he could have come there, puzzled me.
For some moments, scarce a word was said; and, from inability to speak the language, I could not break the awkward silence, having left the interpreter with the caravan; where his services were necessary.
There were some twelve or fifteen present. Look where I would, their keen black eyes were riveted upon me; and wherever I turned my eyes, theirs immediately followed the same direction. I turned to Sherîf , in the hope that he would say something, which would have been cheering, although I could not understand his language; but, lost in thought, he seemed to be studying the geological structure of the lighted coal upon the bowl of his narghilé. To ‘Akil I made a friendly sign of recognition, which was returned without rudeness, but without cordiality. My position began to be irksome, rendered not the less so, from the circumstance that the pipe and the cup of coffee, the invariable marks of welcome beneath an Arab roof, were withheld. I do not know when I have so earnestly longed for a cup of coffee; for, apart from the danger inferred to myself, its not being tendered, seemed an ominous sign for the expedition. The whole business looked like a snare.
While these thoughts were passing through my mind, a few words had been exchanged between the leaders and their followers, — mostly brief questions and monosyllabic replies, the last almost invariably the Arabic negative, “Lah!”
Presently one of the questions elicited quite a warm discussion, during which I sat entirely unnoticed, except that occasionally one of the speakers looked towards me, when his example was followed by the whole assembly. There was an evident air of conscaravant; I had been received with bare civility, and they seemed undecided what measures to pursue. There were evidently conflicting opinions.
Fretted with impatience, and perhaps more nervous than I should have been, without thinking, I looked at my watch. There was an instant pause in the conversation, and while Sherîf asked to see it, they all crowded eagerly round. It was no curiosity to him, but most of those present examined it earnestly, like so many wild Indians for the first time beholding a mirror. I took as much time as possible to exhibit the works, and when they would look no longer, drew my sword, and glad to feel it in my grasp, pointed out to them the peculiar construction of the handle. They examined it as closely as they could, for, unlike the watch, I would not part with it; when, just as their curiosity was becoming sated, a cheering sound struck upon my ear. A single glance satisfied me that I was not mistaken, and springing to my feet, I stretched out one hand for the watch, while with the other I pointed to the foot of the hill, and cried out “djemmell!” Djemmell! djemmell! (camel! camel!) was echoed by many voices, for the caravan was in sight, and from that moment there was a marked change in their manner towards me.
I cannot venture to say that there was an intention to rob me, for, despite appearances, I could hardly think so. It may be that the omission of the chibouque and coffee made an undue impression on me, and that my ignorance of Arab habits did the rest. Perhaps, too, I was rendered morbidly suspicious by the consciousness of having a large sum of money about me. If a robbery were contemplated, I came upon them, perhaps, before their plans were mature; or the arrival of Sherîf , who could have preceded me but a short time, might have disconcerted them. At all events, I now felt safe; for the gaping mouth of the blunderbuss and the sheen of the carbines borne by my companions proved ample protectors.
Notwithstanding the awkwardness of our recent position towards each other, I felt no hesitation in entering into an agreement with ‘Akil on the same terms as with the Sherîf. Our language was that of signs, fully understood by both parties.
According to the Arab code of morals, ‘Akil would have been perfectly justified in robbing me prior to a contract; but to do so afterwards would be the height of dishonour. From subsequent conversations with him, I was enabled, perhaps, to trace the cause of my cool reception. There was an emissary of Sa’id Bey present, he said, and he wished to mask his intention of joining us. On leaving Acre, our course was first due east to E.S.E., then gradually round to south, when, crossing a ridge by Abelin, which shuts in the plain, the caravan entered a narrow gorge, and thence steering E. by N., came to the Blowing Valley or valley of the winds, with forests of white oak on the flanks of the hills.
I rejoined the caravan as it passed by Abelin, leaving our allies to follow. They were to bring ten spears, and formidable ones they proved to be. The road becoming difficult for the carriages, we moved slowly, and our Arab scouts soon overtook us. They had all assumed the garb of the desert, and each, with a flowing dark aba (cloak) on, and the yellow koofeeyeh upon his head, bound round with a cord of camel’s hair, dyed black; and bearing a spear eighteen feet in length, some of them tufted with ostrich feathers, looked the wild and savage warrior.
In the middle of Wady en Nafakh (Blowing Valley), we came to a halt, three miles from Abelin. It was yet early, 3 P.M.; but the great regulator of every thing connected with life and motion in the East is water. We had passed a well about a mile back, and between us and the next one was a narrow defile, presenting great obstructions to the passage of the boats. We therefore pitched our tents upon a gently sloping esplanade, and our Bedouin friends were over-against us.
It was a picturesque spot; on the left of our tents, which faced the south, were the trucks with the two boats, forming a kind of entrenchment; behind these were about thirty camels and all our horses. From the boats, and in front of our white tents, the American flag was flying; and just beyond, an officer and two sailors, with carbines, had mounted guard, with the loaded blunderbuss between them. The tent of our allies was a blue one; and the horses tethered near, and tufted spears in front, together with their striking costume, varied and enlivened the scene.
Towards each end of the valley, about half a mile from the camp, one of the Arab horsemen was stationed, and, cutting sharp against the sky, ‘Akil was upon the crest of the hill in our rear, taking a reconnoissance. They promised to make admirable videttes. We had reason to rejoice at having secured them. One brought us a sheep, which we shared between the camps; and Lieut. Dale and myself went over and took a tiny cup of coffee with them. Abelin bore from the camp S. W. by W. ½ W., per compass. We took solar and barometrical observations; and at night, observed Polaris.
