Holy Land Letter - Frances Lenth <i>nee</i> Sprenger, 1935 - Bob Frazee

A Visit to the Holy Land
1935 and 2003

[Edited: 4 Sept 2011]

[Bob's note: This is a letter written by Frances Lenth nee Sprenger to her family in Zumbro Falls, Mn, in 1935. She was serving as a missionary nurse in Egypt and wrote this letter after having taken a three week leave to visit Palestine. The letter, written before Xerox machines or electronic scanners, was obviously considered to be such a treasure that someone took the time to hand copy it. The original letter has been lost and this is taken from a handwritten copy probably made by one of her sisters, or some other unknown family member. Numbers in [brackets - e.g. 2b refers to the back side of page 2] are designed to let you know what page the text is taken from so you can check this document against the original if you desire.

The Sprenger homestead in
Zumbro Falls, Mn, about 1915

Just imagine how exciting her visit to the Holy Land in 1935 would have been for her and her Minnesota family, all farmers living near Zumbro Falls, Minnesota. Using a little imagination I picture the letter being sent to one of her two older sisters, Evalina or Mildred, both of whom lived within a couple miles of the original Sprenger homestead. Like Thomas Jefferson listening to Lewis and Clark talk about their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, the entire Sprenger family probably gathered around to hear the letter being read. This was a time before television, and maybe before anyone owned a radio, and reading Frances' travelogue over and over at family gatherings would have been very exciting to them. How exotic were her descriptions of the people and religious shrines known to all of them through their Bible studies; perhaps some of her comments may have been even a little shocking. One can only imagine the discussions which took place in this close knit family.

Identification of people in farm photo
provided by Muriel Isaacson nee Schultz

Warning: I'm still working on this part. Identification was obtain from Muriel Isaacson nee Schultz and I am working with her history of the Scholer and Sprenger family in an attempt to sort out the relationships of the people in the picture. The identifications are correct, it is only the relationships that I am working on. There is no doubt in my mind that they are all related and as was the custom among farm families, they all helped when work needed to be done.

Here's some family history if you are interested: First it is important to know that Jake and Emil Sprenger are brothers. Jake married Louisa Moechning and Emil married her sister, Augusta "Gusty" Moechning. So, Louisa and Gusty were known as "the Moechning girls." The Sprenger house in the background was rebuilt and finished in 1910.

1. Albert Gottleib Starz standing on Pink Pinkadore. Albert was married to Anna Maye Sprenger, Jake Sprenger's daughter. Anna Maye Sprenger is thus a niece to Emil and Augusta Sprenger. They were married in 1919 and thus he might have been a hired hand at the time this picture was taken. He became a nephew by marriage.

2. Emile Sprenger was married to Augusta Moechnig. He is seen standing with his children Hubby, Dorothy and Frances (all sitting) and his wife Augusta "Gusty" Sprenger nee Moechnig standing by the post; older children Mildred Sprenger is standing, back a little, and Evalina Sprenger is standing between the two horses.

3. Silas Gilbert standing with hands on hips. Silas married Elsie Scholer, another daughter of Andrew Scholer, in 1919. I have no idea where they lived or how he got to be in the picture, as the picture is well before 1919.

4. Eddie Hermann (born in 1891), on right with a colt, was the son of Mathilda Herman nee Scholer. I [Muriel] think he is the Edward Hermann born in 1891.

I found this letter to be of even greater interest because it came to my attention after having read Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad while in Grand Cayman in April, 2011. Mark Twain took a trip of Europe in 1867 and this book is a fascinating account of his journeys. His destination was "the Holy Land" and many of his descriptions are the same, or at least so similar to the observations of Frances that it is uncanny. They both talk about the "Mohammedans". It is interesting that now we call them "Muslims." When, and why, this change took place is anyone's guess.

Fran and I visited Israel in 2003 as a pre-trip to Egypt and post-trip to Jordan. We visited many of the same places seen by Fran's mother in 1935 and Mark Twain in 1867. We had many of the same feelings Fran's mother experienced after visiting so many of the locations mentioned in the Bible. In some respects we were disappointed. Since our trip to Israel (no longer referred to as "The Holy Land" or "Palestine") took place after Fran's mother's death we never had an opportunity to compare our thoughts. I have added some of my photographs, or in instances photographs which I have scanned from a book we purchased in Israel because we did not visit the location, or in the case of the Temple Mount it is under Islamic [Mohammedan] control and therefore not accessible to us - or at least our Jewish guide told us it was not. The italicized comments with the pictures are my notes taken on our trip. I have done this to make the writing more interesting but it also illustrates how little things change in this part of the world.

The letter is typed as it was written; no changes or editing was done in an effort to be "politically correct."

