Palestine - 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 without the Photos 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.

A Map of Jerusalem 2003. To give you some perspective, the Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane are on the right (east side of city) facing the Golden Gate. The Dome of the Rock is inside the city next to the Golden Gate. I have identified the various gates to the city and other places Frances mentions.

           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.

Jaffa Gate with David's Tower

Zion Gate

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.

Golden Gate
The Golden Gate was sealed off by the Muslims because, by religious tradition, when Jesus returns he will enter the city through this gate. As an additional assurance that Jesus can not use this Gate a Muslim cemetery was put in front of the gate because by another tradition Jesus is not allowed to cross over a grave. It must be true because, as Mark Twain said so often, "Our guide told us it was so and he should know."

Damascus Gate
The Damascus Gate is the busiest gate in the city. Jerusalem is unofficially divided into many different sections with the different religious sects (Latins, Copts, Ethiopian,Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Arabs and many others) all living and working within separate areas. The Damascus Gate is the Arab gate and I have to confess it was the most exciting because it was busy with shopkeepers and markets. There was life in this area; one writer described it as "festive animation". All the other gates seemed so empty and sterile. The Damascus Gate gets its name because it was the gate that leads north to Damascus, a major city in the ancient world just as it is today.

           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.

Donkeys are loaded with
produce for the market.

The streets were narrow and covered with cloth
to shield the shopkeepers from the hot mid-
day sun. Ramps were built into
the steps to accommodate small hand
carts loaded with merchandise.

          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.

Israel has become a sanctuary country for all the Jews in the world. As with every well meaning program there are good but also many unintended and unforeseen consequences. To paraphrase a fellow Jewish traveler, "Many of orthodox Jews have been provided the freedom to worship as they wish for the first time in their lives. They are protected and completely maintained by the government. The problem is that they are also unproductive members of society."

          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.

Muslim worshiper at the
Dome of the Rock

Christian monks walking along the
via Dolorosa now a main market street.

           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.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is, by
tradition, built upon the spot where Christ was Crucified and buried. Its location was discovered by Helena, the Mother of Constantine the Great in 331 A.D. It has been built and rebuilt many times, the last time by the Greek Orthodox church and thus the heavy eastern influence.

Sometimes it is important to remind ourselves that the location is based upon a history of the faithful and need not be historical fact.

Inside the Church are numerous altars, each one maintained by a different Christian sect - Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic and Syrian Orthodox; the Ethiopian monks have their cells and chapel on the roof of the church. This altar is by tradition located on the site where Christ was nailed to the cross.


This is the Altar of the Crucifixion with life size
icons of Christ, the Virgin and John. This is
by tradition the site of Calvary.

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.

The tomb of Christ lies
under a massive Rotunda

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."

The tomb simulates the original
two-roomed tomb of stone. The Chapel
of the Angel is believed to be part
of the tomb cover on which the Angel was
seated when the women came to anoint
Jesus' body on Easter Sunday.

This is the mortuary chamber and the
white marble slab, about two yards long,
covers the tomb which had been donated
by Joseph of Arimathea. Fran lit a candle
and placed it in the vase on the slab.
An icon of the Virgin conceals part
of the primitive rock tomb.

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.

Mark Twain

You may wish to skip these comments by Mark Twain and come back to them at a later date. I was just fascinated by his descriptions of Jerusalem and his comments about the sites we had seen. Not much had changed over these 135 years.

Introduction: I mentioned earlier that Mark Twain visited the Holy Land in 1867 while traveling through Europe. His book, The Innocents Abroad, is his report of that journey. He visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and his comments show his wit and satire, and perhaps a little irreverence. He was writing for a New York newspaper at the time. Perhaps some of these quotes will give you a little idea of why he was so revered:

"The population of Jerusalem is composed of Moslems, Jews, Greeks, Latins, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Abyssinians, Greek Catholics, and a handful of Protestants. One hundred of the latter sect are all that dwell now in the birthplace of Christianity." "One naturally goes first to the Holy Sepulchre. It is right in the city, near the western gate; and , in fact, every other place intimately connected with that tremendous event, are ingeniously massed together and covered by one roof -- the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Entering the building, through the midst of the usual assemblage of beggars, one sees on the left a few Turkish guards -- for Christian of different sects will not only quarrel, but fight, also, the this sacred place, if allowed to do it. Before you is a marble slab, which covers the Stone of Unction, whereon the Saviour's body was laid to prepare it for burial. It was found necessary to conceal the real stone in this way in order to save it from destruction. Pilgrims were too much given to chipping off pieces of it to carry home. Nearby is a circular railing which marks the spot where the Virgin stood when the Lord's body was anointed. [One of Mark Twain's traveling companions carried a small hammer with him which he used to chip off pieces of various artifacts -- for instance, he had a piece of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in his nap sack.]

Entering the great Rotunda, we stand before the most sacred locality in Christendom -- the grave of Jesus. It is in the centre of the church, and immediately under the great dome. It is inclosed in a sort of little temple of yellow and white stone, of fanciful design. Within the little temple is a portion of the very stone which was rolled away from the door of the Sepulchre, and on which the angel was siting when Mary came thither "at early dawn." Stooping low, we entered the vault -- the Sepulchre itself. It is only about six feet by seven, and the stone couch on which the dead Saviour lay extends from end to end of the apartment and occupies half its width. It is covered with a marble slab which has been much worn by the lips of pilgrims. This slab serves as an altar, now. Over it hang some fifty gold and silver lamps, which are kept always burning, and the place is otherwise scandalized by trumpery, gewgaws, and tawdry ornamentation.

