Biography and family record of Lorenzo Snow/Letter X
SUPPLEMENT. ' 553
Famous Scripture locality. Village of robbers. Battlefield of Palestine. Mounts Tabor and Hermon. Nazareth. The Holy Grotto. Table of Christ. Arab plows. Cana of Galilee. Arab school. Sea of Galilee. Tiberias. Bedouin spinsters. Residence of Mary Magdalene. Sere- naded by Bedouins. Backsheesh.
SYRIA, MARCH 15TH, 1873. Editor Deseret News:
Leaving Samaria, we wind up a rocky acclivity and pass through an avenue of olive trees, to a smart looking village, located 011 a stony ridge. Our road now lies over low hills covered with dwarf oak and hawthorn, through rich valleys abounding in wheat fields, fig orchards and groves
venerable olive trees, with gnarled and furrowed trunks, clothed with gray foliage, and along over hills whose terraced sides are covered with vineyards. Several villages are seen dotting the hill sides or crowning their lofty sum- mits. We passed through some low, winding ravines. These are the passes so often defended by the "ten thousands of Ephraim and thousands of Mannasseh," against their northern invaders. In the midst of these hills, the famous Gideon, the hero of Mannasseh, was nurtured and reared; through these passes he marched at the head of his little army against the Midianites, who were lying in multitudes in the Valley of Jezreel.
We passed a large village surrounded by olive groves. Its inhabitants have a bad reputation. It is said that they will not miss an opportunity of plundering the solitary traveler when found in the neighboring glens.
Friday, 7th, we camped at Jenin, interpreted "fountain of gardens." It contains three thousand inhabitants, chiefly Mohammedans. The town is charmingly situated, commanding a view of the great Plain of Esdraelon. The low hills behind are overspread by shrubbery, with here and there patches of olives. Around the town the landscape is clothed in rich verdure, variegated with flowers of brilliant colors; also fine gardens encircled by hedges of cactus of immense growth, and palm trees here and there raising their graceful heads. The Plain of Esdraelon, the famous battlefield of Palestine, stretches far away, from fifteen to twenty miles to the base of the mountains, below Nazareth, on one side enclosed by the hills of Galilee, on the other by the mountains of Samaria, the whole forming one vast, unbroken expanse of verdure. In all this plain, not a village or hamlet
appears, though they are seen dotting the slopes of the surrounding hills, or perched on their rocky summits. Long strings of Bedouin tents are here and there strung along its borders, and numerous flocks and herds are fattening on its luxuriant herbage.
Several fierce looking Arabs visited our tents in the evening, whose appearance failed to impress us favorably respecting their future intentions; our guards occasionally fired a gun during the night, indicating their presence and preparation for defense. The following morning we passed over the Plain of Esdraelon. We now have a view of Mount Tabor, dotted with oaks from base to summit, and Mount Hermon, panoplied in snow. After descending a steep, rocky ridge, we wind through a dreary glen, opening into the valley of Nazareth. We rode through the crooked, filthy and narrow streets of the city of Nazareth, and pitched our tents near its borders. The town is located in narrow ravines, and on the narrow, rocky declivities by which they are separated. A little valley opens out before it, about one mile long and one-half mile in breadth, engirdled by high, bleak hills. The valley is divided into small, plowed fields, in the centre of which are patches of gardens, enclosed by hedges of cactus.
The Franciscan convent is the most prominent structure, then a mosque with its white tapering minaret looms up from among the low buildings. The city contains four thousand inhabitants, the larger portion of whom are Christians.
Nazareth is remarkable for being the home of the Savior's boyhood the scenes of his private life. Many objects and places are shown, associated with the Virgin and the Savior the "Holy Grotto," where the angel announced to Mar}' that she was favored of the Highest: the "Workshop of Joseph," in which Jesus worked; the "Table of Christ," etc., but having little faith in their identity. I waive description.
