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many-faced hills. Beyond is the vast plateau of the Hauron, faintly shading with its rocky ranges the utmost horizon eastward. Thence the eye sweeps over Gilead and Bashan, Samaria and Carmel, the plains of Galilee, the coasts of Phoenicia, the hills of Naphtali
, the long line of Lebanon, and the lofty head of Hermon—a vast panorama, embracing a thousand points of historic and sacred interest. Safed is truly a high tower on which to set the watchmen of Zion. My aneroid makes it 2650 feet above the Mediterranean. Tabor looks low, and Hŭttîn seems to be in a valley.
For the history of this town you may consult Robinson, Wilson, or any of the tourists who enter into such matters. The important fact about it is that, although now one of the four holy cities of the Jews, it has become such only within the last five hundred years. The rabbis, therefore, know very little about its ancient story, and nothing is more unsatisfactory than their confused and contradictory fables about it. I am of opinion that the castle is that Seph which Josephus fortified in Upper Galilee. It is mentioned in immediate connection with the rock Achabari or Akhbera, that gigantic cliff down there to the south of us about five miles. (See Wars, b. i. ch. xx. v. 6.)
There are no antiquities in the present town of Safed, and therefore we will take a survey of its immediate surroundings, and then prosecute our ride. I once came directly here from Khan Minieh, at the northwest corner of the lake, and without a guide. From our present stand-point it seems so near that one is tempted to pitch pebbles into it, and this castle has the same deceptive appearance from below. I thought I could come directly up to it, but soon got entangled in rocky wadies, and after immense fatigue, found myself, at the end of two hours, looking off from the great rock Akhbera. This terrific precipice can not be less than five hundred feet in perpendicular height, and it is traversed by interior passages, partly natural, partly artificial, quite to the top, with many windows in its face looking out upon the dizzy depth below. It was a famous den of robbers in olden time, but is now surrendered to bats, owls, and eagles. At its base is a fountain called 'Ain Kehâly, and a single hut marks the site of an ancient town, with the Hebrew name of Hŭkůb. The village of Kehâly lies in the wady above Akhbera, and beyond it the valley turns southwest, and unites with the Leimûny, which drains this broad and profound basin between us and that wooded mountain west of Safed, called Jebel Zebûd, and also Jermuk, from a village on its western slope. The great wady 'Amûd joins the Leimûny lower down, and the united stream issues, through a wild gorge, on to the plain of Gennesaret, and runs directly to the lake, without any connection with the Rubudîeh. The maps of this neighborhood are generally very inaccurate.
The main source of the Leimûny is the fountain called 'Ain et Jin, which rises in a rocky glen high up the side of Jebel Zebûd. It is a good mill-stream, but at certain seasons it entirely intermits, and hence the name Jin, because its irregularities are supposed to be occasioned by these capricious spirits. It flows near Meron or Marõn—as it is differently pronounced—which you can just see on the slope of Zebûd, about two hours to the west of us. I identify it with the Meroz, so bitterly cursed by Deborah, and I reach this conclusion thus: Barak resided in Kūdes, from which we have just come. In his march to Tabor he would naturally pass under this Maron, and would summon the inhabitants to join his expedition. They refused, probably with contempt and insult; hence the terrible imprecation in Deborah's triumphal ode: Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord; curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof, because they came not to the help of the Lord—to the help of the Lord against the mighty. It is rather a curious coincidence, if not an actual corroboration of this idea, that the Jews of this day have a tradition that Deborah actual passed by the place on her march with Barak to Tabor, and bathed in the fountain of Maron, and hence they call it Deborah's fountain. The names Meroz and Maron, or Meron, are almost identical, and the change of the final nun to zayn,
1 Judg. v. 23.
in transcribing, might easily be made. The undoubted antiquity of Maron, and its position on the direct road from Kūdes to Tabor, lend additional probability to what I admit is, after all, only a fair guess.
I have a somewhat similar hypothetical identification of this Beerieh or Beria, on the north of Safed, with the site of those Beerites whom Joab summoned to aid him against Sheba, the son of Bichri, as we read in 2d Samuel xx. 14. This would be on his route to Abel, and there is no other Beer in all this region. Upon the same grounds, I suppose that the great host under Jabin, king of Hazor, that came to fight against Joshua at the waters of Merom, may have assembled at this place. Josephus thus speaks about this matter: "So the kings that lived about Mount Libanus, who were Canaanites, and those Canaanites that dwelt in the plain country, with auxiliaries out of the land of the Philistines, pitched their camp at Beeroth, a city of Upper Galilee, not far from Cadesh.” Now there is no other Beeroth in Upper Galilee. This is evidently an ancient site; and Hazor, the capital of Jabin's kingdom, is at Hazere, some ten miles to the northwest, as I believe. If Jabin assembled his vast army there, he would naturally march this way to Merom. The mountain immediately above Beerieh takes its name from the village, but the ridge southeast of it is called Jebel Canaan. May not this name have been given to it from the fact that the grand army of the Canaanites pitched their camp there on that most memorable occasion? If those circumstances render the identification satisfactory, we are now looking upon one of the most ancient sites known to history. The fact that it is at present a small village, in humble dependence upon its younger and more prosperous neighbor, forms no objection. The land abounds in such examples. Hazor itself is utterly extinct.
This town of Safed wears a fresher and more lively air than any other in this region. To what is that to be ascribed ?
It is, in fact, the newest. Not a house in it is twenty years old. The whole town was dashed to the ground in half a minute by the earthquake in 1837, and these buildings have all been erected since that catastrophe. The prosperity of Safed is entirely owing to the constant influx of foreign Jews, drawn bither by the sanctity of the place. The population may be about five thousand, more than half of them Jews-a strange assemblage from most of the nations of Europe. I have no heart to enter into their history, or dwell on their absurd superstitions, their intense fanaticism, or their social and domestic institutions and manners, comprising an incredible and grotesque melange of filth and finery, pharisaic self-righteousness and Sadducean licentiousness. The following is a specimen of the puerilities enjoined and enforced by their learned rabbis. A Jew must not carry on the Sabbath even so much as a pocket-handkerchief, except within the walls of his city. If there are no walls, it follows, according to their perverse logic, that he must not carry it at all. To avoid this difficulty here in Safed, they resort to what they call Erův. Poles are set up at the ends of the streets, and strings stretched from one to the other. This string represents a wall, and a conscientious Jew may carry his handkerchief any where within these strings. I was once amused by a devout Israelite, who was walking with me, on his Sabbath, toward that grove of olive-trees on the north of the town where my tent was pitched. When we came to the end of the street the string was gone, and so, by another fiction, he supposed he was at liberty to go on without reference to what was in his pocket, because he had not passed the wall. The last time I was here they had abandoned this absurdity, probably to avoid the constant ridicule it brought upon them.
A profane and most quarrelsome fellow once handed me his watch to wind just after sunset on Friday evening. It
his Sabbath, and he could not work. Thus they still tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and teach for doctrines the commandments of men, making void the law of God by their traditions. It was such perverse traditions as these that our Lord rebuked when he declared that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.