All sects of Christians (except Protestants,) have chapels under the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and each must keep to itself and not venture upon another's ground. It has been proven conclusively that they can not worship together around the grave of the Saviour of the World in peace. The chapel of the Syrians is not handsome; that of the Copts is the humblest of them all. It is nothing but a dismal cavern, rough hewn in the living rock of the Hill of Calvary. In one side of it two ancient tombs are hewn, which are claimed to be those in which Nicodemus and Joseph of Aramathea were buried.

As we moved among the great piers and pillars of another part of the church we came upon a part of black-robed, animal-looking Italian monks, with candles in their hands, who were chanting something in Latin, and going through some kind of religious performance around a disk of white marble let into the floor. It was there that the risen Saviour appeared to Mary Magdalen in the likeness of a gardener. . . . They perform everywhere -- all over the vast building, and at all hours. Their candles are always flitting about in the gloom, and making the dim old church more dismal than there is any necessity that it should be, even though it is a tomb."

[Twain then goes on to explain the story about how St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, (remember, she built the church) three hundred years after the Crucifixion found the three crosses and there was great joy until someone suggested that they couldn't tell "Which bore the blessed Saviour, and which the thieves?" They were put to the test by being taken to an elderly noble woman who was on her deathbed with illness. When the first two were brought in, one at a time, "she uttered a scream that was heard beyond the Damascus Gate, and even upon the Mount of Olives..." Fearing the old woman would die of convulsions if the third cross were not to be the true cross the priests hesitated to bring it into the room. A decision was made that at least it would put her out of her misery and when the cross was brought into the room "behold a miracle! The woman sprang from her bed smiling and joyful, and perfectly restored to health. When we listen to evidence like this, we cannot but believe. We would be ashamed to doubt, and properly too. Even the very part of Jerusalem where this all occurred is there yet. So there is really no room for doubt."]

"Not far from here was a niche where they used to preserve a piece of the True Cross, but it is gone, now. This piece of the cross was discovered in the sixteenth century. The Latin priests say it was stolen away, long ago, by priests of another sect. That seems like a hard statement to make, but we know very well that it was stolen, because we have seen it ourselves in several of the cathedrals of Italy and France."

Other places Twain visited in the church was "The Prison of Our Lord" where Jesus was confined before his crucifixion. He also saw a "short column that rises from the middle of the marble pavement of the chapel, and marks the exact centre of the earth." There is proof for "the headstrong and the foolish" who doubt this is the center of the earth because "under this very column was taken the dust from which Adam was made. This can surely be regarded in the light of a settler. It is not likely that the original first man would have been made from an inferior quality of earth when it was entirely convenient to get first quality from the world's centre." He goes on to say, "That Adam was formed of dirt procured in this very spot is amply proven by the fact that in six thousand years no man has ever been able to prove that the dirt was not procured here whereof he was made."

"It is a singular circumstance that right under the roof of this same great church, and not far away from that illustrious column, Adam himself, the father of the human race, lies buried. There is no question that he is actually buried in the grave which is pointed out as his ... because it has never yet been proven that that grave is not the grave in which he is buried.

"The tomb of Adam! How touching it was, here in a land of strangers, far away from home, and friends, and all who cried for me, thus to discover the grave of a blood relation. ... The foundation of my filial affection was stirred to its profoundest depths, and I gave way to tumultuous emotion. I leaned upon an pillar and burst into tears. I deem it no shame to have wept over the grave of my poor dead relative. Let him who would sneer at my emotion close this volume here, for he will find little to his taste in my journeyings through Holy Land. Noble old man -- he did not live to see me -- he did not live to see his child. And I --I -- alas, I did not live to see him. Weighed down by sorrow and disappointment he died before I was born -- six thousand brief summers before I was born. . . . Let us take comfort in the thought that his loss is our eternal gain."

After describing the many other religious artifacts within the Church Twain closes the chapter as follows:

"And so I close my chapter on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- the most sacred locality on earth to millions and millions of men, and women, and children, the noble and the humble, bond and free. In its history from the first, and in its tremendous associations, it is the most illustrious edifice in Christendom. With all its clap-trap side-shows and unseemly impostures of every kind, it is still grand, reverend, venerable -- for a god died there; for fifteen hundred years its shrines have been wet with the tears of pilgrims from the earth's remotest confines; for more than two hundred, the most gallant knights that ever wielded sword wasted their lives away in a struggle to seize it and hold it sacred from infidel pollution. Even in our own day a war, that cost millions of treasures and rivers of blood, was fought because two rival nations claimed the sole right to put a new dome upon it. History is full of this Old Church of the Holy Sepulchre -- full of blood that was shed because of the respect and the veneration in which men held the last resting-place of the meek and lowly, the mild and gentle, Prince of Peace!"

           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.

I suspect that everyone who goes to Jerusalem does a search for locations which verifies the life of Jesus. Of course the location of Calvary and Jesus' tomb are high on the list. As Frances said above, the church of the Holy Sepulchre, despite all its splendor and historical background, did not move her spirit. Fran and I felt the same way.

We were also taken to a "recently discovered" alternative location of the crucifixion and tomb of Jesus - The Garden Tomb. Our guide made it sound as if it were something just recently discovered and we were one of only a few people who were lucky enough to visit it. You can imagine how surprised I was to learn in June, 2011, that the site had been visited by Fran's mother in 1935. Our next door neighbor visited Israel in 1979 and they also were treated to the "recent discovery." Mark Twain, in The Innocents Abroad, doesn't think much of guides and and you will find that tour guides haven't changed much since 1867 - always trying to increase their tips by showing you something no one has ever seen before.