We this day passed through the narrow tract on the coast of Syria, which was never subdued by the Israelites, and through the narrowest part of the land of the tribe of Asser into that of Zebulon, where we then were.
- At first,
- Night threw her sable mantle o’er the earth,
- And pinned it with a star;
- Night threw her sable mantle o’er the earth,
but, by degrees, the whole galaxy came forth, and twinkled upon the scene. It was a brilliant night, but we had reason to consider that the place was appropriately named. About midnight, the wind blew with great violence, and we were compelled to turn out, and assist the officer of the watch in securing the instruments.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 5. We were early on the move; the sun was rising beautifully over the eastern hills; the camels were straying about upon their slopes, and the flags and ostrich feathers were drooping with the mist: Called all hands, breakfasted, struck tents, hitched camels, and started at 8:20 A.M. The carriages, with the boats, were drawn by three camels each, two abreast and one as leader, with twelve spare ones, to relieve every half hour. Our party numbered sixteen in all, including dragoman and cook, with eleven camels, laden with baggage, tents, instruments, &c; and fifteen Bedouin, all well mounted, the followers and servants of the Sherîf of Mecca and Sheikh ’Akil Aga el Hassee.
Our course was at first east for a quarter of a mile, and then by a short turn to S. E., down a narrow gorge. Through this we found it impossible to drag the boats; and therefore, deploying to the left, we drew them to the summit of an overhanging hill, and there, taking the camels out, lowered them down by hand. It was an arduous and, at times, a seemingly impracticable undertaking, but by perseverance we succeeded.
Passing along this ravine, in a south-easterly direction, for three-quarters of a mile, the boats rattling and tumbling along, drawn by the powerful camel caravan, we came, at 9:30, upon a branch of the great plain of El-Buttauf. The metal boats, with the flags flying, mounted on carriages drawn by huge camels, ourselves, the mounted sailors in single file, the loaded camels, the sherîf and the sheikh, with their tufted spears and followers, presented a glorious sight. It looked like a triumphal march.
The sun was curtained, but not screened, from the sight by the ascending vapour, and the soft wind was wooing nature to assume her green and fragrant livery. The young grain, vivified by the heat, sprang up in prolific growth, and carpeted the earth with its refreshing verdure. The green turf of the uncultivated patches of the plain, and the verdant slopes of the hills, were literally enamelled with the white and crimson aster, the pale asphodel, the scarlet anemone, the blue and purple convolvulus, the cyclaemen, with flowers so much resembling the eglantine rose, and many others of brilliant hues and fragrant odours; while, interspersed here and there upon the hill-sides, were clumps of trees, on the branches of which the birds were singing, in the soft light of an early spring morning, — enjoying, like ourselves, the balmy air and smiling landscape. It was an exquisite scene, and elevated the mind, while it gratified the love of the beautiful.
- “There lives and works
- A soul in all things, and that soul is God?”
- “There lives and works
In front was a level lake of verdure and cultivation, and down the gentle slope, towards its basin, our long cavalcade wended its way, — officers and men in single file, their arms glittering in the sunlight, and the wild Arabs, with their lances pointed at every angle, some of them mounted upon the best blood of Arabia, seeming impatient at the slowness of the march.
Winding around a green hill, tufted with oak, we came; at 10:15, to Khan el Dielil, now in ruins, with an excellent well beside it. A few hundred yards beyond, we came to a shallow pond of water, the collection of winter rains, where we stopped to water the caravan. Here we took chronometer observations, — having to remove some distance, in consequence of the vibration caused by the movement of the animals.
From this ruined khan, across the plain, bearing south, cresting a lofty hill, was the castle of Sefurich (Sepphoris), the Dio Cesarea of the Romans. It was, for some time, the successful rival of Tiberias; and, in the 12th century, was the great rendezvous of the Crusaders, before the fatal battle of Hattin. There is a tradition among the Arabs, that Moses married and lived here twenty years. Thence south-east, over a hill, lay Nazareth, but three hours distant from us. How we grieved that our duties prevented us from visiting a place which, with Bethlehem and Calvary, the scenes of the birth, the residence, and the death of the Redeemer, are of most intense interest to the Christian! To the left, almost due east, one hour distant, lay Cana of Galilee.
Who has not, in thought, accompanied the Saviour to that marriage-feast, and thanked him from his heart, that he should have gladdened with his presence the fleeting festivities of sinful man, and that his first miracle should have been, to all succeeding generations, a lesson of filial love!
Each day, some of the sherîf’s or the sheikh’s followers brought us a, sheep or a lamb as a present, for which, however, they expected, and always received, a fair equivalent. In doing so, they placed a quiet trust in Providence with regard to the payment, for which they never asked. Where the value of things is so well ascertained as among this primitive people, how much better is this plan than a haggling bargain!
At 11 o’clock, started again, — our route E.N.E. along the plain; our Arabs caracoling their steeds, and giving us specimens of their beautiful horsemanship, — plunging about and twirling their long spears, and suddenly couching them in full career, as they charged upon each other. It was like the game of the djerid, of which we had. all read so often, except that, instead of the short blunted spear of pastime, these were the sharp-pointed instruments of warfare. The old sherîf was mounted upon a splendid grey mare, worth many thousand piastres, and wore himself a rich cloth cloak, embroidered with silver. Beautiful bay mares were ridden by the sheikh and his followers; — among the last were two jet-black Nubians, — one of them of Herculean frame, disfigured by several scars.
