Lands of the Bible – Climate Soil and Production Chapter 2

C H A P T E R 2.


§ I.


THE climate of Palestine is dependent in part, of course, on its latitude, but chiefly on its local surroundings. It lies between the parallels 31° 16′ and 33° 16′, which is the latitude of the Barbary States of Northern Africa, and of the southern parts of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, in the United States. The line of latitude running through Jerusalem passes close to Savannah, Georgia, and a little south of Montgomery, Alabama, and of Jackson, Mississippi. Its temperature does not vary much from that of these localities, but its peculiar situation causes its climate in other respects to be quite [45] different. Bounded on the south and the east by a vast desert, whose thirsty atmosphere absorbs all the moisture coming from distant seas, it can receive no rain from those directions. The same atmosphere spreads over Palestine itself, absorbing in summer all the vapor from the Mediterranean, so that the country receives no rain at all during the warmer season of the year. Only in the winter-time, when the temperature of the air is reduced and its capacity for absorption lessened, is the moisture from the Mediterranean condensed into rain. During seven months of the year there is rarely a drop of rain, and never enough to lay the dust. All vegetation, except trees and the vine, becomes dry and dead. This long and dry summer, during which the sun seldom fails to shine from its rising to its setting, necessarily imparts to the atmosphere a high temperature; and when the east or the south wind blows from over the deserts the heat is intense and oppressive. These winds are very debilitating, and they have a parching effect on the skin of the face and the hands. Fortunately they blow but seldom. The prevalent wind in the summer-time is from the Mediterranean. It rises almost invariably between eight and nine A. M., and continues without intermission until about four P. M. The traveller, riding under the shelter of his umbrella, which protects his head and chest from the direct rays of the sun, is fanned by this breeze and suffers no serious discomfort even in the midst of summer. He usually suffers most during the hour just previous to the rise of the wind in the morning, for then the atmosphere is sultry, and the direct rays of the sun are almost as hot as at noon. The nights are usually quite pleasant, growing cool toward morning.

The remainder of the year, from November 1 to April 1, is the winter, or, more properly speaking, the rainy season; for the year is divided into but two seasons, a dry summer of seven months and a wet winter of five months. It is seldom cold enough to form ice on the uplands, and never on the lowlands. Snow is not often seen, and when it falls it usually melts rapidly away. At intervals of many years it falls on the highlands to the depth of a foot or more, and in the winter of 1854-55 it remained on the ground about two weeks. A remarkable fall of snow is referred to in 2 Samuel xxiii. 20, which shows that in this respect the climate has undergone no remarkable change during the lapse of ages. The cold is seldom severe enough to injure vegetation.

No long-continued thermometrical observations in Palestine have been reported to the public, except those of Dr. J. T. Barclay, while a resident missionary in Jerusalem, from January 1, 1851, to [46] January 31, 1855. The mean temperature of the different months of the year during that period is presented in the following table:1

January, 49.4°. April, 61.4°. July, 79.1°. October, 74.2°.
February, 54.4°. May, 73.8°. August, 79.3°. November, 63.8°.
March, 55.7°. June, 75.2°. September, 77°. December, 54.5°.

From these figures it appears that January is the coldest month and August the hottest; but the difference between December, January, February, and March is very slight; and between June, July, August, September, and October it is equally slight. The greatest changes between consecutive months are those between March and April, when the rain is passing away, and between October and November, when the rain is returning. The lowest temperature recorded by Dr. Barclay was 28°, and the greatest heat 92°. As these observations were confined to Jerusalem, they cannot, of course, be taken as correct for any other than the highlands of Judah.

Dr. Vartan, Superintendent of the Medical Mission at Nazareth, has very kindly furnished the author with the results of his observations in that city during the last eight years. As they have never been published, and as they constitute a very valuable contribution to the meteorology of the country, we insert them in full in the appendix.

In the Maritime Plain and the Jordan Valley the temperature in both summer and winter is higher; but we have no continuous observations taken in either of these localities.

The author took observations of the temperature morning, noon, and night during his eighty-six days of travel in the country, from April 13 to July 7, 1879; and although they were taken at different places, and consequently cannot represent the temperature at any one locality, they represent it as it is likely to be experienced by the traveler at that season of the year. The highest temperature that he experienced, in the morning about six o’clock, was 83°. Only eight times did he find it above 80°,–four times in June and four times in the first seven days of July. The average temperature at this time of day during the three months was 67°, and the lowest 42°. This last figure was reached on the morning of May 16, at Hebron, after a cold northwest wind had blown with considerable force all the previous day. The average temperature at noon was 85°. It was as low as 68° only once (May 17), and it was above 90° only twelve times. The highest, without a hot wind, was 97°. which was experienced in two places,–in the deep gorge of the hot springs of Callirrhóe, and in the plain of [47] Jez’reel, a few miles west of Beisan’. The hottest wind which we experienced was on the 5th of June, at the southern extremity of the Lake of Galilee, where the thermometer rose to 100°, and remained so for about one hour. This was about three P. M. The average temperature at this hour, distributed according to the months, was as follows: In April, 82°; in May, 81°; and in June, 87°. May was unusually cool, having a lower range than the latter half of April. The highest temperature at sunset was 89°, the lowest 54°, and the average 75°. The greatest range of the temperature in any one day was on the 30th of April, when the mercury ascended from 56° in the morning to 91° at noon, a difference of 35°. On several other days the range within the same number of hours was about 30°, usually the result of a hot wind.

Although the rainfall of the year is almost entirely confined to the five months from November 1 to April 1, the amount of rain which falls is equal to that of some countries in which it is more evenly distributed. Thus the average during the years of Dr. Barclay’s observations at Jerusalem was 56.5 inches, while the average in London is 25 inches, and in the United States 45 inches. The greatest seen by Dr. Barclay was 82 inches, and the least 44 inches. According to the observations of Dr. Vartan (see Appendix), there were three seasons, occurring at somewhat regular intervals, in which the rainfall averaged at Nazareth only 15 inches, while in the other five years it averaged 28 inches. The average of the eight years was 23.63 inches. Lieutenant Conder estimates the average for all Palestine at from 20 to 30 inches. It is obvious from these figures that longer-continued, if not more accurate observations must be made in several different districts of the country before we can feel sure that we have the true estimates. In the mean time results already obtained show that the amount of rain which falls in the country is amply sufficient, if properly husbanded, to answer all the necessities of the population. In all those portions of the hill country which are not supplied with springs there are numerous ancient cisterns cut in the natural rock for the purpose of collecting the surface drainage; and where the springs are feeble it is quite common to find large tanks or pools, well walled and plastered, for the purpose of securing during the winter an accumulation of the surplus water for use in the dry season. The most of these cisterns and pools are now unused; many of them are partially filled with earth, and some of the larger pools are sowed in grain, which grows luxuriantly from the deposit of rich loam with which they are filled. It is well remarked by Conder that, “were the old cisterns cleaned and mended, [48] and the beautiful tanks and aqueducts repaired, the ordinary fall of rain would be quite sufficient for the wants of the inhabitants and for irrigation.”2

§ II.


