Palestine has an area only a little larger than the State of Massachusetts, while Russia occupies one-seventh of the habitable globe; yet in the scales of intellectual and moral value the little province of Judaea outweighs beyond comparison the empire of the Czar. There was a time when, even from a material point of view, Syria could not be despised. Rome counted it her richest province. One of the choicest gifts which Antony bestowed on Cleopatra was the magnificent Palm Grove on the plain of Jericho, of which at present not a trace remains. Even to-day, with proper irrigation, some districts of the Holy Land could offer to the Syrian sun as splendid fields of grain as ever fringed the Nile with green and gold. But man's envy of the beauty and fertility of Palestine produced its ruin. Lying midway between Assyria and Egypt, and bordered on the east by deserts swarming with nomadic warriors, this land has lain for ages like a beautiful slave in the marketplace, contended for by wrangling rivals. All the great powers of antiquity, Assyria, Persia, Greece, Rome, Egypt, and Arabia, have in turn possessed it; and billows of destructive conquest have rolled over it like tidal-waves, wrecking its architectural glories, and sweeping much of its historic splendor into oblivion.
Ruins Of Capernaum.
Association with the past, therefore, is everything in Palestine. Without that charm, of all the countries in the world it is perhaps the least attractive. But invoke the aid of memory and imagination here, and its once fertile plains will be adorned with splendid cities, while over its historic landscapes will be hung a veil of romance. Summon from its hills the echoes of the past, and every stone will seem a monument and every ruined wall a page of history.
The usual approach to Palestine, it must be said, is not romantic. It was early in the morning when the steamer which had brought us from Port Said, in Egypt, halted before that celebrated seaport of the Holy Land, - now called Jaffa, but known in ancient times as Joppa. The city rises almost perpendicularly from the sea, and if that sea be rough, no traveler will forget his landing there; for, although one of the oldest cities in the world, Jaffa has as yet no harbor, and half a mile from shore, passengers are lowered from the steamer into little boats, manned by gesticulating, howling natives. These boats are then with difficulty guided through a semi-circular belt of rocks, some of which lift their savage tusks above the waves, while others lurk below the surface, ready to tear the keel from any vessel that encounters them. To one of these rocks, according to mythology, Andromeda was chained, until released by her deliverer, Perseus.
We found the surf which beat upon these reefs even more violent than our boatmen. There was continual danger of capsizing, - a fate which, just at this particular place, appeared especially uninviting, since here it was that Jonah, when ejected from the ship, is said to have been swallowed by the whale. The previous stormy night, however, had so appealed to - everything within us - that we gladly ran all risks, and even Jonah's brief seclusion in the camera obscura he was forced to occupy, seemed not much worse than what we had endured while in our little state-rooms. At last the ordeal was over, and we found ourselves - a trifle pale from our exciting advent through the breakers - within a market-place abounding in all kinds of fish and fruits, including the unrivaled "Jaffa Oranges." Among the traders' booths and a variety of primitive vehicles moved representatives of half a dozen different nationalities. Never again shall I be heartless enough to say of my worst enemy - "I wish he were in Joppa." Life is too short for such severity. I still recall that walk to our hotel, when, hollow-hearted from a night of sea-sickness, and moist and mucilaginous from the spray that had dashed over us in the boats, we picked our way through mud and filth, now dodging to avoid a donkey, now almost rubbing noses with a camel, and ever and anon inhaling odors which proved that, even in this land of sanctity, "cleanliness is" not always " next to godliness."