Some time ago, the date is unknown, from the top of the Damascus Gate a British officer, looking north toward the road to Damascus, noticed a rocky outcrop on a hill which resembled a skull. You can see location of the Garden on the map of Jerusalem which I have posted at the beginning of this site.

This place is located outside the city gates and on the road to Damascus. Its location is more consistent with the site for the crucifixion and burial tomb of Jesus. On closer inspection Gordon discovered a small but beautiful garden which consisted of a large underground water cistern, a wine press, and an unused tomb cut into the side of the rock wall. All of these things made it a plausible site of Calvary and an alternative to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which is located inside the walled city.

The presence of a very large underground water cistern (above) and wine press was strong evidence that this was a garden owned by a wealthy man such as Joseph of Arimathea who is said to have donated his family tomb for the burial of Jesus.

As was the custom, the tomb was cut into the side of the limestone hill. A grooved track was cut outside the door so a large round stone could have been rolled into place sealing the tomb.

Inside there is a small "weeping room" and two small burial chambers, only one of which was finished. It was customary to carve out a rough burial chamber but its exact length would not be finished until the size of the body was determined.

As can be seen, only one of the two burial chambers (top) was completed and from all observations it had never been used. You will note the burial tomb on the right is not finished.

We were invited in to see the tomb but were told,
"Jesus is not there for he has risen."

Some information about Jewish burial customs at the time may help to understand the purpose of the tomb. Tombs were dug into the side of the limestone cliffs which are numerous outside of Jerusalem. By custom bodies were not buried inside the city walls. This photograph of the Valley of the Kidron from the top of the Mount of Olives gives the visitor a sense of this practice. Bodies were left in these tombs only until the flesh had decomposed.

The Biblical description of two women who witness Jesus’ burial returning early Sunday morning to perfume his body (anoint it with oil), and mourn, is in keeping with Jewish customs. At that time it was important to note the precise location of Jesus’ tomb, to confirm and even mark, for identification, his corpse. The purpose of certifying the location, and specifically the body, was to allow them, at some time in the future, to take possession of the remains and transfer them to his family burial place. The Garden Tomb easily fits the description of Jesus' burial place described in the Bible.

see: Burial Traditions

At the time of Jesus' death Jewish people began to practice re-burials. After the flesh had decayed the bones would be collected and placed in a small box, an ossuary, like the ones shown above. Digging a grave, as is the custom in many parts of the world, is not practicable because of the rocky ground. Tombs dug into the side of a cliff, or constructed above ground were more practical. Of course this meant, by necessity, they were much smaller than a full size body. Ossuaries were generally made of soft stone or limestone. Sometimes they were decorated with geometric designs. After they were filled, sometimes with bones of several individuals, they were stored in small chambers within the tomb. Sometimes the name of the family or one of the individuals within was carved on the outside. Among the ossuaries archaeologists have found is that of Joseph Bar Caiapha (Caiaphas in Greek) possibly the high priest who plotted against Jesus, and a recent one containing the inscription, "James, brother of Jesus." Whether the latter has been determined to be a fake I do not remember.

See: Ossuaries.

           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.

The Western (Wailing) Wall, below the Islamic Dome of the Rock, is the symbol of Jewish faith and object of Jewish pilgrimages from all over the world.

The Dome of the Rock dominates the entire skyline of old Jerusalem. The area is now under Moslem control and although it is a sacred location for Jews and Moslems alike (it was once part of the Jewish Temple built by Solomon and held the Ark of the Covenant) Jews are not allowed to visit the enclosure or building.

Since the Wailing Wall is the last remnant of Solomon's Temple this is the place where Jews come to pray. It acquired the name because during the long exile of the Jewish people from the city they could return only once a year to mourn the destruction of the Temple. This is the condition which would have existed when Frances visited it in 1935.

During the war of 1967, when the Arab armies were crushed in a matter of days, Jerusalem was recaptured and the city occupied by Jewish forces. The Wall become the symbol of reconquest of the city and re-unification of the Jewish State. Everyone now has free access to the wall - Jews, Christians, and I dare say, Moslems. It is now an area of joy and worship.

Prayer books are made available to the faithful.

It is unfortunate that this area is a target for terrorist attacks so it looks like an armed camp.

It is customary to insert small papers on which are written prayers into the fissures in the wall.

Fran offers her prayers for peace in this land of conflict.

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.

The Dome of the Rock, also known as the Mosque of Omar, is under total control of he Moslems and thus not accessible to us (so we were told by our Jewish guide -- actually I think it was not accessible to him and accordingly he didn't want anyone else to go there either; we experienced a lot of personal prejudices.) Historically this is the location where Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac - since Abraham is considered father of both Judaism and Islam it has great significance to both religions; it is also the location of the Temple built by Solomon which held the Ark of the Covenant which held the The Ten Commandments. The Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C. and the Ark was lost. When the Moslems arrived in 638 A.D. they found the Temple Mound had been covered with refuse. They cleared it and reinstated it as a place of worship because, according to Moslem tradition, Mohammed made his ascent into heaven (night journey) from here. In 687 A.D. Ommayad caliph Abd el Malik decided to erect a mosque on the spot and entrusted the job to Christian-Byzantine architects. Over the years the mosaic walls have been changed and the original lead dome was colored gold. As you can thus understand it has a great significance to the two major religions. Unfortunately Jews are absolutely forbidden from visiting the site. Fran's mother was there at a time when the tensions were not so great and she was fortunate to have visited the rock.

The golden dome dominates the skyline of Jerusalem. This photo was taken from the Jewish cemetery above the Garden of Gethsemane looking toward the Golden Gate (which is now sealed off) On Palm Sunday Jesus entered the city via a path down from the area of this cemetery, through Gethsemane, up the hill, through the Golden Gate and then into the Temple.