1 P.M. Coming to a broken and rocky country, we encountered much difficulty with the boats. At first sight it seemed impossible that the ponderous carriages could be drawn over such a rugged road. The word road means, in that country, a mule-track. Wheel-carriages had never crossed it before. In their invasion of Syria, the French transported their guns and gun-carriages (taken apart) on the backs of camels, over the lofty ridges, and mounted them again upon the plain.
At length, making a detour to the right, breaking off a projecting crag here, and filling up a hollow there, we got the boats over the first ridge. It was shortly, however, succeeded by another and another, and the caravan was obliged to abandon the road altogether. Winding along the flanks of several hills, we came, at 2.30, upon an elevated plain of cultivated fields. Turning then more to the north, and skirting a ridge of rocky limestone, we gradually ascended a slope covered with olive orchards. Presently we came in sight of Turân, an Arab village.
In our acceptation of the word, a village means a number of scattered peasant dwellings, but here it is a stronghold of the agricultural population. Since leaving Acre, we had not seen a single permanent habitation without these walled villages. Turân is quite a fortification. It is small; the houses are built of uncut and uncemented stone, with flat mud roofs, not exceeding one story in height. Just beyond the village, over the brow of the hill, we pitched our tents upon the outskirts of an olive orchard. In the plain, immediately beneath, was fought a decisive battle between the Syrians and the French. Mount Tabor bore S.S.W. We were in the lands assigned to the tribe of Zebulon. By invitation, I accompanied Sherîf and ’Akil into the village, and smoked a pipe and drank coffee with its sheikh, who wore the graceful and becoming turban. But for his costume, he would, in our country, pass for a genteel negro, of the cross between the mulatto and the black. In order to economize time and provisions, and to prepare us for the endurance of future privations, I had him the rest restricted the whole party to two meals a day — one early in the morning, before starting, the other when we had camped for the night. There was not an objection or a murmur.
While at supper, Dr. Henry J. Anderson joined us. On his way to Acre, he had, from a height, seen the expedition moving along the plain. He described it as a beautiful sight. The sheikh of the village punctually returned my visit, and was duly regaled with pipes and coffee. He seemed to prefer our tobacco to his own. In the evening we went down to the tent of our Arabs, pitched a short distance from us, with their horses tethered near and neighing loudly. What a patriarchal scene! Seated upon their mats and cushions within, we looked out upon the fire, around which were gathered groups of this wild people, who continually reminded us of our Indians. Then came their supper, consisting of a whole sheep, entombed in rice, which they pitched into without knives or forks, in the most amusing manner. There was an Arab bard withal, who twanged away upon his instrument, and sung or rather chanted mysterious Arabic poetry.
Fading in music.”
We had ascended upwards of 1600 feet, which, better than any description, will give an idea of the steepness, but not of the ruggedness, of the road since we left the plain of Acre. To-morrow we may reach the Sea of Galilee! Inshallah!
THURSDAY, APRIL 6. A beautiful morning, wind light and weather very pleasant. As, in consequence of great impediments, the boats moved but slowly, we started with them at an early hour. At 11 A.M. the camp followed us. Nothing could be more picturesque than the appearance of our cavaliers of the desert, when they rejoined us, mounted on their spirited steeds, with their long spears and flowing garments of every variety of hue.
At first our course was east, down a long descent, and thence over the undulations of a rolling plain.
At 1 P.M., reached a large artificial reservoir, with an area of about three acres, partly filled with rain-water, where we stopped fifteen minutes. Our friends, who had preceded us and Sherîf , with one of his followers, had gone aside to perform their devotions in a field apart.
While at this fountain, wishing to take some bearings, one of our swarthy friends, in the most graceful and polite manner, held my horse, and otherwise assisted me. Thus far these terrible Arabs had conducted themselves like gentlemen. In courtesy, civilization could not improve them.
At 1:45 we passed immediately north of the village of Lubieh, differing only in its less conspicuous position from Turan and Abelin. Our Arabs rode into the village, but I declined the invitation to coffee, and kept on with the cavalcade.
Since leaving the olive groves of Turan we had not seen a tree or a bush, except on the hill-sides of Lubieh; yet the whole surface of the valley was dotted with unenclosed fields of growing grain, and carpeted with green.
We continued rising until, at 2:25, we opened on our right a magnificent crater-like series of slopes, with a bare glimpse of the Sea of Galilee and the mountains of Bashan beyond. These slopes are fields of grain, divided into rectangles of different hues and different stages of growth. Besides these, were patches of flowers scattered about, — here the scarlet anemone, there the blue convolvulus; — but the gentle and luxuriant slopes looked like mosaic, with a prevailing purple tinge, the hue of the thorny shrub merar. On our route thus far the prevailing rock has been limestone, but since leaving Lubieh we have seen several nodules of quartz, and much trap, totally destitute of minerals. The prevailing flower is the convolvulus, from the root of which scammony is said to be extracted. Ragged peasants were ploughing in the fields; but not a tree, not a house. Mount Tabor now bore due south. Pursuing the route along the northern ridge of this valley, in half an hour we came to a fountain, on the high road from Jerusalem to Damascus. Some Christian pilgrims, from the latter to the former place, were seated around it; their tired horses, with drooping heads, waiting their turn to drink. Soon after leaving them, a small party passed us; among them, the only pretty female we had seen in Palestine: a young Syrian girl, with smooth bronze skin and regular features.
