« AnteriorContinua »
CONVENT-PRECIPICE OF PRECIPITATION.
sacred place at early dawn. But I have little satisfaction in looking at shrines in which I have no faith, or in examining the cells of monks for whose institutions and characters I entertain very little respect. The convent appeared to me more like a castle than a house of prayer, but I suppose it is none too strong to keep out Arab robbers. Issuing through its iron gates, I strolled away in search of the precipice of “Precipitation;" and, were it not so far from the village, I should acquiesce in it at once, for it is well adapted to the murderous purpose which animated the townsmen of our Lord. My guide pointed out a small ruin much nearer the precipice, where, he said, the village was originally built; and this, if one could place confidence in the tradition, would relieve the difficulty as to distance. I rather suspect, however, that the bold cliff which overhangs the Esdraelon was selected because of its striking appearance, and the grand prospect which it commands.
On my way back through the upper part of the town I found precipices enough for all the requirements of the narrative in Luke. Most of them, it is true, appear to be partly artificial, but doubtless there were some of the same sort in ancient days. I stopped also at the fountain of the annunciation, according to the Greek tradition, and, among other things, attempted to purchase one of those singular rolls of old coins which the girls of Nazareth bind around their foreheads and cheeks; but I could not succeed in my negotiation, for they refused to sell at any price. Most travelers speak of the beauty of these girls, and not altogether without reason. To me, however, they appear unusually bold, and their obvious want of modesty greatly depreciates their good looks. I fear that a very intimate acquaintance with the Nazareth of this day might lead me to ask the very question of Nathaniel, and therefore I am ready and quite willing to prosecute our pilgrimage.
The only preliminary is breakfast, and that has been waiting for half an hour. We send the tents to Sulam, and go thither ourselves by way of Tabor.
1 Luke iv. 29.
March 30th. It is about five miles nearly due east to the northwestern base of Tabor, whence only it can be ascended on horseback. The road winds over the hills, and down a long wady to the plain, a short distance north of Debûrieh. We, however, shall not follow the valley, but keep round farther north, and come upon the mount from the great oak woods which lie between it and Sejera. On one occasion I went directly up from Debûrieh with my aneroid, and found the ascent from Esdraelon to be thirteen hundred and forty-five feet. I had formerly made the base of the mountain about four hundred feet higher than the Bay of Acre, and the entire elevation, therefore, is not far from eighteen hundred feet. The southern face of Tabor is limestone rock, nearly naked, but the northern is clothed to the top with a forest of oak and terebinth, mingled with the beautiful mock-orange (Syringa). The road (if road it may be called) winds up through them, and, notwithstanding the experience of other travelers, I have always found it difficult, and in certain parts actually dangerous.
The mount is entirely composed of cretaceous limestone, as are the hills west and north of it, but all to the east is volcanic. I have never seen a picture of it that was perfectly satisfactory, although every artist who comes in sight of it is sure to take a sketch. Their views differ widely, owing mainly to the points whence they are taken. Seen from the south or north, Tabor describes nearly an arc of a great circle; from the east it is a broad truncated cone, rounded off at the top; from the west it is wedge-shaped, rising to a moderate height above the neighboring hills. Its true figure is an elongated oval, the longitudinal diameter running nearly east and west. The most impressive view, perhaps, is from the plain between it and Endor.
Esdraelon is seen to the greatest advantage, not from the summit, but from a projecting terrace some four hundred feet above Debûrieh. It appears like one vast carpet thrown
back to the hills of Samaria and the foot of Carmel. In variety of patterns and richness of colors it is not equaled by any thing in this country. Both the Mediterranean and the Lake of Tiberias are visible from a point near the summit, the former to the northwest, and the latter on the northeast. The Dead Sea, however, can not be seen from any part of Tabor, and those who have made the statement were probably deceived by the silvery haze which fills the ghor of the Jordan in that direction. There is often an actual mirage, which would mislead any one who had not previously examined the point on a day unperplexed by these phenomena. And now for this exciting and romantic climb. I will lead the way, and leave you to your own meditations, with the hint to look well to your horse, lest you change romance to tragedy before we get up.