Frances Lenth nee Sprenger
Journey to the Holy Land

[Read Frances' Letter with the Photos and commentary]

Frances Lenth nee Sprenger
Journey to the Holy Land

[Frances' Letter with Photographs and Commentary]

          [1] For the last three months I've been trying to find time in which to show you in word picture the Palestine that I saw during the three happy weeks we spent in that land. Purposely I have told you very little concerning our trip, thinking that an ordered and complete account might be more interesting, but not [now] that I've wanted so long, I'm not so sure - perhaps snatches here and there as we journeyed along would have been more effective. My "forgetter" is such a good one, in spite of my efforts to curtail its activity! However, I'll do my best and perhaps I may be able to recapture a little of my first enthusiasm, hoping all the while that I might be able to give you a fair idea of what is found in the Land which marks the birthplace and gave early nurture to our religion. The year that I have spent in contact with the East was a great help to me in trying to understand a little of Palestine. Surely the Palestine, which is the product of our imaginations, as we read and study our Bibles is apt to be a well westernized one.

           We were three in our party. The [1b] other two girls were from the Mission Hospital at Assiut - both Americans and it did seem fun to be living with a couple of American girls again, with their total lack of formality and their foolish ways of fun-making. I had just seen each of them once before while I was in Cairo and they were passing through. We were to meet at Benha, a small village about an hour's ride from Tanta. I had a short wait at the station and they came thru on our train. The platform was crowded and the train arrived more than crowded and the disgraceful way people forced their way into the train was not a pretty sight. "I wasn't the first one at the table" but I got in, stepping over sacks and baskets and climbing over eggs and chickens and babies I finally succeeded in finding the girls. All this happened in third class for we were traveling as inexpensively and uncomfortably as possible. Traveling third class on an Egyptian train is like nothing else on earth. You have nothing [2] at home that I can compare it to - such a collection of folks - however, I'm afraid that we'll never get into Palestine on time if I go procrastinating too much on the way, and anyway the trip is an all night train ride and long before morning arrived we found that our sensitiveness to poverty and dirt and misery was dulled and quite painless as compared to the physical injury we were suffering, and while we struggled bravely to keep our heads attached to their proper trunks the hard seat lost none of its rock-like merit. But in spite of the discomforts there were many things about that trip which we enjoyed - it had a certain singular fascination about it. When we arrived at the Suez canal after nightfall we had to be ferried across the dark water; we tried in vain to realize that it was the same Suez canal that we had studied about in our geography classes. I had a curious feeling that the barge was not moving at all and would have sworn it was the other shore moving to us and because I wasn't smart enough to [2b] guess that I was mistaken, I made some inane, unthinking remark to the girls about it - one which they found convenient to remember and use. Whether the tug moved or the shore met us, at any rate, we managed to make proper contact with the other side and after getting through customs we boarded the train which took us on the rest of our journey. Now we could settle down and make the best of a long, tiresome train ride. All around us was a night so dark that I wondered how the lights of the train could possibly penetrate its awful blackness, and I hoped that the engineer was just a little less heavy-eyed than I was and was tending to his knittin' carefully. The sand and the cold, both a part of a desert night sifted in through the cracks - and so we were - a lonely train filled with weary folks, threading our way across the desert, on much the same trail that Joseph and Mary and the Child must have taken when they fled into Egypt [3] and it came to me then - we read of their flight into Egypt - it would hardly seem to us that anyone could flee on the back of a donkey. The train moved steadily onward but its stride seemed slow and unhurried. The morning came unexpectedly and quite suddenly the sky was streaked with light and then as if by a sudden explosion the whole sky was bursting with the glory of a desert dawn. We gave ourselves cat washes and began to take notice, for the daylight brought in evidence and, Bedouin camps scattered along the wayside. The Bedouins are the desert Arabs and they are the true Arabs. The morning wore on and the sun lost its gentle beauty too quickly and settled into a fierce relentless head that showed the surrounding country to be harsh and cruel and often without relief from bush or shrubs. We were soon nearing Jerusalem and so we were beginning to climb for most of Palestine is considerably above sea-level. We came to hills, they looked good to me - they [3b] were not entirely barren - and just the fact that they were hills was enough to make us understanding friends. We soon began a long, steep ascent and the train puffed and grumbled until we finally joined the top. Shortly we arrived at Jerusalem - we were glad to arrive. If I was still capable of having first impressions, at least, they never went down on my mental registry; we were hungry as lean winter wolves and so tired we hurt. The German restaurant that we got into helped us to dispose of the immediate food problem and then all we needed was a bath and a bed and life would begin again. We sought out our rooks and then we had to set about to collect and stock our kitchen - for we had made arrangements to do our own meal preparations in our room. In spite of our weariness we all entered into it with vacation spirit and being stimulated by the novelty of an oriental market we managed to get on with the [4] necessary task. What a strange little supper we had together that first night! We were staying in the heart of the old walled-in city - perhaps it was eight-thirty when we ate. The black cloak of night fastened us in securely; away from the strange world we did not know, but it crept in all around the corners, and although we were not physically conscious of it we were feeling it. Each one tried hard not to expose her uneasiness but there was in that room, a disquieting anxious kind of a feeling, and Jessie, who is young, wanted to go home.