Unable to restrain my impatience, I now rode ahead with Mustafa, and soon saw below, far down the green sloping chasm, the Sea of Galilee, basking in the sunlight! Like a mirror it lay embosomed in its rounded and beautiful, but treeless hills. How dear to the Christian are the memories of that lake! The lake of the New Testament! Blessed beyond the nature of its element, it has borne the Son of God upon its surface. Its cliffs first echoed the glad tidings of salvation, and from its villages the first of the apostles were gathered to the ministry. Its placid water and its shelving beach; the ruined cities once crowded with men, and the everlasting hills, the handiwork of God, — all identify and attest the wonderful miracles that were here performed — miracles, the least of which was a crowning act of mercy of an Incarnate God towards his sinful and erring creatures.
The roadside and the uncultivated slopes of the hills were full of flowers, and abounded with singing birds — and there lay the holy lake, consecrated by the presence of the Redeemer! How could travelers describe the scenery of this lake as tame and uninteresting? It far exceeded my most sanguine expectations, and I could scarce realize that I was there. Near by was the field, where, according to tradition, the disciples plucked the ears of corn upon the sabbath. Yet nearer was the spot where the Saviour fed the famishing multitude; and to the left the Mount of Beatitudes, where he preached his wonderful compend of wisdom and love. At its foot, as if to show how little man regards the precepts of his Maker, was fought one of the most dreadful battles recorded on the page of history. I neither put implicit faith in, nor yet, in a cavilling spirit, question the localities of these traditions. Unhappy is that man, who, instead of being impressed with awe, or exultant with the thought that he is permitted to look upon such scenes, withholds his homage, and stifles every grateful aspiration with querulous questionings of exact identities. Away with such hard-hearted scepticism — so nearly allied to infidelity! What matters it, whether in this field or an adjoining one — on this mount, or another more or less contiguous to it, the Saviour exhorted, blessed, or fed his followers? The very stones, each a sermon, cry shame upon such a captious spirit — a spirit too often indulged, not in the sincerity of unbelief, but to parade historical or biblical lore.
Not a tree! not a shrub! nothing but green grain, grass and flowers, yet acres of bright verdure. Far up on a mountain-top stands conspicuous the “holy city” of Safed, the ancient Japhet. Nearer is the well into which Joseph was put by his brethren. Beyond the lake and over the mountains, rise majestic in the clear sky the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon. We descended the steep hill towards the lake. How in the world are the boats ever to be got down this rocky and precipitous path, when we are compelled to alight and lead our horses? From Acre to this place, we have dragged the boats along a series of valleys and ridges, but from hence there is a sheer descent. This difficulty overcome, we shall only have our own familiar element to deal with. We shall, therefore, have to brace ourselves to a desperate effort. The boats could come no farther than the fountain, where the caravan stopped for the night. Along the elevated plain the trap formation made its appearance in scattered fragments, covering the brown soil; large boulders then succeeded, and on the shore enormous masses crop-out in the ravines.
Winding down the rugged road, we descended to the city, seated on the margin of the lake. Tiberias (Tubariyeh) is a walled town of some magnitude, but in ruins, from the earthquake which, in 1837, destroyed so many of its inhabitants.
Not a house nor a tree without the walls, yet cultivated fields behind and beside them. On an esplanade, a short distance from the dismantled gateway, were the tents of a small detachment of Turkish soldiers.
Safed and Tiberias, Jerusalem and Hebron, are the four holy cities of the Jews in Palestine. Tiberias is held in peculiar veneration by the Jews, for here they believe that Jacob resided, and it is situated on the shores of the lake whence they hope that the Messiah will arise. In Robinson’s elaborate work, is an accurate account of it.
Turning to the south, leaving behind us a beautiful concave slope, consecrated by tradition for the miraculous draught of fishes, we entered the northern half-ruined portal of the town.
We were yet in the land of Zebulon; on the opposite side of the lake are the lands of the tribe of Manasseh. It being necessary to adjust and fix the rate of our instruments, we rented part of a house in town, — many being proffered for our accommodation, indicative alike of the hospitality of the people and the unprosperous condition of the place. We had letters to the chief rabbi of the Jews, who came to meet us, and escorted us through labyrinthine streets to the house of Heim Wiseman, a brother Israelite. It is an hotel sui generis, as well in the mode of entertaining as in the subsequent settlement with its guests. In a book which was shown to us we read the following gentle insinuation:— “I beg the gentlemen arriving at my house that, at their departure, they will have the goodness to give me, in my hands, what they please. Tibaria, APRIL 7, 1845.” The above is an exact copy of the notice referred to, in English. It is likewise written in bad Italian and worse Spanish.
Sherîf and ’Akil turned up as if by magic. Here they were before us, although they stopped at Lubiyeh, and we did not see them pass us on the road. Nothing but their kind feelings towards us could have induced them to enter the house of a Jew. They received three rabbis, who came to see us, with much respect, and greeted their own Muslim visitors with the true oriental embrace. The governor, who was a relative of ’Akil , was among the first who called.
There was no doubt of the high standing of Sherîf and his nephew, Sherîf Musaid, a much younger and very prepossessing Arab, who had recently joined us. The governor was a small intelligent Arab, with a dark Egyptian complexion. Our friends soon left us to quarter upon him.
Our sailors were delighted with the novelty of having a roof above them, and we all felt relieved in no longer hearing the shrill and
vociferous screams of the camel-drivers, — the noisiest of the children of men. Our saloon looked out upon the lake. It has mere
apertures in its blank walls for doors and windows. A number of swallows, regardless of our presence, flitted in and out, busied in
the construction of their nests amid the sustaining rafters of the mud roof. The windows might have been, but, from an error in its
construction, the door could not be, closed.