Fountains are provided for the faithful to wash their hands and feet before entering the Dome.

Since we were not allowed to visit the Dome these photos are taken from The Golden Book on Israel, a guide book with lots of photographs, I purchased in Jerusalem. One rule I have when traveling: When you see a good book with lots of pictures, buy it right then, don't delay you may never see the book sold anywhere else and you never know how it can came in handy when you get home.

This is the rock which is the centerpiece of
the Dome and is sacred to Moslems as the third most
place of pilgrimage after Mecca and Medina.

           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].

These are the fabled "Stables of King Solomon". It is known
that the Crusaders kept their horses and camels here.

Mark Twain also visited "the mighty Mosque of Omar" upon Mount Moriah, where King Solomon's Temple stood. Here are some of his comments:

"This Mosque is the holiest place the Mohammedan knows, outside of Mecca. Up to within a year or two past, no Christian could gain admission to it or its court for love or money. But the prohibition has been removed, and we entered freely for backsheesh [the local currency]."

"The great feature of the Mosque of Omar is the prodigious rock in the centre of its rotunda. It was upon this rock that Abraham came so near offering up his son Isaac -- this, at least, is authentic -- it is very much more to be relied on than most of the traditions, at any rate. On this rock, also, the angel stood and threatened Jerusalem, and David persuaded him to spare the city. Mahomet was well acquainted with this stone. From it he ascended to heaven. The stone tried to follow him, and if the angel Gabriel had not happened by the merest good luck to be there to seize it, it would have done it. Very few people have a grip like Gabriel -- the prints of his monstrous fingers, two inches deep, are to be seen on that rock today.

"This rock, large as it is, is suspended in the air. It does not touch any thing at all. The guide said so. This is very wonderful. In the place on it where Mahomet stood, he left his foot-prints in the solid stone. I should judge that he wore about eighteens. But what I was going to say, when I spoke of the rock being suspended, was, that in the floor of the cavern under it they showed us a slab which they said covered a hole which was a thing of extraordinary interest to all Mohammedans, because the hole leads down to perdition, and every soul that is transferred from thence to Heaven must pass up through this orifice. Mahomet stands there and lifts them out by the hair. All Mohammedans shave their heads, but they are careful to leave a lock of hair for the Prophet to take hold of. Our guide observed that a good Mohammedan would consider himself doomed to stay with the damned forever if he were to loose his scalp-lock and die before it grew again. The most of them that I have seen ought to stay with the damned, any how, without reference to how they were barbered."

"The inside of the great mosque is very showy with variegated marble walls and with windows and inscriptions of elaborate mosaic. The Turks have their sacred relics, like the Catholics. The guide showed us the veritable armor worn by the great son-in-law and successor of Mahomet, and also the buckler of Mahomet's uncle. The great iron railing which surrounds the rock was ornamented in one place with a thousand rags tied to its open work. These are to remind Mahomet not to forget the worshipers who placed them there. It is considered the next best thing to tying threads around his finger by way of reminders."

Just outside the mosque is a miniature temple, which marks the spot where David and Goliah used to sit and judge the people, -- [A pilgrim informs me that it was not David and Goliah, but David and Saul. I stick to my own statement -- the guide told me, and he ought to know.]"

"Every where about the Mosque of Omar are portions of pillars, curiously wrought alters, and fragments of elegantly carved marble -- precious remains of Solomon's Temple. These have been dug from all depths in the soil and rubbish of Mount Moriah, and the Moslems have always shown a disposition to preserve them with the utmost care. At that portion of the ancient wall of Solomon's Temple which is called the Jew's Place of Wailing, and where the Hebrews assemble every Friday to kiss the venerated stones and weep over the fallen greatness of Zion, anyone can see a part of the unquestioned and undisputed Temple of Solomon, the same consisting of three or four stones lying one upon the other, each of which is about twice as long as a seven-octave piano, and about as thick as such a piano is high. But, as I have remarked before, it is only a year or two ago that the ancient edict prohibiting Christian rubbish like ourselves to enter the Mosque of Omar and see the costly marbles that once adorned the inner Temple was annulled."

           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.

Olive trees are great for this part of the world. They take little water, they live forever, and they produce the most wonderful fruit and oil.

I am confident that the trees we saw are the same ones seen by Frances in 1935 and even Mark Twain in 1867.

           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.

The Basilica of Agony or The Church of All Nations

Jesus spent his last night in the Garden of Gethsemane at this location as he wept over the fate of Jerusalem while Judas was betraying him to the Romans. In the 4th century a church was constructed at this place, but was destroyed by the Persians in 614 AD. It was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th Century, but was destroyed again by the Arabs in 1187. The land was acquired by the Franciscans in 1666 but they were not allowed to rebuilt the church until the British took control of Jerusalem at the end of WWI. The Basilica of Agony next to the Garden of Gethsemane was built in 1929 from donations received all over the world, thus its name, "Church of All Nations."

This rock in front of the altar is believed to be where Jesus knelt in prayer.

The Gate to the Garden of Gethsemane which sits at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

Fran overlooks the Garden of Gethsemane adjacent to the Basilica of Agony.

           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.

Overlooking Bethlehem

Young shepherd

Shepherd boy overlooking his flock

Mark Twain described the shepherds thus: "Shepherds they were, and they charmed their flocks with the traditional shepherd's pipe -- a reed instrument that made music as exquisitely infernal as these same Arabs create when they sing.

"In their pipes lingered no echo of the wonderful music the shepherd forefathers heard in the Pains of Bethlehem what time the angels sang "Peace on earth, good will to men."