           After the night, our first morning in Jerusalem arrived. We had decided to go all around the city wall to begin with - in this way we could locate the different gates and establish our bearings. So we began equipped with the books we had on Palestine, and a spirit of adventure. There were plenty of guides on hand and many times we almost had to quarrel with them to make them understand that we preferred conducting ourselves [4b] around and wanted none of their learned patter. The very first mistake we made was to start in the wrong direction - that is wrong according to our literature, but by reading it backwards we managed all right. Even though we knew that the wall had been destroyed and rebuilt, a good many times it seemed to be much as we had expected it to be.

The gates are the most interesting feature of the wall; you remember how often they are mentioned in the Bible. Jaffa Gate is the largest of them, it faces the west and is very solidly built and beside it is the citadel of David's tower. It looks very much like the kind of tower David would build - substantial and well built. David, who grew up with an unspoiled boyishness who had an artistic and musical sense that could soothe the ungoverned passions of Saul, but whom God found to be practical and useful. Then there is Zion Gate which is a much smaller entrance to the city and it was here that [5] Jesus was brought on that night when they brought him to the [home] of Caiphas the High Priest.

We soon found ourselves around to the East wall and it was here that we found the Golden Gate. It was through this gate that Christ made his triumphal entry [on Palm Sunday]. So call it a golden gate at present seems a bit extravagant in name for it is entirely blocked and looks cruelly forgotten - but it once opened into the Temple area - thus it was the entrance to all that was magnificent and holy in the mind of an Israelite. Damascus Gate is rather beautiful in a strange Eastern way. It too appears substantial enough but it is also artful. To go about the city wall meant to wander on little hillside paths, over several stone fences and even getting loose ground in our shoes from going though some one's plucky little garden, trying so hard to grow, under a blazing sun.

           Thru any one of these gates one soon enters into very narrow streets and the busiest of these is David street. Open markets compete noisily with one [5b] another in trying to dispose of their goods. The little space there is left for walking is teeming with the many marketers, with hucksters who carry mountainous loads on their backs and what have - and you suddenly find yourself being physically carried along on the restless tide of a moving society. Quite occasionally that society includes a donkey or two with heavy sack of meal on his back, but he is a very friendly donkey, really, and is only crowding you out of his way because he really needs the space you are occupying.

          There seems to be millions of business transactions going on all the time and on every hand you hear and see the continuous drama of Eastern buying and selling. The seller, who is necessarily eloquent and convincing, rambles into talk that is carelessly extravagant. The respective buyer meets this with an argument that is forceful, disinterested and belittling to the shopkeeper and his goods. This might go on for some little time over some little simple purchase and perhaps its all over [6] the difference of a piaster which means five cents - but they love it! All this strange activity of David Street goes on in a sort of semi-darkness for the street is nearly closed overhead. We found the few heavy columns which are all that now remains of this street from the Roman Jerusalem but certainly if any street is controlled by its past that one is. We bought much of our fruit and vegetables from these markets and we often had a bit of fun over our little knowledge of the Arabic language.

          It is an Arabic speaking Jerusalem but in it are old Jewish orthodox priests dressed in funny little rabbit fur caps, long curls playing about their faces and shoulders - and wearing an expression that is both anxious and earnest - then there is the modern Jew. He isn't to be found in the old city, of course, rather he had a new city which looks up to date, lives in a very modern house, travels with ease in a big car and has a good little business somewhere, looking very much like his Jewish reputation for making money.

          People of many queer [6b] sects of the Christian religion and many other religions have congregated in Jerusalem. There are frequent processions of groups who have come on special pilgrimages. But the majority of the inhabitants who make up the crowds are Arabs, and so at the appointed hours there is mingled into the noise of a busy Jerusalem the not quite sweet but arresting notes of a Mohammedan call to prayer. We felt that we should have heard the chanting of a Psalm instead.

           Early in our stay we sought out the church of the Holy Sepulchre; it is right in the heart of the old city and is believed by many to be the site of Calvary. Being inside the city wall would be contrary to Scripture but that can be explained away by the fact that the walls have been destroyed and rebuilt so many times. Whether it is or not is a matter of individual decision for there are a good many convincing facts pro and con. The courtyard is populated with priests of a good many orders, all dressed in their respective monk attire and all jealously [7] guarding their special sacred possessions found in this immense church. We entered into the silence of this huge church and found it to be divided into many small chapels, each one is supposed to be marking the site of a certain act of the crucifixion, each chapel being the special sanctuary of some distant church. I suppose it is not quite correct to say that a church is jointly owned even though people have paid enormous sums of money for these chapels but at any rate it is the most jointly shared of any church in the world.