We had fish, delicious fish from the lake, for our supper, which we ate in thankfulness, although we knew that we should pay for it in flesh, — for the king of the fleas, it is said, holds his court in Tiberias.
Our apartment, which was at once our parlour, eating-room, and chamber, was the rendezvous of the curious, and, it seemed to us, also, of all the Arab camel and mule-drivers in the town. We were surrounded by a motley assembly of all classes, standing, sitting, or reclining in democratic disregard of all rank or distinction, and looking with amazement, not unmingled with mirth, at our strange and elaborate mode of eating.
Our instruments were uninjured, notwithstanding the ruggedness of the road, and we fitted them up in a separate room, preparatory to a series of observations; and then, wearied but gratified, laid down to sleep.
FRIDAY, APRIL 7. The beams of the rising sun, reflected from the lake, were dancing about on the walls of the apartment when we awoke. A light breeze ruffled its surface, which "Broke into dimples, and laughed in the sun.”
There was a silence of some moments, as we looked forth upon it, and the mind of each no doubt recurred to the time when an angry wind swept across, and the Apostle of wavering faith cried, “Lord, save me, or I perish!”
Our first thought was for the boats; but, notwithstanding the utmost exertions, at sunset they were only brought to the brink of the high and precipitous range which overlooked the lake from the west.
In the course of the day, I returned the visit of the governor. He received me in a large room, opening on a small court, with a divan in a recess opposite to the door.
Justice was administered with all the promptitude and simplicity of the East. On my way, I had been exasperated almost to the point of striking him, by a half-grown boy beating an elderly woman, who proved to be his mother. The latter made her complaint shortly after my entrance. The case was fairly but briefly examined by the governor in person, and in a few words the sentence was pronounced. From the countenance of the culprit, as he was led forth, I felt satisfied that he was on his way to a well-merited punishment.
Another woman complained that her husband had beaten her. In this, as in the previous case, the complainant directly addressed the governor. The husband seemed to be a man of influence, and the trial was somewhat protracted. The evidence was clear against him, however, and he was made publicly to kiss her forehead, where he had struck her.
A trifling circumstance will show in what thraldom the Jews are held. Our landlord, Heim Wiseman, had been kind enough to show me the way to the governor’s. On our entrance, he meekly sat down on the floor, some distance from the divan. After the sherbet was handed round to all, including many Arabs, it was tendered to him. It was a rigid fast-day with his tribe, the eve of the feast of the azymes, and he declined it. It was again tendered, and again declined, when the attendant made some exclamation, which reached the ears of the governor, who thereupon turned abruptly round, and sharply called out, “Drink it.” The poor Jew, agitated and trembling, carried it to his lips, where he held it for a moment, when, perceiving the attention of the governor to be diverted, he put down the untasted goblet.
On our return, Mr. Wiseman led me to a vaulted chapel dedicated to St. Peter, built on the traditionary spot of one of the miracles of our Lord. Strange that a Jew should point out to a Christian the place where the Messiah, whom the first denies and the last believes in, established his church upon a rock.
The Jews here are divested of that spirit of trade which is everywhere else their peculiar characteristic. Their sole occupation, we were told, is to pray and to read the Talmud. That book, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt says, declares that creation will return to primitive chaos if prayers are not addressed to the God of Israel at least twice a week in the four holy cities. Hence the Jews all over the world are liberal in their contributions.
Returned the visit of the Rabbis. They have two synagogues, the Sephardim and Askeniazim, but live harmoniously together. There are many Polish Jews, with light complexions, among them. They describe themselves as very poor, and maintained by the charitable contributions of Jews abroad, mostly in Europe. More meek, subdued, and unpretending men than these Rabbis I have never seen. The chief one illustrated the tyranny of the Turks by a recent circumstance. In consequence of the drought of the preceding year there had been a failure of the crops, and the Sultan, whose disposition is humane, ordered a large quantity of grain to be distributed among the fellahin for seed. The latter were accordingly called in; — to him whose portion was twenty okes (1 oke = approx. 2 3/4 lbs.) was given ten, and to him whose portion was ten, five okes were given, — after each had signed a paper acknowledging the receipt of the greater quantity. How admirably the scriptures portray the manners and customs of the east! Here is the verification of the parable of the unjust steward. It is true, that in this instance the decree was issued by the Turks — a comparatively modern people, — but it was carried into effect by the descendants of the ancient Gentile races of the country.
In the evening we visited several of the synagogues. It was impressive yet melancholy to witness the fervid zeal of the worshippers. In gabardines, with broad and narrow phylacteries, some of them embroidered, the men were reading or rather chanting, or rather screaming and shouting, the lamentations of Jeremias — all the time swaying their bodies to and fro with a regular and monotonous movement. There was an earnest expression of countenance that could not have been feigned. The tones of the men were loud and almost querulous with complaint; while the women, who stood apart, were more hushed in their sorrow, and lowly wailed, moving the heart by their sincerity. In each synagogue was an octagon recess, where the Pentateuch and other sacred works were kept. Whatever they may be in worldly matters, the Jews are no hypocrites in the article of faith.
The females marry very early. There was one in the house, then eleven and a half years of age, who, we were assured, had been married eighteen months. Mr. Wiseman pointed out another, a mere child in appearance, ten years of age, who had been two years married. It seems incredible. The unmarried wear the hair exposed, but the married women studiously conceal it. To make up for it, the heads of the latter were profusely ornamented with coins and gems and any quantity of another’s hair, the prohibition only extending to their own. Their dress is a boddice, a short, narrow-skirted gown, and pantalettes gathered at the ankles. Unlike the Turkish and the Arab women, they sometimes wear stockings. The boddice is open in front, and the breasts are held, but not restrained, by loose open pockets of thin white gauze.