The city of Bethlehem looking toward the Basilica of the Nativity

Bethlehem is in the "West Bank" and thus under Palestinian control. Our guide said, "We can't go there." We took that to mean "the tour group" when in actuality I think it meant "he", as an Israeli, could not go there. I am sorry we didn't push the point. I am sure that if I had we could have made arrangements. We have talked to others who have been to Jerusalem who have confirmed my suspicions. The secret is to hire a Palestinian Christian guide to show you the city. That way you can get into the courtyard of the Dome of the Rock, if not entering the structure, and also visit Bethlehem.

All the photos I have of Palestine are postcards I bought in Jerusalem. Another secret of traveling: If you see a good postcard of something you want to remember, buy it. You never know when it may come in handy later.

The "Eye of the Needle. During the Crusades the Christian community blocked up the main entrance except for a very small opening, to prevent locals from riding into the church on horseback. The door is only one and a half yards high, and is sometimes called the "gate of humility" since you have to stoop to enter. It is easy to see where the large arched doorway has been blocked off and the small opening left in its place.

Since Christ mentions the "eye of the needle" I thought I would comment upon it here. Obviously, this is not the "eye of the needle Christ mentions since the basilica did not exist during his lifetime. The "eye of the needle" was, however a well known building structure in the Roman world. Cities used to be walled off to protect them against bandits and roving gangs. At night the city gates would be locked but there was always one very small gate which was available for travelers to gain access to the city after dark but small enough to be defended against attack. Beasts of burden such as a donkey or a camel, laden with its goods could never get through these small openings. If a camel were totally unloaded, however, and he was brought down to his knees he could, with much pushing and shoving and coaxing, be gotten through this small gate. The motivation of a rich man is to become richer; he knows little about poverty or human misery and the need to ameliorate those conditions, which is the essence of being in the Kingdom of God. Thus the statement by Jesus, "... how difficult it is for those who rely on money to get into the Realm of God! It is easier for a camel to get through a needle's eye than for a rich man to get into the Realm of God." Jesus didn't object to wealth but was pointing out that the only way a rich man can be a member of the Kingdom God is for him regard the possession of his riches as a stewardship, or as a means to foster spiritual ends. If he developed a social conscience, he could not enjoy his riches as before.

Inside the Basilica of the Nativity.

Joan Jamison nee Sprenger, Fran's cousin,was in Jerusalem at Christmas, about 1970, and she went to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. That must have been quite an experience.

This location was venerated by the early Christians but the Roman Emperor Hadrian, in 134 A.D. consecrated the woods and caves to Adonis and introduced a pagan cult. In 332, Constantine the Great had the woods cut down and ordered a basilica built on the spot. Much of that basilica was destroyed about 200 years later but it was rebuilt by Justin in the sixth century and later the Crusaders made repairs. The basilica was spared during the Persian invasion of 614 because the invaders found a painting of the three Magi, whom they took to be Persians.

Diagram of the Basilica of the Nativity showing location of Grotto where Jesus was born.

The Chapel of the Nativity is located under the main altar of the church.

The grotto of the Chapel of the Nativity.

In the sunken grotto is the location where the newborn infant was born.

In a small vault a silver star marks the place of Jesus's birth. Above the altar there are fifteen lamps belonging to different Christian communities.

           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.

The view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives is stunning. You can see the walled city as it runs along the side of the mountain.

The Dome of the Rock dominates the skyline of Jerusalem. You can imagine what it would have looked like if Solomon's Temple were there instead.

In the foreground you can see the Jewish cemetery Frances talked about earlier. The deceased were buried in small above ground tombs rather than in caves dug into the side of the mountain. It is common for visitors to the grave to place a small stone on top of the tomb as a remembrance of the deceased's good deeds.

This road is called "Palm Sunday Road" because it was used by Jesus to enter the city. It would have been the same one Frances, and we, traversed to get up to the Mount of Olives.

           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."

Dominus Flevit - The Lord Wept - is a small church built on the western slope of the Mount of Olives in 1955 on the ruins of an ancient church. On the floor of the church is a mosaic depicting a hen gather her brood under her wings. It is near here that Jesus wept over his vision of the destruction of Jerusalem.

From a window of Dominus Flevit you can see the Dome of the Rock but more importantly the Golden Gate (far right)which used to open into the Temple.

           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 Camel by Mark Twain:

". . . we have been trying for some time to think what a camel looks like, and now we have made it out. When he is down on all his knees, flat on his breast to receive his load, he looks something like a goose swimming; and when he is upright he looks like an ostrich with an extra set of legs. Camels are not beautiful, and their long under lip gives them an exceedingly "gallus" -- [Excuse the slang, no other word will describe it] -- expression. They have immense, flat, forked cushions of feet, that make a track in the dust like a pie with a slice cut out of it.

camel footprint in the dust

They are not particular about their diet. They would eat a tombstone if they could bite it. A thistle grows about here which has needles on it that would piece through leather, I think; if one touches you, you can find relief in nothing but profanity. The camels eat these. They show by their actions that they enjoy them. I suppose it would be a real treat to a camel to have a keg of nails for supper."

We traveled to the Dead Sea as well. As you can see from the signs there is but one road and it leads to everywhere. You know we are in the West Bank because the signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and English.