There is set in the center of one of the larger rooms a good sized tomb - this is considered by many to be the site of the tomb where Christ was laid.

There are two rooms to the tomb - both hung with many lamps and other symbols. Inside the inner chamber there is a stone slab, perhaps so unlike the one which Peter saw "when stooping, he beheld the linen clothes by themselves."

Thousands of people stop here to pray. Outside the tomb every direction leads to more chapels and one could spend hours just wondering about. To us much of the inside of this [7b] church seemed un-artistic and over decorated with an Eastern, heavy Catholicism. We felt a certain gloom about the place and we came away feeling depressed. We were just a little ashamed of ourselves for feeling a disappointment for it was quite apparent to us that to be able to come to this place to worship was to many the crowning glory of a lifetime. Surely many of them had worked very hard and saved very diligently to make this special pilgrimage.

           There is still another spot which claims to be the original tomb of Christ. It was found not so long ago by a man called Gordon - a Protestant. It was considerably outside the city that he first uncovered a huge rock in the side of a hill which could easily be accused of resembling a skull. "And they brought Him unto the place Golgotha, which is being interpreted, the place of the skull." This place seemed more likely, it being high and easily visible. Then near to this has been uncovered several evidences of a garden, an old stone wine press, an oil press etc [8] and hewn into the side of a large rock is a good sized tomb. We went into the tomb which was plainly made but gave testimony of being a rich man's tomb, and somehow the tomb, the garden, all seemed to me quite as they should. Whether it is the place of Calvary or not, I like to believe it was. This spot did something to me that the church of the Holy Sepulchre could never do. It gave me a certain consciousness of the extreme pain and suffering of Christ, and I could almost feel even as his earthly friends must have felt in their great sorrow. I could see them carefully lay him away in the tomb, with hearts so full of sorrow and disappointment and then I watched them walk wearily away bowed down in their grief. But it is very sweet to think of the two Marys and Salome hurrying to this quiet simple spot in the freshness of an early morning to give their tender ministrations and find joy beyond expectations awaiting them. Yes we came away from the garden tomb feeling lifted.

           We found Solomon's quarries to be [8b] most interesting - you know in Kings it says "and the house when it was in building was built of stone and made ready before it was brought hither, so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was building." Just seeing the workshop that was used removes all question as to how this was accomplished in such a soundless fashion. We entered thru a small door in the side of a wall of rock which looked too plain to hide secrets but immediately we found ourselves in a huge snow white cavern with very deep shadows in the distance; these proved to be underground trails to be explored. So equipped with tiny candles and a lanterned guide we set out to examine this sound proof stone cutting shop. These trails led a very long ways with large hunks of rock cut away and missing from here and there. Our guide told us that this continued along under the city until it came to the temple area. In one large rock we found a rock altar where the masons [9] hold large meetings and are attended by people from many parts of the world. At the entrance they were selling little cuts of stone wearing the Masonic emblem and I'm sorry now that I didn't get one. Really it is amazing to think of all these sharp cuts and grooves in this rock cavern as having been done by the workmen of Solomon so many thousands of years ago. And thus the temple of Solomon was built in all its splendor - a splendor which lives in memory and the pain inflicted by its destruction is still being felt and manifested by those who come to wail and weep at the wailing wall.

           We came upon this [Wailing Wall]one day by following in the direction of loud lamentations which sounded a little in-human. The wailing wall is all that remains of Solomon's superb handiwork and it is a little of the Temple area wall. When we were there one man was piercing the air with blood-curdling protestations, a well dressed lady stood clinging to the wall weeping quietly and in her fine face was utter woe and sadness, many others were joining in less noisily and others less [9b] quietly. It was a most distressing sight. We soon found the little streets that would take us home. I wonder if you would believe me if I could tell you how many penniless and blind are found along in these narrow streets.

We spent some time in the Temple area. Quite different is the Temple which now occupies the place of the old one. This is entirely in the hands of Mohammedan worshippers. We entered into the outer courts and on up the steps which led to the Temple proper - the shrine which now stands on the site of the old temple is a many sided building covered with many beautiful mosaics, much gold leaf work and writings in Arabic.

