« PreviousContinue »
ward across the valley of Kedron toward the fair hillsides, which presently we were to visit.
Immediately we set out for the Mount of Olives. We drove, and perhaps no party ever ascended that sacred hill on a fairer morning. The air was still, and there was a quiet Sunday feeling in the sunshine. In the distance there was a filmy, dreamy haze that gave just the touch of ideality to the picture.
The road that leads up Olivet is bordered by traditional landmarks, but we could not stop for them. It was enough to be on the road itself, following the dusty way the Son of Man and His disciples once knew so well. For this hill of fair olive-groves, overlooking Jerusalem, was their favorite resort, and it was their habit to come here to look down in contemplation on the holy city. It was here that the Master felt the shadow of coming events: the destruction of the city; the persecution and triumph of His followers; His own approaching tragedy. here that He gave them the parable of the Virgins, and of the Talents, and it was here that He came often at evening for rest and prayer, after the buffet and labor of the day. This is the road His feet so often trod—a well-kept road, with the olive-groves, now as then, sloping away on either side.
Here and there we turned to look down on Jerusalem, lying there bathed in the sunlit haze-a toy city, it seemed, with its little round-topped houses, its domes and minarets, its battlemented walls. How very small it was, indeed! Why, one could run its entire circuit without losing breath. It is, in fact, little more than half a mile across in any direction,
and from a distance it becomes an exquisite jewel set amid barren hills.
I am afraid I did not properly enjoy the summit of the Mount of Olives—its landmarks, I mean. The Russian and Greek and Latin churches have spoiled it with offensive architecture, and they have located and labelled exact sites in a way that destroys the reality of the events. They have framed in the precise spot where Jesus stood at the time of His ascension. It is a mistake to leave it there. It should be transferred to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
But the view eastward, looking down on the Jordan and the Dead Sea, with the mountains of Moab lying beyond, they cannot spoil or change. Down there on that spot, thirty-five hundred years ago, the chosen people camped and prepared for the ravage and conquest of this valley, this mountain, and the fair lands beyond, even to Mount Hermon and the westward sea. Over there, on “Nebo's lonely mountain,” Moses looked down upon this land of vine and olive which he was never to enter, and being weary with the harassings of his stiff-necked people, lay down by the wayside and left them to work out their own turbulent future.
“And the angels of God upturned the sod
And laid the dead man there."
I have always loved those lines, and it was worth the voyage to remember them here, looking down from the Mount of Olives toward the spot where lies that unknown grave.
THE LITTLE TOWN OF THE MANGER
was afternoon when we drove to Bethlehem-a pleasant drive, though dusty withal. The road lies between grain-fields — fields where Ruth may have gleaned, and where the Son of Man may have stopped to gather corn. It gives one a curious feeling to remember that these fields are the same, and that for them through all the centuries seed-time and harvest have never failed. Nor have they changed the walls, the laborers, the methods, the crops belong to any period that this country has known.
The convent of Elijah was pointed out to us, but it did not matter. Elijah never saw it-never heard of it. It is different, however, with a stone across the way from the entrance. Elijah went to sleep on that stone, and slept so heavily that he left his imprint there, which remains to this day. We viewed that stone with interest; then we took most of it and went on.
In a little while we came to the tomb of Rachel. The small, mosque-like building that covers it is not very old, but the site is probably as well authenticated as any of that period. Jacob was on his way from Padan when she died, and he buried her by the roadside “when there was but a little way to come into Ephrath” (which is Bethlehem). He marked the