We remained over Sunday, .and next morning pursued our way, leading over some fine valleys under moderate cultivation. Arabs were plowing the fields. Their plows, and mode of using them, are remarkably simple and primitive. This instrument consists of a crooked stick, four inches in diameter, shod with iron six inches wide, tapered to a point, a wooden peg through the top forming the handle. In the middle of this stick, the end of a small round pole is fastened, the opposite end is attached to the yoke by strings or ropes. The yoke is formed by a short, straight pole, with bows partly of wood and partly of ropes. It is placed upon the necks of two dwarfed, -wretched oxen or cows, the size of our ordinary yearlings. In one hand the Arab holds the handle of his plow, in the other flourishes a long stick, by virtue of which the machine is put in motion, and its velocity regulated. It works into the soil about four inches, breaking the same in
breadth. The land, under this mode of cultivation, will yield, per acre, probably six or eight bushels. Under proper management, it would produce five times the amount.
We stopped at an Arab village, known in Bible history as Cana of Galilee, consisting of a few low, dirty dwellings. We dismounted and entered a small, miserable structure, called a chapel, containing some old stone pots, which once, as we were informed, contained the water which Jesus converted into wine, at the wedding. Withdrawing from this place of relics, I entered a hall some fifteen feet in length by thirteen in breadth, divested of door and windows, occupied by Arab children as a schoolroom. Some thirty or forty boys, seated in rows upon the ground, each with a small tablet, covered with characters, were chanting their lessons very loud and with remarkable energy. This chanting and repeating together is the usual method adopted by the Arab teacher in instructing "the yoang idea how to shoot," it being maintained that it fixes more indelibly the principle in the memory. However this may be, I am certain the chanting scene was strikingly impressed on my memory, and the picturesque appearance and noisy characteristics of an Arab school cannot be forgotten.
At length we reach the summit of a lofty mountain and look abroad on the vale of Gennesareth, and down one thousand feet upon the Sea of Galilee, whose surging waves were once stilled, and the howling tempest silenced, by the voice of the Savior. Descending the steep declivity, we spread our tents among some old ruins, rent walls, and crumbling towers, directly upon the shore. The effects of the great earthquake of 1837 are everywhere distinctly visible.
The Sea of Galilee is about fifteen miles long, from six to seven broad, though, owing to the remarkable clearness of the atmosphere, it looks much smaller. It occupies the bottom of a deep basin, the sides of which shelve down with gradual slopes from the summits of the surrounding hills. On one side, these hills or mountains rise nearly two thousand feet, inter- sected by deep ravines. The Jordan flows into it from the east, and passes out at the south. It is about seven hundred feet above the level of the Dead Sea, into which the Jordan empties, after accomplishing a remarkably serpentine tour through the valley which bears its name. I here introduce from the pen of my sister:
AT THE SEA OF GALILEE.
I have stood on the shore of the beautiful sea, The renowned and immortalized Galilee, When 'twas wrapped in repose, at eventide, Like a royul queen in her regal pride.
No sound was astir not a murmuring wave Not a motion was seen but the tremulous lave, A gentle heave, of the water's crest As the infant breathes on its mother's breast.
I thought of the present the past; it seemed That the silent sea with instruction teemed; For often, indeed, the heart can hear What never, in sound, has approached the ear.
Full oft has silence been richly fraught
With treasures of wisdom and stores of thought;
With sacred, heavenly whisperings, too,
That are sweeter than roses, and honey dew.
There's a depth in the soul, that's beyond the reach
Of all earthly sound of all human speech,
A fiber too sacred and pure to chime
With the cold, dull music of Earth and Time.
'Tis the heart's receptacle, naught can supply But the streams that flow from the fount on high, An instinct divine, of immortal worth, An inherited gift, through primeval birth.
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Again, when the shades of night were gone, In the clear bright rays of the morning dawn, I walked on the bank of this self-same sea, Where once our Redeemer was wont to be.
