« PreviousContinue »
and the descent, according to my aneroid, is ten hundred and fifty feet. Of course, it is a continued repetition of roaring rapids and leaping cataracts. I once rode, walked, and scrambled from the bridge down to the entrance into the lake—a wild, stern gorge, fit haunt for robbers, from whom it is never free.
The bridge is concealed from our view by that projecting hill on the south corner of this plain. It is not ancient —at least not in its present form—but is a very substantial affair, having three broad arches. A guard is always stationed at it, and a few Arabs generally pitch their tents near, to profit from the passing traveler by selling eggs and lebn, and by pilfering, as occasion offers. On the east of the bridge are the remains of an old khan, with a beautiful cistern of well-cut stone in the centre of the court. It had handsome basaltic columns at the corners, and was supplied with water by a canal from the mountains above. The whole road from the bridge to the khan, and thence up the eastern mountain, was once paved with large basaltic slabs. The road from Jerusalem to Damascus passes up it and out on to the wild rocky region of the Jaulān.
About a quarter of a mile south of the bridge are the ruins of a large castle, called now Kusr’Atra. It is on the west bank, and was evidently built to command the ford at that place and above it.
This Hûleh—plain, marsh, lake, and surrounding mountains—is the finest hunting-ground in Syria, and mainly so because it is very rarely visited. Panthers and leopards, bears and wolves, jackals, hyenas and foxes, and many other animals are found, great and small, while it is the very paradise of the wild boar and the fleet gazelle. As to water-fowl, it is scarcely an exaggeration to affirm that the lower end of the lake is absolutely covered with them in the winter and spring. Here only have I seen the pelican
of the wilderness, as David calls it.? I once had one of them shot just below this place, and, as it was merely wounded in the wing, I had a good opportunity to study its character. It was certainly the most sombre, austere bird I ever saw. It gave one the blues merely to look at it. David could find no more expressive type of solitude and melancholy by which to illustrate his
own sad state. It seemed as large as a half-grown donkey, and when fairly settled on its stout legs, it looked like one. The pelican is never seen but in these unfrequented solitudes, and to this agree all the references to it in the Bible. It is sometimes called cormorant in our English translation.
There is an easy ascent to Safed from this plain of el Kheît. It is half an hour to a large winter torrent called ? Ps. cii. 6.
? Is. xxxiv. 11; Zeph. ii. 14.
Hendâj, and forty minutes farther to Wady el Wükkâs, at the foot of the mountains, where is a large Tell of the same name, more than seven hundred paces long and about one hundred feet high, with a miserable village on the east end of it. Thence the path ascends by Kûbbaah to Ain ’Askûl and upward toward the southwest, till, at the end of three and a half hours from el Mellahah, you are at Safed. Our present business, however, is to reach Kūdes yonder, in that recess of the mountain to the northwest of us. It will take an hour of busy, earnest climbing; and the long ride and brisk mountain air will sharpen our appetites for dinner, which will no doubt be waiting.
It seems that we have rather suspicious neighbors; such, at least, is the apprehension of the muleteers. Kūdes has, in fact, a bad reputation in more respects than one. It is so unhealthy that the Metāwely lords of these mountains find it difficult to get people to live here and cultivate the lands. They constantly leave, and it has then to be colonized anew. Those now here are strangers from the French colony of Algeria. Several thousands of the Algerines, to whom the French yoke was intolerable, obtained permission to settle in Syria, and a small body of them came here under the direction of Tamar Beg. I never saw a more forlorn band of pilgrims than they appeared to be when they landed at Beirût, and I fear this Kūdes will prove but a poor city of refuge to them.
By the way, this is one of the cities of refuge. No better proof of antiquity and past importance could be desired.
Yes, this is that Kedesh in Galilee, in Mount Naphtali, which was given to the Levites of the family of Gershon, and then selected to be the most northern city of refuge.
I somewhere read, when young, that these cities were seated on commanding heights, so as to be visible at a great distance; but this one, at least, is hid away under the mountain, and can not be seen until one is close upon it.
The idea, though common and even ancient, is certainly mistake. Nablûs and Hebron, the other two cities west
Josh. xx. 7, and xxi. 32.
CITIFS OF REFUGE-FOUNTAINS.. 405 of the Jordan, lie low in valleys, and it is evident that the selection was made without reference to elevation; they were central, however: this for the north, Nablûs for the middle, and Hebron for the south of Palestine. A few hours rapid flight would bring the unhappy man-slayer to one or other of these asylums. The Jewish writers affirm that it was the duty of the Sanhedrim to keep the roads to the cities of refuge in good repair, and to have guide-posts wherever needed, with the words Refuge! Refuge! written upon them, that there might be no mistake, no delay. If these things were not so, they ought to have been; and although we never read of any instance in which this provision for safety was embraced, yet no doubt it was; and whether or not, still, as good old Henry says, there is a great deal of excellent gospel taught or implied in this institution. The account of it is very fully given in the 35th chapter of Numbers and 19th of Deuteronomy.
Our ride for the last two days around the sources of the Jordan has reminded me of the words of Moses to the children of Israel in regard to this country: The Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of the valleys and hills. Certainly this is a good land. I have never seen a better; and none where the fountains and depths that spring out of the valleys and hills are so numerous, so large, and so beautiful.
And then remember that this is a climate almost tropical, where water is fertility and life, and the absence of it sterility and death, and the greatness of the blessing is vastly enhanced. The number of these fountains and depths is prodigious. Many of those whose united contributions make up the Jordan we have looked into during these last few days; but the whole land is full of them. Those of the Dog River; of the River of Beirût; of the Damûr; the Owely; the Zahrany; those of the Litany at Baalbek ; Zahleb, 'Ainjar, and Mushgarah; the great Ras el 'Ain at Tyre; those of Kabery and the Naamany on the plain of
? Deut. viii. 7.
Acre; and of the Kishon at Jenîn, Lejjun, and Wady Kŭsaby; of the Zerka, near Cæsarea; and those of the Aujeh at Antipatris, and the Ras in Sharon. And thus we might go all through Palestine, on both sides of the Jordan, and enumerate hundreds of them-powerful fountains—the permanent sources of every river in the country. I have visited them often, and always with admiration and astonishment. Nor need we wonder that so much is made of them in the Bible: they are the glory and the life of the land, and they abound to an extent almost incredible. Many single villages in the mountains have scores of smaller springs, which run among the valleys, and give drink to every beast of the field. Some even boast of hundreds of these little sources of fertility.
Many of these fountains have some peculiar characteristic about them. Some are tepid, as those along the shore of Tiberias; many are slightly brackish, and not a few are remittent or wholly intermittent. Of this latter class is Neb'ah Fûârr, the source of the Sabbatic River; the Menbej, east of Beit Jenn, the head of the second river of Damascus. The main source of the Litany at 'Anjur is a remitting fountain of a very extraordinary kind. But we must not make a pleasant subject tedious by too much detail. Enough has been said to justify the declaration of Moses that this is eminently the land of fountains.
You mentioned the Sabbatic River just now, and I should like to know something about this rather apocryphal stream.
That of the Jews is, indeed, sufficiently apocryphal, but that of Josephus is not, though the phenomenon on which it is based is somewhat exaggerated in his hands. In book seven of his “Wars," he says, “Now Titus tarried some time in Berytus, as we told you before. He then removed, and exhibited magnificent shows in all the cities of Syria through which he went, and made use of the captured Jews as public instances of the destruction of that nation. He then saw a river as he went along, of such a nature as deserves to be recorded in history. It runs in the middle, between Arca, belonging to Agrippa's kingdom, and Rapha