We may say in general concerning the soil of the plains and valleys of Palestine, including the Maritime Plain, the Plain of Esdra’elon, the Valley of the Jordan, the elevated plateau beyond the Jordan, and the small valleys everywhere found between the hills and along the water-courses of the highlands, that it is exceedingly productive and admirably adapted to all the products which are suited to the climate. It needs nothing but skillfully applied labor and the proper drainage of some marshy places to bring it into full and successful cultivation. We have already spoken sufficiently of the fertility of most of the above-named places in the descriptions of them contained in Chapter First, and we need not here repeat what is there said.

The hill country described in Chapter First, Section IV., is, with the exception of its small, rich valleys, a comparatively unproductive region, and the district along the western shore of the Dead Sea, as we have formerly stated, is utterly desolate. But, with the exception of this last-mentioned district, wherever the hills contain even a handful of soil it breaks forth with a rank vegetation in the spring. The soil is formed of disintegrated limestone intermingled with vegetable mould. Where the hill-sides are steepest the soil has all been washed away, leaving nothing but masses of naked rock; and in places not so steep, as among the hills about Bethel, rough masses of naked rock sometimes occupy the chief part of the surface, with only small patches of soil between them. But in general the hill-sides are covered by a thin soil which, if properly protected by terrace-walls, would yield abundantly. That such terrace-walls once existed, making fertile the now barren sides of multitudes of hills, is everywhere attested by the traces of them which are still visible; and that these mountain-sides were remarkably productive when thus cultivated is attested by the fact that around some of the villages on the western slope of Mount Hermon, and some in the Lebanon Mountains, hill-sides thus terraced are now productive to their very summits. Walls from three to six feet high, according to the slope of the hill-side, are built up of stones gathered on the spot, [49] with a strip of soil above them from six to ten feet wide. Vines are set along the edge of the terrace and trained along the top of the wall, while their young shoots, laden with fruit, hang down the outer face of the wall. Fig-trees, garden vegetables, and sometimes grain occupy the remainder of the terrace; and thus a hill whose natural rock would soon be swept clean of soil if left to the action of nature, is turned into a smiling and fruitful field, more beautiful by far than those of the level plain.

During the rainy season the soil everywhere puts forth a luxuriant vegetation, the rankest of weeds and grasses growing where there is no cultivation; and during the summer this growth is intensified by the tropical heat of the sun where there is sufficient moisture. Where irrigation is practicable and skillfully applied the extreme richness of the soil is everywhere attested by the abundant results. It is safe to say, in conclusion, that few countries in the world of the same extent have uniformly a soil so replete with the elements of productiveness, or so certain to adequately remunerate the toil and expense of the skillful husbandman.

§ III.


In considering the products of the soil we will consider first those that are natural, and second, those that are artificial. Among the former are first to be mentioned the native forests.

By far the most common forest-tree in Palestine is the oak. In most instances it is now found in the form of a sturdy bush of comparatively recent growth, from eight to twelve feet high, with thickly set branches starting from a low, knotty trunk. Groves of this scrubby growth are found on the slopes of many hills to the south of Mount Carmel, and that mountain itself is almost covered with them from end to end. They are also found in many places in Galilee, and they cover an extensive area of the mountains east of the Jordan, from the Lake of Galilee to the mouth of the Jabbok. Some are found also between Bethlehem and Hebron, and the fuel which they furnish is there used for burning lime, which is taken into Bethlehem and Jerusalem as an article of trade. There are also a few groves of oaks of a larger growth, the most extensive of which lies at the northern foot of Mount Tabor, while the entire northern slope of the mountain is covered with the smaller growth. Several square miles at the base of this mountain are covered with a grove of trees whose trunks are from eighteen inches [50] to three feet in diameter, and whose branches spread over an area from twenty to forty feet in diameter. The branches are very thick, casting a dense shade; but their trunks are too short to afford timber of much value except for firewood. Isolated oaks of a similar size and form are found scattered throughout the entire country, except in the Jordan Valley and the wilderness of Judah. Some of these are magnificent trees; and the tombs of Mohammedan sheikhs and prophets are often found nestled beneath their branches.


Abraham’s Oak, so called, near Hebron, is one of the most venerable and one of the largest in the country. Its trunk is about thirty-two feet in diameter, and at a height of nine feet it divides into four huge branches, which reach out almost horizontally to an immense distance. Two of these great branches, the two at the right, are now so nearly ready to fall that they are supported by props. The trunk has also begun to decay about the roots, and for the purpose of prolonging its life a bank of fresh earth four or five feet deep has recently been thrown up about it, and supported by a well-built stone wall. It is now owned, together with some acres of ground around it, by the Russian government; hence these efforts to preserve it. It has been venerated as the oak under which Abraham entertained the angels, since [51] the sixteenth century, but of course it is not old enough for this. The author saw another oak of magnificent proportions on Jebel Osha, beyond the Jordan, by the tomb of the prophet Hosea. Its branches


spread out evenly on every side, casting a dense shade, and covering an area sixty-six feet in diameter. Its trunk is thirteen feet ten inches in circumference. It would attract attention as a shade-tree in the finest oak-groves of the United States. These fine trees are but feeble relics of the primitive forests of the country, which at a very early period were cut away in order to bring all the soil into cultivation.