Where, "Lord save, or I perish," was Peter's prayer; Befitting the weak and the faithless elsewhere . And here, while admiring this Scriptural sea, Th' bold vista of Time brought th' past up to me.
Embossed with events when the Prince of Life Endured this world's hatred, its envy and strife; When, in Him, the Omnipotent was revealed, And, by Him, the wide breach of the law was healed.
The gates He unbarred, and led the way, Through the shadow of death to the courts of day; And "led captivity captive" when "He ascended on high, and gave gifts unto men." DAMASCUS, SYRIA, MARCH I?TH, 1873.
We are tented in the suburbs of Tiberias, which is a small village of two thousand inhabitants. It numbers eight hundred Jews, poor, sickly- looking and friendless, an appearance, unfortunately, too applicable to the generality of this people whom we saw in the towns and cities of Palestine. They are permitted'to occupy a small area in the middle of the town, where they have erected small synagogues, and established some common schools.
Close upon the shore is a Latin convent, which stands on the spot, as we were informed, where the scene of the miraculous draught of fishes occurred. Tiberias was built by Herod, the murderer of John the Baptist, in honor of the Roman Emperor, and was the capital of the province of Galilee.
The next morning we moved camp up the lake six miles. President
Smith, Professor Carrington and T. W. Jennings, with two American gen- tlemen, taking boat and making the excursion by water; the remainder of the company, with myself, mounted horses and followed the shore. Our ride was interesting and cheering, under the influence of a smiling sun. in an atmosphere of Egyptian balminess, far below the cold breezes of the hills of Galilee. We overtook some Bedouin ladies, each perched on the hump of a camel, traveling in the same direction, chanting their native songs very plaintively. Our young Arab guide, with becoming suavity, engaged them in an interesting conversation, the general features of which he afterwards explained. They informed him that they had no husbands, which circumstance they reckoned a great misfortune. This was attribu- table, they said, to one cause only. The laws and customs of their country permitted the father to dispose of his daughter for any stipulated amount, the price varying from five hundred to eight thousand francs, according to the beauty and accomplishments of the lady in question; that they could readily procure husbands, but the young gentlemen who fancied them, and whom they wished to favor, were not prepared to meet the exorbitant demands of their fathers; consequently they were not married, which they regretted exceedingly. It was the custom of the ladies, they said, to marry early, at the age of twelve or thirteen years; that they themselves were rising of twenty, a circumstance which made them uncomfortable and very melancholy.
We passed a cluster of low houses, resembling hovels more than human dwellings. This was formerly the residence of Mary Magdalene, whom the Savior delivered from the power of demons. Our path now lay along the gravelly shore of the sea, and through tangled thickets of thorns, cane and tall nettles, occasionally passing clumps of oleanders, adorned with blush- ing roses, peeping out beneath their green luxuriant foliage. At length we reached our camping ground, a romantic spot a pretty patch of green
sward, formed of clover and other grasses, near a remarkably large fountain, whose sparkling waters burst forth beneath a large gray mountain and swept down into the sea some yards below. A camp of wild Bedouins, on our approach, comprehending our wishes, generously consented to with- draw to a distant locality. Before leaving, however, they proposed to honor us with a serenade. Their instruments were strikingly rude, and, as we presently learned, better adapted to loud, shrill noise than to musical har- mony. Our animals were not excitable under ordinary circumstances, but this was a little too much for their nerves looking towards the tempestous sounds they commenced snorting, prancing, breaking away, and rushing off in various directions. In this state of things, we saw that, however flatter- ing the serenade might be to our vanity, there was danger of a drawback to our progress as tourists; hence we intimated to our Bedouin admirers that though we appreciated the honors they were laboring to bestow, should it suit their convenience to terminate at once the peculiar entertainment we should consider ourselves eminently favored. They closed the amusement with a modest suggestion that some backsheesh was due for their services, which having paid, our muleteers hurried off hi search of the animals.