           There are many Arab sheikhs moving about, some of them teaching the Koran to small groups squatted on the floors. We were admitted into the temple by an enormous, fine looking specimen of man - a real story book Sheikh, almost like the romantic sheikh of Arabia stepping out of his colorful literary setting, but first before we were admitted into the temple a little boy adjusted some huge slippers over [10] our shoes and we had to paddle along as best we could in these boat like arrangements, but we succeeded in keeping our unholy shoes from committing a sacrilege. In the center of this building, walled in and looking like a huge controlled monster, lies the very top of Mount Moriah - a mammoth rock, exceedingly ugly and grotesque to be set in the middle of such a concentrated collection of lavish and costly art. Abraham took Isaac to the top of Mount Moriah intending to make a supreme sacrifice on this Rock Altar; then the Ark of the Covenant was placed near this place and the rock was again used as an altar, and later it was used in the Temple of Solomon. It looked to me to be very black and somewhat unfriendly. I wonder if it does not go awfully against its rocky grain to be so used by the Mohammedans. I am sure I detected a rebellious attitude; one of his ugly sides has a deep gorge, the blood from the old Jewish sacrifices ran down this grove and was carried down into the Kedron valley - its rock hewn hidden passageway still remains. It is from this monstrous rock, [10b] which played such an interesting role in the Old Testament, that Mohammed the Prophet is believed to have ascended to heaven; and I thought to myself, what a strange twisting of events. To Mohammedans this shrine is next to holiness to the one at Mecca. Seeing all this Mohammedanism in the old Temple area does not seem understandable. All excavations are absolutely forbidden and the thought of what may lie beneath these present buildings plays about in one's mind, provoking the imagination, but so long as the Mohammedans have it its not likely to be investigated.

           By means of a long stone stairway we were able to go into Solomon's stables - immense underground stables, solidly built and surprisingly well ventilated -- these are not rightfully named Solomon's stables, for those same were destroyed. These come down from the Crusaders but perhaps in structure they are not so unlike and they do occupy the site of the earliest stables. I believe the present stables have a greater capacity than those of Solomon [11] and it says in Kings "Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots," so you can imagine the size of them. At present the mangers and hitching places are all cut from stone. I could easily visualize the place teamingly alive with [horses].

           When we came up from the stables we climbed up on the outside East wall and followed along until we came to the Golden Gate - you remember I mentioned it a bit ago - we looked down into a valley - this would be Redron Valley - perhaps you may recall that the reason Mount Moriah was selected as the site for the city was because of its being entirely circled by valleys. Looking down into the valley we could see the Garden of Gethsemane. So much of the Garden of Gethsemane seems taken up with churches but even so it is an attractive spot. The road to Jericho stretches out like a live white streak going south and above is the Mount of Olives, and I was glad that at least the contours of this pleasant Mount had not been changed. Christ must have walked up these tiny winding paths numberless [11b] times, very often teaching and preaching, but surely sometimes just a very companionable, light-hearted way perhaps even laughing and sharing his mirth with his friends.

           We went to the Garden of Gethsemane early one morning. The olive trees in the garden interested me most, whether they are the ones who brought shelter and inspiration to Christ is a point of much argument. They appear to be more than one thousand nine hundred and thirty five years old. They looked ancient, their attitude is kindly and understanding and they look so full of knowledge and sympathy and strength and sad with knowing may things. They seem to be mostly trunk as if they stood out for fundamentals.

           The Franciscan monks who care for them love them so much and attend them as reverently and conscientiously as a newly made mother cares for her child. The Franciscan church is artistic and beautiful and because it has such a subdued and quiet beauty we did not seem to mind its being in the [12] Garden of Gethsemane. The monk who took us thru the church had a face written full of kind thoughts and good deeds. He had lived many years in America which of course contributed to his niceness, and just as we stepped out on the wide open entrance to the church a Jewish funeral procession passed by, a large Jewish cemetery is within a stone's throw of the church, and the priest told us a little about some of the customs which are still being practiced. He spoke of their cruel custom of breaking all the bones in the body before burial, but that practice is gradually being done away with. The morning had passed too quickly and when the gentle monk unlatched the garden gate for us and we passed on, we carried in our hands a few bright pansies from the garden, and carried in our hearts a feeling of having had a refreshing visit with very dear friends. By now the sun had traveled a good bit of his daily journey and we began to be conscious [12.5] of the time of the day. The sun was hot and we had foolishly gone without breakfast and as we climbed out of the valley and up the long ascent we were hungry and hot and felt more or less ill and out of sorts and we wondered if perhaps Christ had not trudged up this same road many times feeling tired and hungry and a little unhappy. By the time we arrived home we were glad to seek shelter out of the reach of a midday sun.