Next to the oak, the traveler in Palestine meets most frequently with the carob-tree. It is not found in clumps or groves, but appears as an isolated shade-tree, and as such it is the best in the country. Its foliage has a bright hue pleasing to the eye, and it is very dense. It bears a green, fleshy pod, in shape like that of the pole-bean, from four to six inches long and one inch broad. It was on these pods–incorrectly rendered “husks”3–that the prodigal son is represented as feeding the swine. It was his business to climb the tree and shake them down. The following cut very correctly represents both the tree and its pods. [52]


The tree sometimes called “Sycamine” in the Scriptures, and sometimes “Sycamore,” is next in frequency of appearance. It is really a species of wild fig, and quite peculiar as a fruit-tree, in that its fruit grows not at the ends of twigs, but on short stems which put out from the bark of the larger branches. Each stem bears several figs, and they put out in bunches, sometimes encircling the limbs. The figs are small and not very palatable. The trees bear several crops in the year, sometimes, it is said, as many as seven.4 It is to this tree that the prophet Amos refers when he says, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son; but I was a herdman and a gatherer of sycamore fruit; and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, Go prophesy unto my people Israel.”5

Along the perennial water-courses in the northern part of the country, the aspen and the white poplar, the latter growing tall and straight like the Lombardy poplar, constitute a striking feature in the [53] landscape. Requiring for their support a constant supply of moisture they are found only on the immediate banks of the streams, and they mark the courses of the streams on which they grow by a tall, narrow strip


of verdure waving in the wind. The trunks of these trees, cut while they are yet small, are used as rafters for the roofs of houses, and the small limbs which are cut from them are used for fuel. They have a very rapid growth and they are of great value.

Some walnut-trees are found, especially in the northern part of Galilee and in Ba’shan, of the variety known in America as the English walnut. They are beautiful in form and color, and their fruit in the green state is not unlike that of the black walnut. The scattering trees of this variety in Palestine seem to be but the outskirts of the extensive groves of them in the Lebanon Mountains, and along the water-courses of the Hermon range.

One of the most common bushes met by the traveler in the rich soil of the plains, such as the Valley of the Jordan, the land of Gennesaret, [54] and similar localities, is a thorn bush, called by the Arabs the Nûbk, also called the Dom-tree. Sometimes it grows to the proportions of a tree, with a trunk from one to two feet in diameter. It is chiefly distinguished by the multiplicity and the excessive sharpness of its thorns. They are set thick along all the limbs and twigs, being on the latter only about an inch long. It is difficult to touch a limb of the bush without being wounded, and horses are so much afraid of it that it is almost impossible to make them walk up close to it. It bears a round yellow fruit about three-fourths of an inch in diameter, with a large woody stone. The fruit ripens in April and May, has a pleasant subacid taste, and is very refreshing to the thirsty traveler. It is gathered by the natives and sold in the markets of the principal towns. From the twigs of the bush are woven crowns like that which was placed on the Saviour’s brow, and they are sold to travelers in Jerusalem.

The only flowering bush worthy of special notice is the pink oleander. This is so beautiful and so conspicuous that the traveler who passes through the country when it is in bloom cannot fail to notice it. It is found only along the banks of perennial streams, but on nearly all of these it grows in a thick jungle. It attains a height of from ten to twenty feet, but it differs not in other respects from the oleanders grown in tubs in the United States. Sometimes an unbroken jungle of them is seen for several miles together along the course of a small stream, and when they are in full bloom, during May and June, they present a most pleasing appearance.

Many other native trees and shrubs grow wild in the country, but those above mentioned are the most conspicuous. Of the others we will not speak in particular.

Of fruit-bearing trees, by far the most important and the most extensively cultivated is the olive. Olive-groves are seen in the vicinity of nearly all towns and villages, and sometimes they extend over many square miles. They are particularly abundant and well cared for about Hebron and in the Plain of Sha’ron. They grow well in all localities, from the low plain to the summits of the highest hills. They are by no means a handsome tree. The leaf is small and of an ashy green, its limbs are scattering, and its dark trunk is almost universally knotty and gnarled, and full of cavities. It grows about the size of an apple-tree, as to its head, but its trunk is often from three to four feet thick, and some very old trees attain a thickness of seven feet. They live to a great age and continue to bear; but the number of limbs and the amount of foliage diminish as extreme age comes on, and so does the [55] gnarled and decayed condition of the trunk. The wood is of a beautiful dark color, and admits of a polish equal to that of rosewood. It is used for the manufacture of many small articles, such as canes, paper-weights, rulers, paper-folders, toilet-boxes, etc., but it furnishes no sound plank or pieces of timber of any considerable size, and it is


quite brittle. The value of the tree lies in its fruit. This is an oblong berry, having while growing much the appearance of a young peach. When it ripens in the fall it is shaken from the trees, ground in a species of mill, and then pressed in order to force from it its oil.

Large trees in a good season yield from ten to fifteen gallons of oil; and an acre of them at this rate will yield an annual crop which, according to Mr. Thomson’s estimate, is worth a hundred dollars.6 The oil is an indispensable article of household comfort in Palestine, being used in lamps, in the manufacture of soap, and in cooking. There is scarcely a limit to the quantity of it that might be produced in Palestine, seeing that the olive flourishes in every part of the country, and grows through the long dry summers without interruption. Even in the present disordered state of the country the exportation from all Syria in 1871 was estimated at 1800 tons, which was only one-fourth of the entire production of the season, one other fourth being used for domestic purposes and one-half being made into soap.7

The oil is expressed by the rudest of machinery. The mill in which the berries are mashed consists of a circular stone with a flat surface, some seven or eight feet in diameter, with a depression two or three [56]

Page 56.

inches deep, and from eighteen inches to two feet wide, running around it near its circumference. In this depression the berries are placed. Another circular rock, smaller than this, and in shape like a millstone, is rolled around on the berries by means of a beam, which passes through a hole in its centre, with one end working on a pivot set in the centre of the large rock, while to the other and outer end of the beam is hitched a mule or a donkey. This grinding is now done in dark rooms, on the ground floor of houses, or in a kind of half-cellar, to keep the oil from the heat of the sun; but in former times it was done in the open air, as appears from the many old mills which are seen unused in the open country. The pulpy mass into which the berries are thus mashed is taken to a rudely-constructed lever-press, and under strong pressure the oil is forced from it. Better machinery would doubtless extract the oil more thoroughly and far more expeditiously.

The olive is a tree of slow growth. It ordinarily bears no berries until it is seven years old, nor does it bear heavily until it is ten, and sometimes fifteen; yet it lives to an extreme old age, probably 500 years, and as long as it has any foliage it bears some fruit. The same tree bears only every other year.