As we left(?) "Israel" we had to go through an armed checkpoint to enter the West Bank. As we drove east toward the Dead Sea Fran asked me, "Is this what is considered the West Bank?" Our Israeli guide, a veteran of the 1969 war, who overheard the question, and to whom it was not directed, coldly and sternly interjected, "There is no West Bank, they will never get this land." So heated are the tensions in this area. We often felt so much hatred of the Palestinians by the Israelis that it filled the air. The hatred did not seem to go both ways, though, the Palestinians did not hate the Israelis, just the government policy of taking their land. One has to think it odd that we can travel at will through the West Bank but the Palestinians cannot get into Israel on the same highway. In fact, I talked to a Palestinian employed by the U.N. on our flight from Amman, Jordan to Cairo, Egypt. He lived in Jerusalem told me that in order for him to go from Amman, Jordan, to Jerusalem, a relatively short distance by land, he has to first fly to Cairo and then fly to Jerusalem. He stated that it isn't the Jews that the Palestinians hate, it is the way the Israeli government is "taking our land."

The land between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea is so desolate it is surprising anyone would live there. But it has been the home of the Bedouin Arabs for centuries and not at all unlike what we had seen in the Sahara Desert in Morocco. I have often wondered why people fight over this land. It certainly does not look like a "promised land."

The Bedouin, a nomadic people, live in encampments in the desert.

An oasis provides water for crops and dates from the trees. You can imagine what a welcome sight this would be for a nomadic people. If you had been traveling for 40 years in the Siani desert this would certainly look like the land of milk and honey.

Water has to be trucked in for the sheep. This may be one reason we see so many of he Bedouin camps close to the highway.

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the earth's surface, 1280 feet below sea level. There is no life, except for the swimmers, found in the water and the valley surrounding it is like a blast furnace. Because of the heat and the evaporation of water the lake's salt content is over 30%, ten times normal sea water. Because of the density of the water swimmers find it easy to float. In fact, it is near impossible to walk on the bottom of the lake because your body just floats up and you tip over. So, the best course of action is to accept the conditions, lay down and float.

The water also contains other minerals that give it a bitter taste and oily consistency. We were warned not to let it get into their mouth or eyes and fresh water rinsing stations are provided to wash out. There are signs warning swimmers of severe health risks of swallowing the water. There are several chemical plants along the coast that mine some of the minerals in the water. The Dead Sea is famous for its therapeutic properties and is effective in the treatment of skin disorders. Covering yourself with the mud from the bottom of the sea is a popular activity.

Hidden under a mud mask the girls swarmed to this mysterious stranger.

The object is to cover yourself with mud and than bask in the sun.

Modern Day Extra

Two places by the Dead Sea that Frances did not visit.

Qumran - The Dead Sea Scrolls

Although ruins of the settlement are right on the highway to the Dead Sea,
where Frances was headed to go swimming, there would have been no reason
to stop because its historical significance had not yet been discovered

Ruins of the monastic settlement inhabited by an ancient Hebrew sect, the Essenes, who lived here between the second century B.C. and 68 A.D. The doctrines and rites were surprisingly similar to those of the early Christians. They sought to live a life of purity far from the pomp and magnificence of Jerusalem. They took refuge in the desert, where they lived in poverty and divided the fruits of their labors equally among themselves. They performed purifying rites such as baptism and studied the scriptures as they awaited the end of the world. There is some speculation that John the Baptist lived in this, or a similar, community. In 68 A.D. Vespasian's Tenth Legion occupied the area and scattered the members of the sect.

Cave of the dead sea scrolls.

After the Jewish revolt of 66 A.D. (now called CE for Common Era in order to take the religious connection out of the dating system) was crushed in Jerusalem the Roman army moved toward the Dead Sea. Members of the Qumran community scattered into the desert. In order to preserve their religious teachings the scrolls, written on lamb skins, were sealed in large clay jars and hidden in the caves surrounding the area. Obviously they were intended to be retrieved when the community could be reformed at a later date. The reconstruction never took place and the scrolls forgotten.

In 1947 the scrolls were found by chance when a shepherd boy saw an opening in the ground and he threw in a rock. The rock landed on one of the clay pots and when the boy heard an unusual "ting" he climbed down to investigate and found numerous pots with the scrolls wrapped in linen and placed in carefully sealed jars, an indication that whoever hid them did all in his power to preserve them. Exploration of surrounding caves found hundreds of manuscripts, not all of which had been so carefully preserved.

The manuscripts, mostly written in Hebrew and some in Aramaic, date back about a thousand years earlier than the oldest examples of Hebrew Scriptures known up to that time. They contain all of the Old Testament texts except Esther, and include the Apocrypha and the rules and doctrines of the Qumran community. Having no idea what he had found the shepherd boy sold the scrolls for pennies and eventually they were offered for sale in the want ads of a Jerusalem newspaper. Not all of the scrolls have been translated and the process is very slow because much of them fall apart into small pieces as they are unrolled. To say the least the scrolls are treasured by both the Jewish and Christian communities.

Masada - A Mountain Fortress

Frances could have driven right by the mountain fortress of Masada in 1935 but it would not have had any significance to anyone at that time. Today, after the formation of Israel as an independent nation in 1948, it is a symbol national strength. The name today stand out as a warning and a promise is the phrase "Masada shall not fall again" recited by elite Israeli fighting units after they climb the cliffs and take their oath of allegiance on the site.

Herod had first built a fortress at the top of the mountain to protect him in case of a revolution. Following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. a group of Jewish rebels took over the fortress and for three years fought off a Roman siege.

Today you get to the top of the fortress via a cable car. If Frances had an undying urge to visit it in 1935 she would have had to follow the winding goat path or climb to the top.

The ruins of Herod's fortress and the rebel community are still visible.

The view from Masada toward the Dead Sea is spectacular. When the Roman army attacked the rebels the assault was impossible. Steep sides of the cliff made it an easy location to defend. For three years the rebels repelled the Roman attack.