           Bethlehem is only 13 miles from Jerusalem so we made several trips to Bethlehem. As usual there is a church over the holy spot and there it is the Church of the Nativity. We entered the church through the "needle's eye" a very small door which admitted us all right but certainly would have much difficulty admitting a camel, and we decided right then that we did not wish for riches. Below the church is a grotto - many people feel that this is where Christ was born. There are [13] lots of lights and symbols hung about. I tried to see it relieved from all its trimmings and could see possibilities for its being that plain looking cavern where Mary and Joseph took refuge when "there was no room in the inn." The countryside about Bethlehem has quite a simple beauty, and we could hear a shepherd boy playing his pipes in the distance and I thought of those other shepherds "who were abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, and lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone upon them and they were sore afraid, and the angel said unto them: 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.'" Bethlehem is a pretty little town tucked in among the hills. Most of its inhabitants are Arabs, many of them shepherds, wearing the typical shepherd [13b] head-dress which is a white square of material with a camel's hair cord wrapped twice about the head.

           One Sunday morning we had a most delightful experience, one which will always live vividly in my memory. We tumbled out of bed very early in the morning and as we hurried out of the city most of Jerusalem was still lost in sleep. We dropped quietly into the valley and then began our climb up the Mount of Olives. It is a steady climb but the ascent is not steep. Little shepherd boys were chattering meaningly to their flocks of goats and sheep in a language that seemed convincing enough and kept them moving on. As we looked back to the East or from where we had come the recently risen sun was lightly dropping a flimsy wrap of soft colors over the city making it appear ethereal and quite incapable of its many sinful ways. We were four on this early morning climb. The fourth member of our party was a girl we had met at the house, a German girl, who had a friend living on the top of the mountain. We soon gained the top and came to a [14] large gate which opened into a young looking garden, then set back in the garden was a tiny home. It looked so friendly that we knew that here was the very place we wanted to rest awhile and have our breakfast. The owner of this inviting little place would not yet be up so we sat in a lovely little garden absorbed in the surrounding country and thinking many thoughts. We read a little from Bibles, had our prayers and sang hymns. It was altogether lovely there in the freshness of the morning and we felt that we were in the presence of One Unseen. Shortly we went in to breakfast we knew very little of this friend who brought us here and certainly nothing of her friend. And so for us there was a pleasant surprise. The door opened, a friendly greeting was called to us and then we saw in the doorway a woman - a big Norwegian and fine looking and wearing a smiling unaffected, happy countenance. We knew her immediately and felt at home. We had our breakfast upon the roof of her little home, and such a meal as we [14b] did eat! Coffee never tasted quite so good as it did that particular morning. Perhaps because it had been made in a pot having a colorful and courageous history. The handle was a little broken and one of us had a minor accident while trying to fill the cup, or was it the refill, I rather think so. So not by way of apology but as an interesting narrative the story of the spot was told. Told by our hostess who spoke very good English with a slightly Norwegian accent. She had gone out of Norway to China as a young missionary sometime before the war. It was during one of the many attacks of internal troubles that China was a victim too, that all missionaries from her territory were ordered out. It was a problem to know what to take or what to leave behind, and they could only take a limited amount for they were being herded into the box cars ordinarily used for animal transportation. So they sorted the necessary from the unnecessary, but our friend could not see herself leaving behind, her nice shiny coffee [15] pot which had recently come from America, Montgomery Ward, and had cost her 49 cents. So she found room to tuck in her precious coffee pot, which proved to be their dearest luxury, if not quite a necessity. It was a long trip. They made several long stops along the way and were housed in queer sorts of places. No proper provision was made for their food, but always they could have coffee - the coffee pot became famous and loved by all. That was twelve years ago and the pot has not lost any of its coffee making super abilities. There we were upon the Mount of Olives, over on the top of Mount Mariah lay the city of Jerusalem and we could see many other familiar places in the distance as we sat there eating together, our breakfast of melon, porridge, bread and honey - one German girl, three American girls, a Norwegian hostess having a Montgomery Ward coffee pot. I hope I can go back there some time.

           We went up the Mount of Olives the second time, went up by car one night, when the moon was full and [15b] away over there was Jerusalem in quite another mood, dressed up in her night lights she looked gay and indifferent and one of us thought aloud and the thought spoken was this: "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how oft would I have gathered thee into my bosom as a hen gathered her chickens and ye would not."

           We visited several of the hospitals in Jerusalem. There are some really nice institutions located there. The one we particularly enjoyed was the eye hospital. We had become acquainted with the benefactress of the hospital thru a friend. She is unique enough to have stepped out of Dickens. She is a real English lady by right of her lineage. She wears glasses near the distal end of her nose and her clothes look like an assorted lot of Queen Victoria's discards, but she has a heart of gold, a noble character and a strong purpose in life. She is proud of her hospital and she has every right It is well equipped and well kept and [16] takes care of thousands of persons with eye conditions each year. Some people pay but no one receives a bill. As part of the excursion thru she took us into her office to have us register and she told us how several years ago, when the Queen of England was passing thru Palestine she came to call at the hospital and she showed us her signature in the registry and the Queen had signed just "Mary." Such simplicity! There was once another Mary who also had a great simplicity and who was the Mother of Jesus.