The olive-branch has been the symbol of peace from time immemorial, perhaps from the very time of that circumstance which seems to have given it this significance,–the return of Noah’s dove to the ark with an olive-leaf in her mouth. The allusions in the Scriptures to the olive-tree are quite numerous, from the time of the flood to that of the apostles; and it is worthy of note that the mention of it in connection with the dove’s return to the ark is the first mention of any kind of tree by name in the Word of God. Its relative value in Palestine is indicated in Jotham’s fable, in which it is represented as the first choice for king of the trees.8

Next in importance to the olive among the fruit-bearing trees of Palestine is the fig. Like its constant companion, the olive, it needs no more moisture through the summer season than the dry climate of the country affords; and hence it is at home in that climate. True, it grows with great luxuriance where its roots are constantly supplied with water, but its fruit in such localities, though very abundant, is not sweet. The fruit usually begins to ripen in June, a second crop is gathered in August, and a third when the leaves fall early in autumn. The ground of the fig orchards is usually kept pulverized and free from weeds and stones through the summer by frequent ploughing. Some [57] of the neatest work of the Ar’ab farmers is seen in the well-kept soil of the fig orchards.9 Its leaves being large and of a bright yellowish-green, and its top symmetrically formed, it is a handsome tree, and furnishes, when of good size, a luxuriant shade. It is this which gave rise to the expression concerning the peaceful and prosperous reign of Solomon: that every man sat under “his own vine and fig-tree.”10

In many of the villages dried figs are sold, but they are so poorly handled and have such a flavor from the smoke of the houses that they are not very palatable.

The figs now grown in Palestine, unlike those in some other climes, are formed after the leaves come out; but Thomson remarks that “The fig often comes with or even before the leaves, especially on the early kinds.” It was on this account that Jesus, when he saw a fig-tree at the foot of the Mount of Olives full of leaves, went to it expecting to find fruit on it, though it was not yet fig-time.11 Thomson says that he has gathered figs of an early variety in the mountains of Lebanon, 150 miles north of Jerusalem, in May; from which he argues that they might possibly have ripened at the foot of the Mount of Olives by the time of the Passover.12 It is one of the signs of increasing enterprise in Palestine at the present time that the area planted in figs is increasing. The author observed many young orchards that had just been set, and others not quite old enough to commence bearing.

The vine was successfully cultivated in Palestine by the original inhabitants before Israel came out of Egypt. This we learn from the account of the cluster of grapes brought away by the twelve spies of Moses, and borne on a staff between two.13 It continued to be carefully cultivated throughout the entire period of Jewish occupation, and at the present day it is cultivated in many parts of the country. The vines are trained in various ways,–sometimes supported by stakes, as about Hebron and Bethlehem; sometimes planted at the edge of terrace-walls and trained along their tops, as on the slopes of Mount Hermon; and sometimes allowed to spread out flat on the ground, as is most usual east of the Jordan, especially about Es Salt, where there are very extensive vineyards. In the last instance the vine-dressers go among the vines when the grapes are about half-grown, and prop [58] up the branches with sticks just high enough to keep the fruit from touching the ground.14

The finest and most extensive vineyards in Palestine are still found, as they were in the days of the spies, in the vicinity of Hebron, especially to the north and northwest of that town. There the author saw clusters of grapes, when the fruit was just forming, that were a foot in length. They would probably be twenty inches or more in length when the fruit matured. Such bunches could not well be carried to any considerable distance without bruising the fruit, unless carried, as by the spies, “on a staff between two.” But the cluster carried by the spies was probably much larger than any found there now. Mr. Houghton, in Smith’s Bible Dictionary, quotes an authentic account of a cluster of grapes that weighed nineteen pounds (article Vine); and Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Numb. xiii. 23, says that he himself once cut a cluster that weighed nearly twenty pounds. All travelers who have seen the finest grapes of Palestine represent some of the clusters as surprisingly large, but we have no exact figures in regard to their weight. The nearest approach to exactness is the statement of the German traveler, Schulz, who is quoted as saying that he saw clusters on a vine near Ac’cho (A’cre) that weighed ten or twelve pounds.15

The chief part of the vintage was anciently manufactured into wine, and the ancient wine-presses are still seen in all of the rocky portions of the country. They consist of two vats dug in the surface of the natural rock, one large and shallow, in which the grapes were trodden by the naked feet of men, and the other deeper, narrower, and lower down the slope, into which the juice was drawn from the crushed berries above. The upper and larger vat is usually from six to eight feet square, and from fifteen to eighteen inches deep; while the lower is about half as large but twice as deep. These presses are often seen in regions such as the Belka’ beyond the Jordan, where no grapes are now grown, showing that grape culture in the earlier period was more nearly universal than it is now. Their peculiar structure illustrates the Scripture expression about digging a wine-press.16 Another expression in the same passage finds a striking illustration in the vineyards about Bethlehem and Hebron. It is the statement that after the householder had planted his vineyard and dug his wine-press he [59] built a tower. The tower was a small circular structure of stone for the accommodation of the watchmen, who guarded the vineyard against thieves and the depredations of live stock when the grapes were ripening. Many of these are now seen in the vineyards above mentioned, and they have an ancient appearance. They are eight or ten feet in diameter, and ten or twelve feet in height.

As it is contrary to the religion of the Mohammedans to use wine or to manufacture it, there has been little wine produced in Palestine since the Mohammedan invasion in the latter part of the seventh century. This is one cause of the diminished culture of the grape and of the entire neglect of the ancient wine-presses. All of the present product of the vineyards is either eaten by the inhabitants in the form of grapes, or dried into raisins, or boiled down into a kind of syrup called dibs. The people begin to eat the growing grapes while they are yet quite green and sour, and continue to feed upon them till they are all gone. The raisins made at Hebron are very good, and some of them are of fine size. Young vineyards, like young fig orchards, are now being planted in many parts of the country, and under a peaceful government there is no doubt that the production of grapes would rapidly increase.

While the olive, the fig, and the grape are by far the most common and abundant fruits of Palestine, many others grow there, and they could be produced in great abundance with proper cultivation. Among these are the quince, which is grown most abundantly in the borders of the vineyards about Hebron; the apple, which is now seen only in the northern portion of the Hill Country; the apricot, also abundant in the northern districts; the mulberry, both black and white, most abundant about Nab’lus (She’chem); the peach, much more rare than the apricot; and the pear, which does well here when irrigated. Indeed, nearly all the fruits of the temperate zone can be grown here by irrigation.