There are about three hundred families, or one thousand Jews, in this town. The Sanhedrin consists of seventy rabbis, of whom thirty are natives and forty Franks, mostly from Poland, with a few from Spain. The rabbis stated that controversial matters of discipline among Jews, all over the world, are referred to this Sanhedrin.
Besides the Jews, there are in Tiberias from three to four hundred Muslims and two or three Latins, from Nazareth.
P.M. Received an express with letters from Jerusalem. Among them is a firman, or buyuruldi, from the Pasha, which I transcribe as a curiosity.
- “ Translation of Buyuruldi,
- from the Pasha of Jerusalem.
- 6 APRIL, 1848.
- from the Pasha of Jerusalem.
- “ Translation of Buyuruldi,
“Observe what is written in this, all ye who stand and see it, by the sheiks and elders of the Arabs and keepers of the highways: let it be known to you openly, according to this buyuruldi, that fifteen of the honourable persons of the government of America desire to depart from this to the Sea of Lot and thereabouts, there to take boats and go down into the above-mentioned sea. And accordingly, as it was necessary, we have drawn this, our buyuruldi, to you; and it is necessary for you, O ye that are spoken to, that to the above persons, at their passing your districts, you do all that you can for their comfort, and let no one annoy them — but care and protection is required for them; and if they are in want of food or other things for price, or animals for hire, you are to supply them. And if God please, no more command is wanting; but to the persons that are here mentioned, by all means give comfort; and for this reason we have drawn for you this buyuruldi from the divan of the honorable Jerusalem, Nablus, and Gaza. So by this ye may know, according to what is written, ye are not to do the contrary. Know and beware, and know according to what is herein, and avoid the contrary.
- "Translated by Moses Tanoos,
- British Consulate,
- British Consulate,
- "Translated by Moses Tanoos,
Mr. Alexander M. Pennock wrote me that Mr. James Finn, Her Britannic Majesty’s consul, has been very active and friendly, and I feel that we are much indebted to him. Our landlord was with poor Christopher Costigan, just prior to his attempt to circumnavigate the Dead Sea. From him, and from an Arab boatman, we received an account of the attack upon the boat of Lieutenant Thomas Molyneux, his pursuit by the Arabs, and subsequent death by fever. Poor fellows! If God spare us, we will commemorate their gallantry and their devotion to the cause of science.
The express from Jerusalem was a Janissary, sent by the Pasha, with four soldiers. In the firm belief that we should not need them, I paid them and directed them to return. Our Bedouin friends served as videttes (sentinels), to apprise us of danger. It was only ambuscades we feared.
SATURDAY, APRIL 8. A beautiful, calm morning. Quiet as a sleeping infant, the lake lay in the lap of its lofty hills. Received an express from Acre, with letters. They brought intelligence of revolutions in Europe.
“It is the low booming of that mighty ocean, which, wave after wave, is breaking up the dikes and boundaries of ancient power.” The spirit of revolution is abroad. It stands upon the grave of the past. As our beautiful institutions took life and vigour from the first breathings of this spirit, we feel deeply interested in its nature and tendency. It engages all our affections, it awakens all our sympathies. It is the cause of the universe — it is the voice of the great family of nations, which is coming up from the four winds to proclaim change and reformation among the sons of the children of men. It is, perhaps, the last of the Sibylline volumes, containing new truths, burthened with the ripening destinies of man.
- “Man is one!
- And he hath one great heart.
- “Man is one!
- It is thus we feel, with a gigantic throb across the sea,
- Each other’s rights and wrongs!”
- Heaven speed the cause of freedom!
- Each other’s rights and wrongs!”
- It is thus we feel, with a gigantic throb across the sea,
Took all hands up the mountain to bring the boats down. Many times we thought that, like the herd of swine, they would rush precipitately into the sea. Every one did his best, and at length success crowned our efforts. With their flags flying, we carried them triumphantly beyond the walls uninjured, and, amid a crowd of spectators, launched them upon the blue waters of the Sea of Galilee — the Arabs singing, clapping their hands to the time, and crying for backshish — but we neither shouted nor cheered. From Christian lips it would have sounded like profanation. A look upon that consecrated lake ever brought to remembrance the words, “Peace! be still!”—which not only repressed all noisy exhibition, but soothed for a time all worldly care.
Buoyantly floated the two “Fannies,” bearing the stars and stripes, the noblest flag of freedom now waving in the world. Since the time of Josephus and the Romans, no vessel of any size has sailed upon this sea, and for many, many years, but a solitary keel has furrowed its surface.
SUNDAY, APRIL 9. Another glorious morning. Rose early and went to the hot baths southward of the town, near the ruins of Emmaus, fitted up by Ibrahim Pasha when Syria was in possession of the Egyptians. The road runs along the sea-beach, upon which also the baths are situated. On the way we passed some prostrate columns, and broken arches, and vestiges of ruins half concealed beneath mounds of earth and rank vegetation. These are no doubt the ruins of the ancient city of Tiberias, the present site of the town being a more modern one. A short distance back, the rugged face of the brown mountains, with here and there a yawning cavern, over-looked the narrow plain and pellucid sea. Now and then a splash of the water indicated the gambollings of fish beneath the surface, while above, the fish-hawk sailed slowly along, ready for a swoop, and just out of gun-shot a flock of wild ducks were swimming along in conscious security.
