Sunday – March 25th – Went before breakfast to see the Distribution of Palms, which took place at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was an imposing ceremony. The Bishop appeared clothed in his robes of State and miter, with a train of priests and about a dozen little boys belonging to the choir. He sat in his state chair while the others stood around. After several chants he went into the sepulcher and blessed and sprinkled the palms with incense; then came out and upon seating himself one of the chief dignitaries replaced his miter which he had taken off when he entered the sepulcher. They then handed him the palms which he distributed to the priests and then to a great number of the people. Two French officers were present, the chief of whom received a branch, plaited and ornamented with Olive twigs; that of the Bishop was plaited and trimmed with flowers. The distribution being over the Bishop with all of his train joined by all who had palms formed a procession and went around the sepulcher several times and then performed high mass.
After this we went to the English church, where after the morning service a marriage was published and a child baptized. The church was quite full. There are a great number of strangers in the city and pilgrims from all parts of the world to be present during Holy Week.
Sunday night heard a sermon from the Rev. Mr. Appleton of America, New Jersey.
Monday – Walked, accompanied by Mr. Bakewell out on the hill of Akra. Saw the ash hill, said to be the ashes from the Temple sacrifices; some old ruins, cisterns, etc., and the tomb of the Kings and returned to __________; in the afternoon went to the Holy Sepulcher; also a book store, where we purchased a scroll written in Hebrew. It was a book of Esther on Sheep skin. Saw some M.S. 2000 years old.
Tuesday – 27th – Have made a contract with a new dragoman this morning. Have just returned from seeing his bode, tents and equipage. After this took a walk and went through the ruins of an old palace. Went up on the house top and through the court. It appeared very ancient, perhaps of Saraconic origin. After lunch our dragoman bought some fine horses for us to try in order to select from for our Palestine route. We went to Bethlehem to the Church of the Nativity, where the Birth place of the Savior was pointed out to us. We saw several fine paintings, one of the Sacrifice of the Innocents, which is over the place where they are said to be buried; also several others which were presented by the Emperor of Austria. We were conducted in the cell of St. Jerome, on the wall of which is a large painting of his Saintship.
After going through this grotto and the Greek and Latin chapels and buying some shells, we returned, passing the tomb of Rachel, having a fine view of these beautiful Olive groves. The hill upon which Bethlehem is situated is beautifully terraced, with fig, pomegranate, apricot, and olive trees. The houses are built of stone, looking very much like those at Hebron.
March 28th – Walked to the hill Bezotha, where we sat down and took a view of the Pilgrims ascending and descending the road, leading to the Jordan. The Russian pilgrims differ in regard to dress from the Jewish pilgrims, more especially the women, their shoes, short skirts and dresses with socks and a handkerchief covering the head. The Jews and Eastern women usually wear white veils reaching down to their feet. They looked quite picturesque seated in the tombs and under olives, which shaded the green sward at their feet; also winding through the tortuous paths and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Leaving the Garden we visited the tombs of the Prophets, which are on the right side of Olivet, above the Jewish tombs, in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. They are a series of arches and passages. On returning to the city we saw a Moslem funeral accompanied by the wailing women, wringing their handkerchiefs and making a horrible noise. Then we saw the rich Jew Montofoori, with about twelve janissaries before, then he was borne by four men in a car canopied with red damask; following them were two officers of horseback.