Besides these fruits of the temperate zone, some tropical fruits are cultivated with success. The orange and the lemon grow vigorously, and bear abundantly wherever they are cultivated, but they require regular irrigation. Hundreds of acres are set in these fruits in the immediate vicinity of Joppa, and the orange crop is a source of great profit. The oranges are a very large and seedless variety, with a tender pulp and a fine flavor. They are esteemed by many as the finest oranges in the world. Many thousands of bushels of them are shipped to the ports of the Mediterranean every year, and great quantities are transported on camels to the towns and villages of the interior. Joppa is the only place in which this fruit is cultivated in any considerable [60] quantity, the shallow and inexhaustible wells which are dug there furnishing an abundant supply of water for irrigation. The water is drawn by means of a wheel, over which is suspended an endless chain thickly set with earthen jars. The jars empty their water into a trough as they reach the top of the wheel, and the wheel is revolved by a mule or donkey turning a sweep which works into it with a set of cogs. The water flows from the trough into trenches which extend in every direction through the orchard. This culture might be indefinitely extended


in the Plain of Sharon, and it could also be introduced in some other portions of the country.

The date-palm grows luxuriantly at A’cre and Sidon, and it would do equally well almost everywhere in the Plain of Sha’ron and the Philis’tine Plain. In the Jordan Valley it was once so abundant that Jericho was called “the City of Palm-Trees,” though only a single palm-tree is standing there now. Even on the shores of the Lake of Galilee it will grow, for the author saw two near the brink of the water at Capernaum. The great value of this tree and of its fruit is so well known that I need only allude to them here. The accompanying cut gives a correct representation of both.

Bananas are also seen in gardens at Sidon, and in the hotter portions of the country they could be grown with success.

The pomegranate, a beautiful tree of moderate size, with a large, crimson blossom and richly-colored fruit, is seen in many gardens where irrigation is practicable; and it would add greatly both to the beauty of the scenery and to the fruitfulness of the land, if it were cultivated more extensively.

In the department of cereals and other farm products, wheat is by far the most important product of the soil, and the most extensively cultivated. It is the staple for bread, while barley is the staple for the [61] food of domestic animals. The variety of wheat universally cultivated at present is the flat-headed and long-bearded kind which is grown in Egypt. The sowing of grain commences in the fall, as soon as the rains make the soil sufficiently soft for ploughing, and it is continued, on account of the scarcity of stock and the lack of enterprise among the people, as late as February. The grain which is sown late never yields well. It is chiefly on account of this delay in sowing that the traveler sees by the side of some pieces of ground on which the heads of grain hang thick and heavy, others in which the stalks are so scattering and of so low a growth that they are not worth harvesting.

Next to wheat the most extensively cultivated grain at the present time is dûr’rah. The plant of this grain while young very closely resembles that of Indian corn, and persons not familiar with the latter could not distinguish the two. Its blade is narrower, however, and its stalk is smaller. The grain also is like Indian corn, but it is smaller and more rounded. The chief difference in appearance is that the dûr’rah puts out a head like that of broom-corn or sorghum, and forms its grain in this head, as do those plants. It is planted in rows about eighteen inches apart, and cultivated only with the hoe. It is planted about the time that the rain ceases in the spring, and consequently it grows and comes to maturity without rain, though it is sometimes irrigated. When the wheat and barley are ripening the dûr’rah is high enough to cover the ground with its rich green; and as the three kinds of grain are often sowed in alternate strips, the alternate green and yellow impart a very pleasing aspect to the fields.

Watermelons are cultivated very extensively in the Plain of Sharon and in some of the valleys among the hills. They, like the dûr’rah, grow and mature without a drop of rain. The variety mostly cultivated is small and round, with a thin rind, red meat, light-colored seed, and a delicious flavor. The melons are shipped in great quantities from Joppa to other ports of the Mediterranean. They constitute during their season an important and most refreshing article of diet. The author saw boats loaded with them in the harbor of Lar’nika in Cyprus, and great piles of them on the streets of that city, on the 8th day of July, 1879.

Next to watermelons in quantity, and above them in the number of places where they are found, are cucumbers. These are cultivated in the vicinity of nearly every village. When well irrigated they mature early and produce abundantly. They are eaten by the natives without preparation or seasoning of any kind, as apples are eaten in America. [62]

An entirely modern garden product, introduced within a few years past, is the tomato. It is now extensively cultivated, and sold in the markets of all the cities and larger towns. Its well-known healthfulness and its refreshing effect when eaten in hot weather make it a most valuable addition to the fruits of that hot and dry climate.

In addition to melons, cucumbers, and tomatoes, the gardens of Palestine produce all of the vegetables not peculiar to the coldest climates, and the inhabitant who will provide sufficient means of irrigation can supply himself with all in this line that is necessary to luxurious living.

The natives, both Christian and Mohammedan, have long been accustomed to the use of tobacco. They never chew it, but they are universal and inveterate smokers. Their chief supply of this noxious weed is from Persia; but they now grow small crops of it in every part of their own country. Sometimes it is seen on the tops of hills in the Philis’tine plain; it is often seen amid the courts and rooms of old ruins, where a rich mould has accumulated, and often in other spots where the soil has unusual strength. Its growth is low and its leaf is small. The government tax on tobacco is heavy, and its use is an expensive luxury.

§ IV.


The domestic animals of Palestine at the present time are the same, both in kind and in relative number, as in ancient times. Goats and sheep are most numerous, and next to these, among animals of value, are cattle, asses, camels, mules, and horses, in order of number. Dogs in countless numbers throng the towns and villages and the camps of the Bed’awin, barking fiercely at every stranger who passes by. Cats are seldom seen. Chickens are abundant, and their flesh and eggs are an important article of food.

The sheep of the country are all of the large-tailed Syrian variety. They are of ordinary size, and have wool of ordinary quality, their chief distinction being their long and heavy tails of pure fat. These are from ten to fifteen inches in length, and from three to five inches in diameter. The fat is fried from them and used for culinary purposes. In the absence of hogs lard, which is not used by the Mohammedans, it serves an important purpose, and is cheaper than olive oil, which is the only other substitute. This mass of fat is doubtless the “rump” which the Levitical law required to be burned on the [63] altar, and which was taken off hard by the backbone.17 Mutton is the chief article of flesh used by the people, and the wool of the sheep is


partly used for their own heavy clothing, but it is chiefly an article of commerce. The sheepskin tanned with the wool on is often used as a coat or mantle, and is sometimes seen on men’s backs in hot weather.

