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Byeways in Palestine

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These papers on “Byeways in Palestine” are compiled from notes of certain journeys made during many years’ residence in that country; omitting the journeys made upon beaten roads, and through the principal towns, for the mere reason that they were such.

Just what met the eye and ear was jotted down and is now revised after a lapse of time, without indulging much in meditation or reflection; these are rather suggested by the occurrences, that they may be followed out by the reader.  Inasmuch, however, as the incidents relate to out-of-the-way places, and various seasons of the year, they may be found to contain an interest peculiar to themselves, and the account of them may not interfere with any other book on Palestine.

I may state that, not being a professed investigator, I carried with me no scientific instruments, except sometimes a common thermometer: I had no leisure for making excavations, for taking angles with a theodolite, or attending to the delicate care of any kind of barometer, being employed on my proper business.

Riding by night or by day, in the heat of Syrian summer, or through snows and piercing winds of winter on the mountains, I enjoyed the pure climate for its own sake.  Moreover, I lived among the people, holding intercourse with peasants in villages, with Bedaween in deserts, and with Turkish governors in towns, or dignified Druses in the Lebanon, and slept in native dwellings of all qualities, as well as in convents of different sects: in the open air at the foot of a tree, or in a village mosque—in a cavern by the highway side, or beneath cliffs near the Dead Sea: although more commonly within my own tent, accompanied by native servants with a small canteen.

Sad cogitations would arise while traversing, hour after hour, the neglected soil, or passing by desolated villages which bear names of immense antiquity, and which stand as memorials of miraculous events which took place for our instruction and for that of all succeeding ages; and then, even while looking forward to a better time to come, the heart would sigh as the expression was uttered, “How long?”

These notices will show that the land is one of remarkable fertility wherever cultivated, even in a slight degree—witness the vast wheat-plains of the south; and is one of extreme beauty—witness the green hill-country of the north; although such qualities are by no means confined to those districts.  Thus it is not necessary, it is not just, that believers in the Bible, in order to hold fast their confidence in its predictions for the future, should rush into the extreme of pronouncing the Holy Land to be cursed in its present capabilities.  It is verily and indeed cursed in its government and in its want of population; but still the soil is that of “a land which the Lord thy God careth for.”  There is a deep meaning in the words, “The earth is the Lord’s,” when applied to that peculiar country; for it is a reserved property, an estate in abeyance, and not even in a subordinate sense can it be the fief of the men whom it eats up.  (Numb. xiii. 32, and Ezek. xxxvi. 13, 14.)  I have seen enough to convince me that astonishing will be the amount of its produce, and the rapidity also, when the obstacles now existing are removed.

With respect to antiquarian researches, let me express my deep interest in the works now undertaken under the Palestine Exploration Fund.  My happiness, while residing in the country, would have been much augmented had such operations been at that time, i.e., between 1846 and 1863, commenced in Jerusalem or elsewhere in the Holy Land.

J. F.


The frontispiece picture to this volume represents the relic of a small Roman Temple, situated on the eastern edge of the Plain of Sharon, near the line of hills, between the two villages Awali and M’zeera’a....