The Roman commander, Flavious Silva, had an enormous access ramp constructed on the side of the mountain allowing the army easy access. For years - imagine how long it would take to built this ramp by hand, over 100,000 men were put to the task - the rebels watched the Romans build the ramp on the west side. On the eve of the final Roman attack 960 members of the Jewish rebels committed suicide rather than being taken captive and into slavery by the Romans. To the Romans it was a hollow victory and for the modern Jewish state, founded in the aftermath of the holocaust of WWII, a symbol that never again will the Hebrews be subjected to foreign rule.

While on top of the mountain our guide made some other comments that betrayed his dislike of the Arabs. At one point he told us that he knew many of us would be going to Egypt and then to Jordan and we would find ourselves on the other side of the Dead Sea looking across to Israel. He made it clear that we would be told many lies about Israeli history and we should not pay attention to them. The Indians used to call this, "Poisoning the well". Drink the fresh cool water of discovery but then poison the well so the Arab sites and culture will not have the same level of excitement. His comments were very distasteful and even the waters of Canaan lost some of its sweetness. Someone told us we should have had an Arab Christian guide and our experience would have been a lot different. Little did we know!

The immense size of the earthen ramp built by the Romans can be seen in this photo. All the dirt had to be carried into position in baskets. As we sat on the top of Masada our guide, a veteran of the six day war of 1967, told us how he and his wife, along with other family members, were taken to the top of the fortress as their son, having just graduated from the elite army training, climbed the cliffs of the mountain. The soldiers were given the option of using the Roman ramp and they all refused, choosing instead to climb the steep walls. Our guide had tears in his eyes as he told us about the pride he felt when he saw his son climb over the stone walls at the top of mountain. He told us, "Masada shall not fall again." Such is his zeal for Israel.

           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 did not visit Jacob's well and photographs are hard to find but this will give you an idea of what it looked like.

The Greek Orthodox church seems to have turned everything into a shrine.

           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.

Mark Twain also went swimming in the Sea of Galilee.

"At noon we took a swim in the Sea of Galilee -- a blessed privilege in this roasting climate -- and then lunched under a neglected old fig-tree at the fountain they call Ain-et-Tin, a hundred yards from ruined Capernaum. Every rivulet that gurgles out of the rocks and sands of this part of the world is dubbed with the title of "fountain," and people familiar with the Hudson, the great lakes and the Mississippi fall into transports o admiration over them, and exhaust their powers of composition in writing their praises. If all the poetry and nonsense that have been discharged upon the fountains and the bland scenery of tis reason were collected in a book, it would make a most valuable volume to burn."

"The celebrated Sea of Galilee is not so large a sea as Lake Tahoe -- [I measure all lakes by Tahoe, partly because I am far more familiar with it than with any other, and partly because I have such a a high admiration for it and such a world of pleasant recollections of it, that it is very nearly impossible for me to speak of lakes and not mention it.] -- by a good deal -- it is just about two-thirds as large. And when we come to speak of beauty, this sea is no more to be compared to Tahoe than a meridian of longitude is to a rainbow. The dim waters of this pool can not suggest the limpid brilliance of Tahoe; these low, shaven, yellow hillocks of rocks and sand, so devoid of perspective, can not suggest the grand peaks that compass Tahoe like a wall, and whose ribbed and chasmed fronts are clad with stately pines that seem to grow small and smaller as they climb, till one might fancy them reduced to weeds and shrubs far upward, where they join the everlasting snows. Silence and solitude brood over Tahoe; and silence and solitude brood also over this lake of Genessaret. But the solitude of the one is as cheerful and fascinating as the solitude of the other is dismal and repellant."

Although the Sea of Galilee is below sea level the Jordan River flows south to the Dead Sea which has no outlet. Thus the Sea of Galilee is a fresh water lake and has always been a source of fishing.

We stopped at a Kabutz on the eastern shore of the Sea below the Golan Heights. On the menu was "St. Peter's fish." It was the same fish that Peter and the disciples would have caught before they became "fishers of men."

After lunch we were able to walk around the site and examine this model of the kinds of boats used by fishermen on the Sea of Galilee during Peter's time.

You can see how calm the sea can be in October. A cement walk, with appropriate hand rail, was installed so guests could test out their skills of walking on water, or at least wade safely into the Sea of Galilee.

When we left the Kabutz we continued counter-clockwise around the Sea of Galilee - and thus crossed the Jordan River on the north end of the lake. The traditional location of Jesus' baptism by John the Baptist is on the south end of the lake and in Jordan so we couldn't (or at least our Jewish guide couldn't) cross the border.

           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.

Mount of the Beatitudes - Tabgha

Now we have to use our imagination - its obvious that Frances did when she is describing what the disciples must have thought as they saw their friend walking on the beach. I can't find any reference to Father Tapper's and I'm not surprised after all these years. But taking into account Frances' description of where she was and what she saw I am going to put her at Tabgha which is located only two miles west of Capernium. In her next paragraph she talks about walking from Father Tappers to Capernium and that would be a logical and an easily distance for a day's walk - especially for a farm girl. Tabgha was built in 1938 and is maintained by Franciscan nuns so it would not have been present when Frances visited the Holy Land in 1935 but was when we were there in 2003.

The church sits on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

Josephus referred to as the "well of Capernium." Undoubtedly a popular fishing spot of the locals because of its famous "seven springs," Heptapegon (today the name has been corrupted to Tabgha) is the traditional location for several episodes in Jesus' ministry. The seven springs that emerged at Tabgha (today only six have been discovered) produced water warmer than that of the Sea of Galilee. This warmer water helped the production of algae, which in turn attracted the fish. Fishermen thus have frequented this area for thousands of years.