The goats of Palestine are uniformly black, though many of them have some white spots or rings. They are doubtless of the same variety that was kept by Jacob and Laban when it was agreed that the ring-streaked and spotted should be Jacob’s. They are more valuable to the present inhabitants of the country than the sheep, and they appeared to the author to be more numerous about the villages. Their superior value depends on the uses to which their skins are put and on the quantity of milk that they yield. The skins of both the kids and the full-grown animals are still used for bottles to hold water, milk, and other liquids. When intended for this purpose they are stripped from the carcass of the animal as near whole as possible; they are tanned with the hair on; all the openings but one are closed up watertight; and that one (usually at the extremity of a leg) is used as a spout into which the liquid is poured, and through which it is drawn out. The full skin, with all its openings closed by strings tied tightly around them, is swung across a man’s shoulders, or two of them are strapped opposite each other on the sides of an ass, and thus the water is carried over considerable distances. The water is forced out by untying one of the legs and pressing your foot on the side of the skin. This is the only way in which water is carried by men. If in jars, it is always carried by women, and usually on their heads. These skins are used not only as milk-vessels, but as churns. It is easy to agitate the milk in them, either by working your foot up and down on the skin as it lies on the ground, or by tying it to the limb of a tree and swinging it up and down until the butter is made. They are easily [64] turned inside out for cleansing and drying. Such skins as are not used for these purposes are manufactured into leather, or shipped to other countries for the manufacture of kid for fine shoes and gloves.

Cattle are so scarce and costly, and the cows of the country are so indifferent as milch-kine, that the goat is almost the entire dependence for milk and butter. Having no means of keeping milk sweet and cool, the natives churn it soon after milking, and drink the buttermilk, which they call leb’en. In this state it is more refreshing, on account of its acidity, and there is a conviction among the people that the use of sweet milk generates fever. On account of the superior value of the goat, derived from these considerations, it is seldom killed for food, and there is a constant tendency to increase the number of the goats, and to reduce that of the sheep. A kid will sell in the market for nearly double the price of a lamb of the same weight. The hair of the goat is also of some value, and it is used by the people almost as much as the wool of the sheep. It is twisted into ropes for tethering their stock, and it is woven into a very coarse and heavy cloth for tents, and for sacks in which grain and many other articles are transported. Two immense sacks are swung on the opposite sides of a camel and filled with all manner of produce and merchandise, which the patient but growling animal transports to any required distance.

The cattle of the country are a small black variety, well formed and active, but not suited to heavy drafts, and inferior, as we have just


stated, in their milking qualities. They are most abundant where the surface of the ground is moist in summer so that pasturage for them is found throughout the dry season. Many of the villages in the dryer [65] parts of the Hill Country have none at all, but herds of considerable size are found in the northern part of the Plain of Sha’ron and on the grazing-lands beyond the Jordan. In the former of these two regions the traveler also sees a few small herds of cattle shaped like the buffalo, and known by that name. They are fond of standing and swimming in deep water, and are most abundant about the lagoons and along the sea-coast.18 There they feed on the cane and other coarse vegetation which grows luxuriantly under the hot sun and in the marshy soil.

The asses of Palestine are smaller and of better shape than those used for breeding purposes in America. They are usually about 3½ feet


high, lightly built, with ears not larger than those of the handsomest mules, and legs as neat and trim as those of a deer. They are quick and easy in their movements, and are capable of carrying immense burdens. Many of them have the gait called the “pace,” and are pleasant under the saddle. They are exceedingly tractable, and are usually handled by women and small boys. They live on the coarsest food, and require but little to keep them in serviceable condition. They can travel in a pack-train as far and as fast as mules and horses, with a [66] proportional burden. They are cheap enough to be owned in small numbers by villagers who can afford no other beasts of burden, and they may be styled, above all the other animals of the country, the poor man’s friend. The preceding cut represents one of them accoutred for riding. The author, in his travels, saw none of the ill treatment of donkeys, of which he has read much in books of travel, except in the way of overloading them and of sometimes using them when their backs are sore from the saddle, or their hips from the strap used to keep the saddle from slipping forward. The boy or woman who drives there walks behind with a stick, by which they are both urged forward and guided; but a mere motion of the stick, accompanied by the proper exclamation, is far more frequent than a blow. The owner usually gives the donkey a stall or resting-place about the humble dwelling almost as comfortable as his own, and sometimes a corner of his own room.

Camels are bred in large numbers by the Bed’awin Ar’abs who inhabit the regions beyond the Jordan, and by those who dwell in the southern part of the Philis’tine Plain. They have not only enough for their own use, but an annual surplus for sale; and a large part of their wealth is derived from this source. Having an abundance of camels, they use few asses, the latter animals belonging chiefly to the villagers. The Bed’awin move their camps, including tents, bedding, farming implements, and all their goods and chattels, on the backs of camels, and their wives and children are often seen perched on top of the packs of these articles. They also use them for moving their newly-cut grain to the threshing-floors and for the transportation of all articles of traffic. A camel of good size and condition will carry a burden of 800 pounds. It is always divided into two parts, one on each side, and the two are fastened together across his back by ropes. To prevent these ropes from abrading the skin, a wooden frame with soft padding under it fitted over his hump receives them and supports the weight of the two packages. These packages are usually made tall enough, as the camel kneels between them, to be strapped on him without being lifted. If the articles are small they are put into large goats’-hair sacks; if liable to break, into tall baskets, like panniers. If grain in the sheaf is the load, a kind of ladder with a hook at the lower end is fastened on each side, and the load is built upon this to such a size that the camel walking along with it looks like a moving wheat-stack. When the burden is adjusted, at the command of his driver he rises and goes on his way at the rate of about three miles an hour. At the end of his day’s journey he kneels down again, his [67] packs are unfastened as they rest on the ground, and he is made to move away from between them, leaving them in position for him to kneel and receive them again the next morning. During the process


of kneeling to receive his burden, and all the time it is being fastened upon him, he keeps up a continual growling, as of a surly bull-dog. And sometimes he bites, crushing the hand or arm of his driver [68] between his teeth. He is the most woe-begone and querulous animal of all that man is accustomed to employ in his service; and yet, when on his way, he moves with a head so meekly adjusted, and a step so steady and quiet, that he appears the very embodiment of patience.