           We took the road that goes past Gethsemane one day and went down to Jericho, rather we went to the Dead Sea. Jericho is only a short distance from the sea. The first of the trip was pleasant, going thru Bethany where once live Martha, Mary and Lazarus, but soon we entered into a desolate country. If all the rest of loneliness in the whole world could be collected and put together in one small area its degree of loneliness could not compare to the awful [16b] loneliness of these hills. They look like despair, like a wilderness of lost hopes. We did not like them very much, they made us feel uneasy and, anyway, we were physically conscious of the sudden drop in the altitude. By the time we reached the Dead Sea which is 300 feet below sea level, our ears were buzzing noisily on a minor key. It was painfully hot. We really suffered that day. We came into the sea rather unexpectedly. We were going down, down when quite suddenly there was the sea. Trying to swim in the Dead Sea was a funny experience. You ride along on the top of the salty waters and you can't propel yourself decently at all. Because I'm not clever in water stunts I managed to engulp considerable of the lake and it did not make me happy, it feels to be salty enough to be an antiseptic. The hills which circle the sea are ugly by day. The whole scene looks like the distorted [17] plan of an excited mind. However when the fierce heat of the day gave way to a more pleasant mood we began to enjoy being there. The departing sun cast purplish rays and the scene lost its harshness. However, I was glad when it came time to leave and I do not think I will ever want to go back. Night was quickly descending as we drove up to get back again. As we came along we saw camels silhouetted against the skyline as they moved over the hills. They looked so unreal, like they had been out of black paper and pasted there. I'll never get used to camels, they are always such a surprise to me, perhaps partly because I never expected to be seeing any.

           The last week of our stay in Palestine we gave up our room, packed our bags, and took to the trails. We made satisfactory arrangements with a tourist service for our transportation. So, early one morning we set off, planning to arrive at the Sea of Galilee sometime in the afternoon. It is about a [17b] hundred mile drive. We first came to a little village of El Bireh. This is said to be the village where Mary and Joseph first missed Jesus on their return journey to Nazareth. There is some evidence of an old town. This little village is twelve miles from Jerusalem and was the usual stopping off place because the distance was one days trip. Strange that Christ's parents should travel full day without realizing his absence from the group. But at that time Christ was a boy with boyish characteristics and so they probably expected to find him in company with the other boys.

           After awhile we entered into the country of Samaria. So far the country side seemed very much the same temper. We thought for all its being the land of promise most of it looked barren and unproductive. However, it hides its lamp under a bushel, and grows a good many bushels full of food stuffs. The land of Samaria [18] was much the same temper. We soon arrived at Jacob's well and we stopped for water. It's true we did have a drink from Jacob's well. Someone has tried to build a church over that well and then left it in an unfinished state. This well must be full to its depth with secrets and it must often yearn for the freedom it had for so many, many years, for the women used it daily to gather and draw water; fill their heavy pitchers, while they exchanged gossip, discussed their problems, and shared their joys. And one day a certain one of them came to draw water at an irregular hour, came to avoid ridicule likely, for she had well earned the scorn of other women, and the one who had arrived before her spoke and later the woman answered; "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw." Yes, I feel sorry about this well being tucked away in the basement of a church. I'd like to set it free and let it be useful again. I'm sure its not enjoying its decorated uselessness. The water was good, we each had [18b] two drinks.

           We arrived at the Sea of Galilee in the afternoon. We were tired and worn when we arrived so we did not allow ourselves to indulge in first impressions. Again the altitude is below sea-level. We stayed at Father Tapper's, everyone that goes to the Galilean Sea stays at Father Tappers, at least everyone should stay there. It's a homely dear place kept by German monks and sisters. We were shown to our rooms by a sweet-faced German nun, and after a little nap we donned our swimming suits to go out for a swim. It was then about five o'clock, the sun had nearly spent himself and the warmth of his controlled emotions was quite welcome. Yes, I remember us looking a little bluish when we came out of the water because old "Sol" got tired and went home from playing before we did. We had such a lovely time in that lake. The water was quiet as a mirror and it cleaned and cooled our bodies and lightened our [19] spirits. Does it not sound sacrilegious to say that we shampooed our hair in the Sea of Galilee? And when we dressed for dinner that night we were filled with a new personal pride and a great joy of living because we felt that we were just the cleanest persons on earth. I'll never forget that refreshing dip in the lake. Really, it was the cleanest clean feeling I have ever experienced, and we found the burden of a bountiful German dinner deliciously acceptable, and so we broke bread with these German monks and were served by sweet-faced German sisters. Their little snatches of German were like music to my ears. I have wished a thousand times that I had grown up knowing German. After our dinner we went out in a boat. The night was perfect, the moon had not risen yet but many of the stars were a path of light on the tranquil waters. I remember the brilliance of Venus in particular. We sang hymns to the rhythm of the softly dipping oars. Peace reigned supreme, but they told [19b] us that fierce storms came almost instantaneously. As we neared the shore to embark a moon was just rising over the horizon, looking a little shame-faced and apologetic for his tardiness.