There are two baths — the old one, all in ruins — and the one to the north of it, now in use. In a square vaulted chamber is a circular basin about eighteen feet in diameter and four feet in depth. The temperature of the water is 143° — almost too hot for endurance. It is only by slow decrees that the body can be immersed in it. We procured some of it for analysis. It is salt, bitter, and has the nauseous smell of sulphuretted hydrogen. There are several other springs in their natural condition, which discolour the stones as they flow to the sea. It is said that these baths are much resorted to in the summer months, particularly by rheumatic patients. It is Humboldt, I believe, who remarks that in all climates people show the same predeliction for heat. In Iceland the first Christian converts would be baptized only in the tepid streams of Hecla; and in the torrid zone, the natives flock from all parts to the thermal waters.
In all this luxuriant plain, which might be a perfect garden, there were only some cucumber and melon beds and fields of millet. The melons of this valley, according to Burckhardt, are celebrated all over the east. On the slope of the hill towards the north, some kersenna was growing — a small hard pea resembling a large radish seed-the husk dark brown, the kernel a deep pink colour, the taste sweet. It is raised almost exclusively for the camel. We saw no cattle. Camels, horses, mules and goats were the only four-footed animals to be seen.
P.M. We pulled up the lake, and visited Mejdel, on the plain of Genesareth. It must have been a singular sight from the shore, — our beautiful boats, the crews, in man-of-war rig, with snow-white awnings spread, and their ensigns flying, the men keeping time with their oars, as we rowed along the green shores of the silent sea of Galilee! Pulling to the shore, we inquired the name of the place, of a fellah who was watering his donkey. His reply was, “Mejdel.” This is the ancient Magdala, the birth-place of Mary Magdalen, and was once visited by our Saviour. We were coming in closer, and yet closer, contiguity to sacred scenes. On our way from Beïrût to Haifa, we had passed the ruins of Tyre, where the Saviour yielded to the importunities of the Canaanitish woman, and healed her.
Passing between Nazareth and Cana, and approaching this lake, we looked at them from a distance, but here we were upon their threshold. I do not know what was passing in the minds of others, but I felt myself all unworthy to tread upon the consecrated spot. Instead of landing, we pulled a short distance from the shore, and, lying upon the oars, looked in silence upon the scene.
Mejdel is now a poor village of about forty families, all fellahin. The houses, like those of Turân, are of rough stone, with flat mud roofs. Above it are high hills, with rounded faces to the north-east, and perpendicular precipices behind, presenting a stratified appearance. In the face of the precipice are many caverns, whether natural or artificial, from this distance we could not tell.* In these caverns, it was said that a band of robbers once fortified themselves, and were with difficulty expelled. Josephus states that the assailants were lowered down in chests from the summit to the mouths of the caverns. While pulling about the lake, a squall swept down one of the ravines, and gave us a convincing proof how soon the placid sea could assume an angry look.
( Burckhardt, who visited them, says that they are natural, but united together by artificial passages. He estimates that they would shelter about 600 men. )
We had not time to survey the lake, — the advancing season, and the lessening flood in the Jordan, warning us to lose no time. We deferred making the necessary observations, therefore, until our return. The bottom is a concave basin, — the greatest depth, thus far ascertained, twenty-seven and a half fathoms (165 feet); but this inland sea, alternately rising and falling, from copious rains or rapid evaporation, apart from its only outlet, is constantly fluctuating in depth.
The water of the lake is cool and sweet, and the inhabitants say that it possesses medicinal properties. It produces five kinds of fish, all good, viz. the “Musht,” “Abu But,” “Huffafah,” “Abu Kisher,” and “Burbut;” the last, from some superstitious idea, is not eaten by the Jews. The musht, about one foot long and four or five inches wide, resembles the sole. Burckhardt mentions one called Binni, like the carp. All that we tasted, and we tried to procure them all, were delicious.
In the evening, we had a long conversation with the Arab boatman, who was one of the crew of Molyneaux’s boat. He gave a disheartening account of the great, and, as he thought, the insuperable impediments to boats as large as ours. He dwelt particularly upon the rapids and cascades, false channels and innumerable rocks, and was inclined to think that there was a cataract in the part of the river along which they transported their boat upon a camel. Among other things, he stated that many rivers empty into the Jordan, which I did not believe.
That we should encounter great obstacles, perhaps seemingly insurmountable ones, I did not doubt; but I had great faith in American sailors, and believed that what men could do, they would achieve. So there was no thought of turning back.
When in Constantinople, my patience was severely tried by a countryman, who, with the best intentions, but in bad taste, gave me a circumstantial account of the death of three British naval officers, of my name, engaged in expeditions to the east. One captain and two lieutenants; the first perishing with his vessel in the Euphrates; one of the others massacred by the Arabs, and the third dying in the desert. Had their names been Jones and mine Jenkins, there would have been no forebodings; but as it was, the supposed astounding information was conveyed in a mysterious whisper, with an ominous shake of the head!
The house we inhabited was owned by a Jew; and if the king of fleas holds his court in Tiberias his throne is surely here. But that the narrow and tortuous lanes of the town (there are no streets, in our acceptation of the word) were crowded with filthy and disgusting objects, I should have given the palm of uncleanness to our host and his family. They were, in person and attire, literally unwashed, uncombed, slouching, shuffling, and repulsive. Unlike all other places we have seen, the women are not more cleanly than the men; and while the married ones carefully conceal their hair, they all studiously exhibit the formation of their breasts, which renders them anything but attractive.