The surprising capacity of the camel for traveling a long time without water–often six or seven days–is well known. His ability to live on the most innutritious food is equally surprising. He will not reject a feed of barley or of any delicacy that would be prized by a pampered horse, yet he will cheerfully feed on the leaves of the dryest weeds; and the thistles, which his master carefully avoids touching lest their needles pierce through clothing and shoes, he will wipe greedily into his mouth with his long under-lip, and roll as a sweet morsel under his tongue. He is rightly called the ship of the desert, not only because of his ability to transport merchandise across those waterless wastes, but because any but the most barren desert will afford him a sufficiency of food. The camel-driver usually walks in front of his train of loaded animals, leading the foremost of the line by a halter, while the halters of the others are hitched each to the saddle of the one before him. When ridden the rider holds the halter in his hand, and guides the camel by a stick, with which also he beats him to make him quicken his pace. He is capable of moving rapidly, but it is seldom that he is driven out of a slow and deliberate walk. He is by far the most valuable animal used by the natives, serving among the villagers the purpose of heavy wagons with us, while the donkey answers to the cart and the spring-wagon of our farmers.

Very few horses are used by the villagers of Palestine. Some are kept in all of the larger towns; they are ridden by Turkish officers and resident foreigners; and they are reared in considerable numbers by the Bed’awin Arabs. The celebrated Ar’ab steeds, highly prized in the Western World before the turfmen of England and America had produced a breed superior to them, are not found among the tribes of Palestine, but a few of them are yet bred by some tribes above Damascus. The horses furnished the traveler in Palestine are usually reared in the Lebanon Mountains, though some are bought from the Bed’awin. They are commonly fourteen hands high and lightly built. They are all mares or stallions. They have no saddle-gaits, but they are surefooted, especially on mountain-paths, and they can endure a great deal of service on light feeding and an irregular supply of water. When on a journey they are never stripped of their saddles night or day except to be curried; and it is a rare thing to find a Syrian horse without a sore back. The blankets used under the saddles are of [69] enormous thickness, and they often cover the entire back, reaching to the crupper. The Ar’abs think that this covering, which would be too warm for an American horse even in cold weather, is necessary to protect the back of the horse from the direct rays of the sun in the daytime, and that if it were removed during his rest at night he would certainly take cold, be stiffened in his limbs, and eventually die from the exposure. They treat their pack-animals in the same way. The Ar’ab saddle is nearly the same in shape as the Mexican saddle so commonly used in our Western States, but the stirrup is peculiar. Its bottom plate is so broad in the direction of the length of the foot that both the toe and the heel of the rider rest upon it. It is a thin plate, with sharp corners which are used instead of spurs, the rider being able to thrust them into the sides of the horse with severe effect. The native riders use very short stirrup-leathers, and ride with their knees drawn up almost to a right angle,–a most painful position for one accustomed to the American mode of riding. The bridle is usually made of woolen stuff, and is adorned with tassels and other ornaments in fantastic colors. The bit is stiff, with a severe curb made of an iron ring which encloses the under-jaw, and is attached to a flat piece of iron projecting from the middle of the bit about two inches up into the mouth. When the rein is tightly drawn this piece of iron is forced against the roof of the mouth, and the iron ring presses severely against the under jaw. It is this cruel bit which enables the Ar’ab rider to stop his horse suddenly when he is at full speed, and even to throw him back upon his haunches. It is an instrument of torture to the poor horse, and blood is often seen flowing from his lacerated mouth.

Mules are employed for pack-animals in all the trains prepared for European and American travelers; yet they are so seldom used for other purposes that they need scarcely be mentioned among the domestic animals of the country; and even those used for this purpose are owned chiefly in the Lebanon region, and are brought down into Palestine by their owners for the purpose of finding employment during the traveling season. The muleteers of the pack-train are usually the owners of the animals.

The dogs of Palestine, as of all Mohammedan countries, are a privileged class. There prevails a superstitious regard for them, so that, as the author was told in Damascus, it is thought a greater sin to kill a dog than a Christian. The most of the dogs in cities and villages have no owners. They live in the streets, and find their only food in the garbage that is thrown from the houses. They are the only street [70] scavengers, and but for them pestilence would break out more frequently than it does. The dogs are usually small, and they have a hungry, woe-begone appearance. In the villages and about the Bed’awin camps they are always on the alert to bark fiercely and with every variety of intonation at the passer-by, but in the cities they lie asleep in the streets, and none but the most violent kick will move them out of your way. The Mohammedans carefully walk around them or step over them, and leave them to quietly enjoy their slumber. They are usually peaceful, except among themselves; and even among themselves there is but little dissension, except when a dog wanders out of his own street or part of a street into one appropriated by another set; then there is a fight, and he is hastily driven back to his own quarters.

The only fowls reared by the natives are chickens. Nearly every village has a few of these, and the traveler through the country can always procure a supply both of them and their eggs at a cheap rate; but they are so poorly housed and fed that their produce is insignificant. They are very much like the common barnyard fowls of our own country.

The land of Israel once flowed with honey as well as milk. Now the milk, especially goats’ milk, is much more abundant than the honey. The decrease is owing much more to the neglect of bee culture and to the inferior hives employed than to the want of food suitable for the bee. The bloom of countless flowers which decks the uncultivated surface everywhere in spring, and that of the olive, the fig, and the vine in the summer-time, give assurance that the country is well adapted to bee culture. In a few of the more enterprising villages we see some hives of bees, but the hives are nothing more than long earthen cylinders laid in a pile beside the wall of the house, with their ends closed up with mud, except a small opening for the passage of the swarm. These hives are hot, and are exposed to the inroads of all the insects which are hostile to bees. The honey produced is usually dark and of inferior flavor.

§ V.


The most common wild animal in Palestine is the jackal. He is near the size of the American red fox, but is a little taller. He is of a yellowish-gray color, darkest on the back, and shading lighter [71] beneath. His tail is bushy and nearly black at the tip. He is seldom seen in daylight, but he comes forth from his burrow at twilight and seeks his food during the night. He feeds chiefly on carcasses, and eagerly devours human flesh when he can find it, though he flees before the face of a living person. He arrests the attention of travelers


chiefly by his dismal howling at night. The following, from Thomson’s “Land and Book,” is a very good description of this howling when a large number of them are collected together: “At one o’clock I was startled out of profound sleep by the most frightful noise I ever heard. It seemed to come from this graveyard on the east of the house, and to be very near. . . . It began in a sort of solo,–a low, long-drawn wail, rising and swelling higher and higher, until it quite overtopped the wind,–and just as it was about to choke off in utter despair it was reinforced by many other voices, yelling, screaming, barking, wailing, as if a whole legion of demons were fighting among the tombs over some son of perdition that had fallen into their clutches.”19 This is the animal called fox in the Bible, and it was three hundred of these that Samson turned loose in the grain-fields of the Philistines with firebrands attached to their tails.

