« PreviousContinue »
BAY OF ACRE-ARAB ROBBERS.
glass; or, if these sailors supported their saucepans on pieces of rock placed round the fire, they might have melted so as to give the first hint which led to the discovery. The story may
therefore have some foundation in fact. This sandy beach, so smooth and solid, is one of the finest places in the world for a gallop, and there is always something exhilarating in a ride round the head of this bay. The city behind; Carmel, with its holy traditions, in front; the long reach of perfectly level shore, with men and animals diminishing in the distance either way down to the size of kittens; the broad bay opening out upon the boundless sea, with its boats and ships; these sandy downs, with feathery reeds running far inland, the chosen retreat of wild boar and wild Arabs, all combine to excite the mind and enliven the spirits.
Then there is just enough of insecurity to keep the imagination in full play. The Arab robber lurks like a wolf among these sand-heaps, and often springs out suddenly upon the solitary traveler, robs him in a trice, and then plunges again into the wilderness of sand-hills and reedy downs, where pursuit is fruitless. Our friends are careful not to allow us to straggle about or lag behind, and yet it seems absurd to fear a surprise here—Khaifa before, Acre in the rear, and travelers in sight on both sides. Robberies, however, do often occur, just where we now are. Strange country! and it has always been so. There are a hundred allusions to just such things in the history, the Psalms, and the prophets of Israel. A whole class of imagery is based upon them. Thus, in Ps. x. 8–10: He sits in the lurkingplaces of the villages, in the secret places doth he murder the innocent. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den; he lieth in wait to catch the poor; he doth catch the poor when he draweth him into his net; he croucheth and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones. And a thousand rascals, the living originals of this picture, are this day crouching and lying in wait all over the country to catch poor helpless travelers. You observe that all these people we meet or pass are armed; nor would they venture to go from Acre to Khaifa without their musket, although the cannon of the castles seem to command every foot of the way. Strange, most strange land! but it tallies wonderfully with its ancient story. EAGLES—VULTURES-TURTLES.
I see many wrecks of ships along this shore, and here are two not yet buried beneath the sand. They have been cast away by this last storm. To what do you attribute the insecurity of this anchorage?
I have heard captains complain that there is somethingeither harsh sea-weed or sharp rocks—which corrodes the cables. Others say that the bottom is not good and the anchor drags. My own opinion is that the real cause of so many disasters is found in the nature of the shore and of the interior.
The high ridge of Carmel runs far down southeast, and between it and the mountains of Galilee on the north there is a narrow opening into the great plain of Esdraelon. Owing to this physical formation, the west sea wind is drawn inward with tremendous violence, and any accident happening to a ship's cable or anchor, she must inevitably come right on shore. There is no possibility of working out to sea. And although the headland from Carmel juts far into the bay to the northwest, yet the direction of the low flats of the Kishon along the base of the mountain draws the gales round this point into the bay, and they sweep down past the town of Khaifa toward the southeast with awful violence. The roadstead is wholly insecure in a gale from the west, and still more so during one from any intervening point between that and the north. You need not wonder, therefore, at the wrecks strewn along the shore, nor at the vast extent of these sandy downs, which stretch inland farther than we can see.
Here we have a confirmation of that proverb of our Lord,' Wheresoever the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
Are those huge birds eagles ?
1 Matt. xxiv. 28.
color, are a species of vulture; they are a more gross and a much tamer bird. The eagles, you observe, have all retired to the tops of those sand-heaps, while the vultures only hop a little way up the beach as we approach.
I did not know there were so many eagles in all this country. They must have gathered together from a great distance. And what "carcass" is this that has assembled such a congregation on the sea-beach?
Nothing but an immense turtle which the storm threw out on the shore. You observe that his old back is covered with large and very strong barnacles, of a species which I find only on these turtles. Do you notice that these eagles have no feathers on the head and upper part of the neck ?
This reminds me of the advice of Micah to the houses of Achzîb back yonder on this very shore: Make thee bald,