– Just after breakfast we went to the cave and castle of Beit Jebrin.
We could not go far into the cave, as it was almost impossible to go from
one chamber to another, for fear of getting lost in the many chambers, which
were cut out of the soft limestone. The castle was a very ancient building,
the walls of which were supported by old columns with very beautiful capitals.
The entrances were closed with stones and heaps of rubbish and dirt. On
returning, our donkeys being loaded, we commenced our progress over the
hills of Juda to Hebron. We were winding through valleys all the morning.
The hills were stony, but in many places under cultivation. We saw many
terraced, wheat growing up through the stones, in places where one would
think such growths impossible. We met the shepherds with their flocks goats
and herds of cattle. Finally we came to a mountain stream where to took
lunch. Here the hills were terraced as far as the eye could reach all around.
Now we come to the vineyards, with their stone walls and towers, which are
near to Hebron, which is situated in the valley of Esthel. Our tent is now
pitched just by the side of one, under Abraham’s oak, an immense tree,
which looks to be the age of many centuries. Hebron is quite a town; houses
built of stone. We were not admitted into the harem or grand Mosque, as
no Jew or Christian is ever allowed to enter it further than a short distance
beyond the threshold, when we are allowed to look into a hole in the wall.
Under this is the cave of Machpelah the burial place of Abraham and Sarah,
Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah. All sects recognize this to be the
exact spot where the patriarchs were buried. Our noble dragoman and the
people made a great fuss about our entering and said that we could not go
in if we should pay them 10,000L. We saw a great number of Jews in Hebron.
They had their hair entirely shaved with the exception of the fronts which
was allowed to grow long and hung on either side in curls.
March 21 – Hebron – Left Abraham’s oak this morning and have been riding over a succession of rocky hills all day. The first place we saw of note was Terebrinth, where Abraham dwelt. This is two miles from Hebron, where he is said to have entertained the angles. We saw the ruins of a basilica which was erected by command of Constantine. In three hours from this place we reached the pools of Solomon, Ephraim. These consist of three large tanks, two of which have water in them. Their antiquity is unquestionable, and are believed to be the ones built by that mighty king. We have passed through the Wilderness of Judea. It is rugged but picturesque region with narrow valleys, that run away in tortuous courses. The hills are covered with dwarf oak and other bushes, intermixed with a profusion of wild flowers.
We next came to Rachel’s tomb, which is covered with a small dome, at one side of which was a hole which we could look through. It was a plain tomb and really appeared genuine. Just before we reached it we saw several most beautiful olive groves. After leaving the tomb, we saw the convent of Mar Elias, and in a few minutes more we had a view of Jerusalem, now winding down a narrow rocky valley we reached the main road to the Jafa gate, by which we entered. We remained under the shade of an olive tree until Mr. M. could get rooms at the hotel for us, which he was successful in doing. This was a great comfort after being so long deprived of them.
March 22nd- Having left some shoes to be repaired, we took a guide and walked down the Via Dolorosa, where we saw St. Veronica’s house, where she handed Christ the handkerchief to wipe his face. The house of Dives was also pointed out, and a column broken in two, it is said by Christ letting the cross which he bore fall upon it. Saw the Ecce Home arch where Pilate brought Christ out before the people and said “Behold the Man.” We saw an old column through a window, said to be one of the supports to one of the gates to the temple. From the Church of the flagellation we went up to see the pool of Bethesda; thence out St. Stephens gate to the harem wall where we had a fine view of the valley of Jehoshaphat and Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. We walked along the southern side of the site of the temple; saw the golden gate and some of the original stones; some of the corner stones were twenty ft long. Just in front of this walk is the Moslem burying ground. We saw a tomb of a Pasha and his wife. Just opposite on either side of the road running up to the Mt. of Olives is the Jewish burying place. Here are shown the tomb of Absalom, tomb of St. James, _______ and Hezekiah. In several places in the Harem wall we see the ends of old columns projecting, one about 3 or 4 ft. where Mohammed it is said will sit when he comes to judge the world. It is near the top. In the afternoon we went into the tombs of the Kings. These rival those of Egypt, being entirely hewn out of the solid rock. We also went through an immense cave which undermines the city for a great extent. We went about half through it and saw where blocks of stone were cut for building material, probably for the old city. Returning home we passed through the Bazaars where we saw many things cut out of the olive wood.