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JOURNEY IN SYRIA AND ROUND THE
January 25th, 1851.
WE have passed an excellent night, notwithstanding the incessant howling of the jackals, who seem to be quite domesticated in the streets of Hebron. We have slept like so many logs of wood, and still I have some recollection that I heard the door of our room, which opens by merely touching it with your finger, creaking upon its hinges. Who can have been our nocturnal visitor? I cannot guess, and at first am not much inclined to inquire; nothing has disappeared, all is in its right place but, abomination of the wilderness! the reader may remember that Papigny had killed a pretty humming-bird in the Rhor-Safieh, and that I had appropriated to myself the feathery remains of the poor little creature. In addition to this, between Er-Ramaïl and Djenbeh, Belly had shot another beautiful bird, something like a partridge, but yellow in colour, and with a brown rim round the neck. The remains of both were reserved for the scalpel of the naturalist, and Belly intended to dissect them with great care as soon as we
should arrive at Jerusalem. And now a wretched cat, even a greater admirer of birds than ourselves, has stolen in secretly, and feasted upon both our treasures, thus saving our friend the pleasure he had anticipated. This was the intruder I heard prowling about our room, like a thief in the night; and of our two highly-valued acquirements, he has left us nothing but a few feathers, and some odd fragments of legs, as melancholy reminiscences. I writhe with vexation on discovering this mysterious iniquity; I abuse everybody, be they never so innocent, and vow deadly vengeance on the perpetrator, if chance will only throw him in my way. But, after a little reflection, I consider that were I to rave until to-morrow, it would not bring back either a leg or a feather of the two lost birds; I therefore adopt the wiser course of restraining my useless anger, and if I indulge it, I do so internally and without display.
We have neither time nor inclination to tarry long in Hebron; on the contrary, we are most impatient to return to Jerusalem. Accordingly, we mount our horses, and resume our journey, on a fair, clear, but bitter cold morning. We leave the town by the same gate through which we entered it yesterday; passing again along the large pond which I have already mentioned; then we turn to the right, between the pond and the Mohammedan burying-ground, through a grove of magnificent olive-trees, and soon find ourselves on a paved ascentin all probability the ancient high-road from Hebron to Jerusalem. This ascent is now transformed into a torrent, occupying the whole breadth of the road, and impetuously rolling down to the bottom of the valley of Hebron;
a rush of waters inundating all the surrounding country, and produced by the incessant rains of the last few days.
To the right and left of the road are beautiful vineyards, interspersed frequently with huts and round towers, consisting, no doubt, of working stations and watch-houses, intended to accommodate those who are placed there for the protection of property. This mode of watching is not of recent invention in Judæa, for the prophet Isaiah informs us that in his day it was already in use. We read at Chap. i. ver. 8, " And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard." And, further on, Chap. v. ver. 1, 2, " Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill.—And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes." Here again we have another proof that nothing changes in this country; the customs of thirty centuries ago are in use to this day, and exactly after the same fashion. As soon as we have reached the upper levels, we encounter, to the left of our road, perceptible ruins called Kharbet-er-Ram, and a little further on, others named Kharbet-en-Nasara. What Rama can this be? I am unable to answer. As to the ruins bearing the name of En-Nasara (the Christians), they might be supposed to owe their origin to the Crusades; but I am far from asserting that such is the case. To assign with any degree of certainty to a ruined locality in this country, an origin so compara
tively modern, would require a much more detailed investigation than I was able to bestow in the present instance.
As we proceed, we perceive on our right the village of Halhoul, and some time after, towards the east, that of Ech-Chioukh. Here there are no grounds for doubt: we have certainly before us a biblical station which is named, in Joshua (xv. 58) amongst the cities of the hill country of Judah,-Halhul, Beth-zur, and Gedor. A modern village of Beth-zur still exists, at a short distance westward of Halhoul; and to the north-west of this same village, we reach, some minutes later, another called Ed-Deroueh, which may possibly have taken the place of the scriptural Gedor. Still further on, and to the right of the road, other extensive ruins appear, called Abou-fid, having every appearance of a remote origin.
Passing in front of a village situated at some distance from the left of our road, and named Beit-Oummar, we arrive at the entrance of a delightful valley, planted with fine trees shading a fountain called Bir-el-Hadji-Ramadan. This valley is called Ouad-el-Biar (the valley of the wells), so named on account of some large wells that are found in the neighbourhood, and in all probability of very ancient origin, for the labour of their construction was certainly never undertaken by the Arabs of the living generation. When we reach the bottom of the Ouad-el-Biar, the road winds up the curtain of hills that encloses the valley, through naked rocks and narrow paths, almost impassable for horses. After meeting several remnants of ancient buildings, we arrive at the