Located on a small hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee near Tabgha, the Mount of Beatitudes is the traditional site of Jesus' delivery of the Sermon on the Mount, probably the most famous sermon of all time. Ruins of a small church dated to the late 4th century have been discovered downhill from the present church. It has a rock-cut cistern beneath it and the remains of a little monastery to its south and southeast.

Pilgrims are known to have commemorated the Sermon on the Mount near here since the 4th century. After describing the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, the Spanish pilgrim Egeria (c.381) wrote, "Near there on a mountain is the cave to which the Savior climbed and spoke the Beatitudes."

Regardless of whether this is the very spot, the Church of the Beatitudes stands in the right general area and in a very similar setting to where Jesus would have stood as he delivered his famous sermon. As Murphy-O'Connor puts it, from here "one can see virtually all the places in which Jesus lived and worked".

This Byzantine mosaic is preserved under a modern church today, but it was once part of a church which commemorated Jesus' feeding of the 5000.

Tabgha is the traditional location for the calling of the disciples. It is believed that here Jesus walked along the shore and called out to Simon Peter and Andrew who were casting their nets into the lake. Walking along, Jesus saw two other brothers, James and John who were preparing their nets with their father Zebedee. Jesus called all of these men to follow him. It was perhaps inevitable that this well-watered area with its shade trees on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where Byzantine pilgrims ate their picnics, should have been identified as the location of two episodes involving the consumption of food, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the conferral on Peter of the responsibility of leadership after a fish breakfast. Then it became convenient to localize the Sermon of the Mount on the small hill nearby.

Evidence of ancient boating activity at Tabgha is found in the recently discovered harbor on the shore. Visible when the water level is -211.50 m or lower, the curved western breakwater was 60 meters long. Another 40 m breakwater ran perpendicular to the shore and protected the 30 m wide basin which was entered from the east.

           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.

The synagogue at Capernium

Greek Orthodox priest walking the street in Capernium

Peter lived in Capernium and thus Jesus spent a lot of time there. In fact, I understand he lived with Peter for a while. Peter's home is just across the street from the synagogue and was under excavation when we were there. Everything was covered so I couldn't get a good photograph.

           "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 small town of Nazareth has grown since the time of Jesus.

The church of Saint Joseph which contains the ruins of the boyhood home of Jesus and Joseph's carpentry workshop in the basement.

It was not uncommon for families to live above the workshop and thus the assumption that Jesus' home must be in the same location.

The Synagogue Church

After Jesus had grown to manhood he returned to Nazareth and spoke in the synagogue. It didn't turn out to be exactly a prophets welcome. The report goes as follows:

He turned, handed the scroll back to the Gabai, the attendant, and said, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. A hush came over the congregation. For a moment they seemed stunned. Then someone asked, “How can this be? Isn't this Joseph's son? Wasn't it Joshua, the boy they had known growing up? Hadn't they watched him play with their own sons and daughters? Many had entertained him and his family for holiday meals in their own homes.

There were those among them who remembered when Jesus as a boy had eloquently led the synagogue services reciting the Sabbath readings with similar earnestness and sincerity. But now he was a full grown man and he spoke with such authority. Suddenly members of the synagogue began to taunt him. Why don't you do some of those healings we heard about, over in Capernium?

Then Jesus responded: Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown. He then spoke of how Elijah was sent to a widow in the region of Sidon and how Elisha was only able to heal Naaman the Syrian.

The crowd of worshipers begin to gather around Jesus, dragging him from his seat and pushing him toward the door. Stand aside as they violently force the Master out to the ledge of a cliff, ready to push him off. The Bible tells us (Luke 4:28-30): All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

For more information see: Church Synagogue

           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!


I wondered why Frances visited Mount Carmel. Perhaps this short history will remind you of its significance in the Old Testament.

Over the centuries, ever since the Hebrews invaded Canaan the Israelites had to compete with the worship of pagan gods. One of those was Baal whose worship was sometimes banned, at other times tolerated, and sometimes it was even accepted as part of the Jewish ritual. Naturally, at some point things had to come to a head.

After the death of Solomon in 922 B.C. the kingdom was divided; Judah to the south and Israel to the north. The king of Israel constructed a new capital city and the region became known as Samaria and the inhabitants Samaritans. The Samaritans were in constant conflict with the Syrians to the north and Ahab, son of the king of Samaria, married Jezebel, daughter of the Phoenician king, to forge an alliance against the Syrians. The marriage eventually brought ruin to the Israelite monarchy. Jezebel introduced the Phoenician pagan god Baal with the approval and support of Ahab. Yahweh did not look kindly upon this "evil" when Ahab set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal he had built in Samaria. Some called it a "pragmatic policy of religious tolerance."

Offended at the worship of Baal by the Samaritans, Yahweh punished the kingdom with a severe drought. After three years of drought Yahweh told the prophet Elijah to go to Ahab and "I will send rain." Elijah went to Ahab and accused him of ruining Israel by deserting Yahweh. He proposed a contest between himself and "the four hundred prophets of Baal who ate at Jezebel's table."

The contest was held on Mount Carmel, in the presence of the assembled Israelites, to see if Yahweh or Baal was the greater god. The challenge was to see which god would bring down fire to the altars set up by the prophets of Baal and then Elijah. The prophets of Baal went first and danced and besought Baal to hear them but to no avail. Then Elijah built his altar, and to prove the strength of Yahweh soaked it with water. when Elijah called upon Yahweh fire fell and consumed the offering and the wood and licked up the water. At Elijah's command the people seized the prophets of Baal and Elijah slaughtered them. Jezebel met a terrible death years later when she was thrown from a window and the dogs devoured her body thus fulfilling Elijah's prophecy, "The dogs will eat Jezebel in the field of Jezreel."

           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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