The men have the abject, down-trodden look which seems peculiar to this people in the east. Many of the children are quite handsome; but filth, poverty, avarice, and tyranny, have changed the old into disgusting libels upon humanity. Compared to them, our wild Arabs are paragons of manly cleanliness.
The pashas and governors, in this country, have an offhand, arbitrary, and unfeeling mode of transacting business. When our camels broke down at Acre, Sa’id Bey was applied to, by our consul, for additional ones.
There happened, unfortunately, to be a fellah coming from Nazareth with two loaded camels, just then without the walls. He was made to throw his sacks of grain in the road; and without clothes, or communication with his family, sent to assist in the transportation of our effects. By chance, he found a friend to take care of his grain. Of course we knew nothing of this; and would rather not have come at all, than have our progress facilitated by such an act of tyranny. It was not until about to settle with the camel-drivers, that we were told of it. The poor fellah was remunerated for his loss of time, and paid liberally for the use of his camels, the amount being deducted from the sum contracted for with Sa’id Mustafa.
We found here an old frame boat, which I purchased for six hundred piastres, about twenty-five dollars, in order to relieve the other boats, lessen the expense of transportation down the Jordan, and carry our tents upon the Dead Sea; for it was fast becoming warm, and we might not be able to work in that deep chasm without them. We repaired and named her Uncle Sam
Since we occupied these quarters, as well as along the route from Acre, Mustafa had purchased and cooked our provisions. He was inestimable; a genuine Arab, speaking a little English, and able to boil a kettle, or roast a sheep, in a gale of wind in the open air. But his great recommendation was his unvarying cheerfulness at all times, and under all circumstances. Every morning, before and during breakfast, our room was thronged with Arabs, and Mustafa knew exactly what amount of attention to bestow on each. To the governor and the sheikhs, he tendered the tiny cup of coffee, or the chibouque, with his head bowed down, and his left hand upon his breast: to those approaching his own degree, they were handed with cavalier nonchalence.
MONDAY, APRIL 10. It was necessary to procure other camels here, the owners of those we brought from Acre not being willing to trust them in the desert, for which reason we had been detained, but not in idleness, for we were constantly occupied in making barometrical and thermometrical observations, and taking sights to ascertain the rate of the instruments. It was necessary, also, to purchase and carry our provisions with us. Last night the camels were reported as coming, and this morning their arrival was announced. All, therefore, was the busy note of preparation.
A distinguished guest at our usual extempore levée this morning, was the Emir or Prince of the tribes on the upper banks of the Jordan. This royal personage delights in the euphonius patronymic of Emir Nasser ’Arar el Gûzzaway. He had heard of our purpose, and came to proffer the hospitalities of his tribes. He was considerably taller and stouter than the generality of the race; his complexion was of the tint of burnt umber, his eye black, lascivious, and glistening like that of a snake; he wore a tangled black beard, and, with his fang-like teeth, smiled à la Carker. His costume was in no manner distinguished from that of his numerous attendants, unless in its superlative uncleanliness, and a pre-eminence in the liberal mode of ventilation adopted by this people.
The dirty barbarian affected a love of nature, and a slight taste for botany. Reclining lazily upon the cushions of the divan, with a kind of oriental voluptuousness, he ever and anon raised a rose-bud to his nostril, and enjoyed its fragrance with the exquisite languor of a city beau. The ogre prince! We accepted the invitation, and he joined the caravan.
In order that, by a division of labour, our work might be well performed, I assigned to each officer and volunteer of this expedition his appropriate duty.
With the command of the caravan, Lieut. Dale was to take topographical sketches of the country as he proceeded, and such other notes as circumstances would permit.
Dr. Anderson was directed to make geological observations, and collect specimens where he could; Mr. Bedlow to note the aspect of the country on the land route, and the incidents that occurred on the march; and Lieut. Francis Lynch, who was charged with the herbarium, to collect plants and flowers.
In the water party, I assigned to myself, in the Fanny Mason, the course, rapidity, colour, and depth of the river and its tributaries, — the nature of its banks, and of the country through which it flowed, — the vegetable productions, and the birds and animals we might see, with a journal of events. To Mr. Aulick, who had charge of the Fanny Skinner, was assigned the topographical sketch of the river and its shores.
It was my anxious desire to avoid taking camels down the Ghor; but, from the best information we could obtain respecting the river, I was obliged to employ them. As the Jordan was represented to run between high banks which form the terraces of another valley yet above them, I felt that our safety and the success of the expedition would depend materially upon the vigilance and alacrity of the land party. I therefore placed it under command of Lieut. Dale. It consisted of Dr. Anderson, Mr. Bedlow, Mr. Lynch, Sherîf, ’Akil, Mustafa and ten Bedouin videttes. They were directed to keep as near to the river as the nature of the country would permit, and should they hear two guns fired in quick succession, to leave the camel-drivers to take care of themselves, and hasten with all speed to our assistance. I felt sure that Dr. Dale would not fail me, and in that respect my mind was at ease. The Sherîf , ‘Akil and the Emir all assured me that there was no danger to the caravan, but that the great fear was an attack upon the boats when entangled among the rocks and shoals.
After much delay and vexation, quarrelling of the boatmen, loud talking of the camel-drivers, and a world of other annoyances, we of the water saw our friends of the land party take their departure.
Winding through the narrow streets, over piles of rubbish, filth and garbage, encountering ruin, want, and wretchedness at every turn, they issued from the northern gate of the town to join our Bedouin friends at the “Baths,” the appointed place of rendezvous.