           The next morning early, found us out by the sea, as of old the fishermen work in the first streaks of light. Look! There it is! That could be the boat. Those men are looking discouraged and tired for they have been fishing for hours without success. And over on that other shore surely there is a figure dimly outlined against a sky that is warning fishermen to hurry lest the day break before they are ready. The Figure speaks and what he first says is commonplace enough, but, its his voice - is it not familiar? They follow his instructions and their success is overwhelming and not a single net is torn. But see! They recognize him and the impetuous Peter is already in the water swimming to shore. The fire is already laid. See [20] them sitting down near the pleasant warmth of the fire, in the stillness and dreariness of an early morning, enjoying the companionship of a meal together. See, they are eating with a zest which comes from many hours of hard labor. I, eating almost in silence, surely not because they are too busy appeasing their physical appetites but only because the moment is so full. Their faces are filled with wonder and awe and a great happiness because their friend has come back to them again. There is such joy in the face of the Master. Those eyes which had been so sad just a few days ago, are lighted, and he looks at them with love and understanding and a look that is softly compelling. We hear a voice coming to us across the still water, a voice that is soft and clear and sweet, saying "Feed my sheep" and then we quite suddenly realize that the gentle command we hear is the echo of that same command given so many years ago [20b] coming to us after twenty centuries of time.

           After our breakfast we went to some of the interesting places along the shore-line. Among them the ruins of old Caperneum. About two years ago someone set out to rebuild from the ruins the old Jewish synagogue but he met with an automobile accident and was instantly killed. But enough of the old columns and blocks of stone heave been placed in position to give a general idea of the plan of the building. The style of architecture is Roman and must have been very beautiful at one time.

           "Then Jesus said unto them: Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood ye have no life in you." These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernium.

          We came home to Father Tapper's in the afternoon. We left with reluctant [21] steps and only because time was limited and we had to get on. So we, hurried along to reach Mount Carmel at sunset. We soon came to Nazareth. It is a pretty town, so white looking and set in the hills. Here would be the carpenter shop of Joseph. We were warned to wear long sleeves, so we began hunting out jackets and coats, and I found mine to be missing. I had forgotten to bring it along and it was still hanging in the wardrobe of my room at Father Tapper's. All our heavy luggage was strapped on the back of the car. There was only one possibility in my small bag and that was my kimono, so dressed in a straw hat and a dressing gown we visited the churches in Nazareth. It rather spoiled the solemnity of church going for I did look very funny. Under one of the churches is a large grotto. This home in the rock is considered to be the home of Joseph and Mary and where Christ grew to man's stature. [21b] The carpenter shop was part of the home. This spot seems to be more authentic than many of them, at least if his is not the same house hewn out the side of a rock, Christ lived in one very similar.

           There was one old Jewish synagogue at Nazareth that looked as though it had stepped out of the old Testament. This was the only synagogue we visited.

           The streets of Nazareth are narrow and winding and cleaner than many of the other villages. Leaving Nazareth we drove West.

           The country shortly before we reached our destination was lovely and green and the fields were well cultivated. We saw several modern machines at work in the fields, not much like the old threshing floors and the simple plows which are still in use in Judea. This land is owned by the New Zionist colony that you have undoubtedly read about. It has a look of home [22] about it.

           We went up and up and up and up and finally we came to the upmost part of Mount Carmel. There was a glorious sunset and we harbored the secret thoughts of its being so glorious especially for us. The next morning we tramped down the mountainside. It is wooded and grassy and covered with brush and trees by turns. There were rocks and pines and weeds and flowers. We came back covered with stick tights. It gave me a more "nearest to home" feeling I've had since I left America!

           This visit at Mt. Carmel brought to a close our sojourning in the land of Palestine. We came home by boat. I couldn't possibly sum up for you all I feel about Palestine or how much it meant to me to have had this experience, and I think I've enjoyed it even more since I've been back. Often as I read I find my finger tracing out a tiny imaginary path across the page [22b] of my Bible.

           Some things were disappointing. Yes, very. But to look out over the hills of Moab, to see the sun rise from the Mount of Olives and to sit beside the gurgling Galilean Sea as it happily laps up the shores. These things are unchanging. I've tried to give you a little bit of my feeling for Palestine, to share with you the joy that was ours.

           With these things I will leave you.

                     Love always,

                               Frances Sprenger

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