The next most common wild animal is the gazelle. It is seen in all parts of the country in which the population is not dense, sometimes in groups of half a dozen or more. They are exceedingly timid and watchful, so that the hunter can seldom come within gunshot of them unperceived; and they are so swift of foot that it is vain to chase them on horseback. They are smaller than the American deer, but much the same in appearance. When the author and his party were crossing the Philis’tine Plain from Mejdel to Bêt Jibrîn’ we saw a group of three or four gazelles, and were much amused to observe how the sight of them excited the young sheikh, Ab’as, who was our escort. He [72] thrust the sharp corners of his Ar’ab stirrups into the sides of his white mare, and dashed away, like an arrow, in pursuit, trying to get within shot-gun range of the nimble animals; but they left him far in the lurch, and, on reaching the top of a ridge, turned a moment to look back at him, then darted out of sight.

The lion was once known in the country, but has long since disappeared. A few bears yet remain, and the author saw a large one on the top of Mount Hermon. Hyenas are not unknown. The wild goat is sometimes seen, as also the wild boar. Porcupines and hares are not uncommon, and mice are abundant.

The birds most frequently seen in all parts of the country are doves. They are especially abundant where the grain-fields are interspersed with clumps of bushes and small trees on which they can alight when not feeding. The small double-barreled shot-gun which, together with one revolver on the person of our dragoman and a broadsword in the hands of our cook, constituted the only armament of the author’s party, was in requisition nearly every day for the purpose of shooting doves; and sometimes they supplied us a sufficiency of meat for several meals in succession. Next to these in abundance are quails. In all fields remote from the villages they occasionally start up from before the traveler’s horse; but we found them most abundant in the Jordan Valley. There a good sportsman could find constant employment for his dog and gun. The quail is smaller and of a lighter color than those of America, but its appearance, in other respects, and its habits are the same.


Pheasants, differing from the American variety in the same particulars with the quails, are also seen in considerable numbers among the rocks and low-growing brush on many hill-sides. They go in flocks, fly but a short distance at a time, run very rapidly, and hide themselves very skillfully. Their meat is good, but not so delicate and juicy as that of the well-fed pheasants of our American forests. Other birds are comparatively scarce, the absence of forests and the scarcity of food suitable for many varieties tending to drive them away. A few storks are seen in the valley of the Jordan and on some other plains, and the eagle and [73] raven sometimes float about in the lazy atmosphere. Birds of song are heard wherever there are shady groves and fresh water, but there are very few birds whose plumage is remarkable. The most striking bird to an American eye is the stork. He is about the size of the crane, with a somewhat heavier body. His wings are black, but his body is white. His most striking peculiarity is the funereal solemnity of his appearance as he stands with his neck curled and his bill pointing downward, as if mourning the loss of his dearest friend.

Many parts of Palestine, especially the vicinity of Jerusalem, are alive with lizards. They are of every size and variety, from the smallest gray lizard to great dark fellows a foot long and four inches high as they run. As one rides or walks where they abound, he sees and hears them rushing away from him on every side; he beholds them perched on the tops of rocks, large and small, or on the highest points of stone fences and ruined walls, gazing at him and bobbing their heads as if to make a bow. This motion of their heads is very much like that of a Mohammedan at his prayers, when, prostrate on hands and knees, he touches the ground three times in quick succession with his forehead. There is a notion among the Ar’abs that the lizard mimics them in their prayers, and they frequently stone them on that account. But, independent of this, they present a most tempting mark as they sit and gaze at you from their perch on the top of a rock, especially to boys who are fond of throwing stones. Snakes are rarely seen; but the scorpion is quite common, and the centipede still more so. The stings of both the latter are quite poisonous, though never fatal. Frogs abound in all shallow water, and the Greek tortoise, called the terrapin in America, is sometimes seen.

Of the insect tribes, the common house-fly is the most abundant; and, next, a brown, long-winged horse-fly. The long and dry summers are most favourable to both these torments, and it is hard to tell whether man is tormented by the former more or less than the lower animals by the latter. The eyes and mouths of little children about the villages are often almost covered with flies, and the dogs in the streets attract them in swarms. In camp-life one finds the greatest exemption from them; but the table spread in a tent must often be guarded by a servant with fly-fan in hand. The horse-flies hang about the head, neck, and flanks of the horses in great swarms. The variety above mentioned causes the horse so little pain that he makes very little exertion to get rid of them; but there are other varieties whose sting is so severe as to render horses and mules almost frantic. Often, in kicking at them, your horse will strike the stirrup with his hind feet, [74] and in biting at them endanger your leg; while his constant struggle, first in one way and then in another, to get rid of them, renders your seat uncomfortable and the ride fatiguing. Great as is this torment, however, I think I have seen it surpassed, both in the number of flies and the severity of their sting, on some of the low-lying prairies of the State of Illinois.

In every damp and shady place mosquitoes abound; and they are intensely annoying on the banks of the lower Jordan. Their sting often produces sores which do not heal for many months. The author brought home one on his cheek which did not disappear till after six months. But a greater pest to the traveler than either the fly or the mosquito is the flea. Fleas abound in nearly all dwellings, and in all caves and sepulchres frequented by goats. The only exemption from them is in the open country; and the only sleeping-place not abounding in them is the moving tent which remains but a night in a place. How the natives of the country can sleep at all, with these and other still more pestiferous bedfellows which are equally abundant, is a marvel to European and American travelers. Spiders are also quite abundant, though more dreaded than dangerous; and ants are so numerous that in many parts of the plains it is difficult to pitch a tent without covering one or more of their hills, or crossing one of the long lines of march on which they go out in search of food and return to their holes laden with supplies.

Locusts are still found in the country as in ancient times. There is probably no season in which they do not appear in considerable swarms, though not in sufficient quantities to do much damage. In the latter part of spring and in summer one frequently sees a swarm of them so thick as to completely cover the ground for a few square rods, and to fill the air when they are forced to fly. On the Lake of Galilee, when the wind blows hard off shore, many of them are driven out over the lake, and on dropping into the water they are instantly swallowed by fish that are waiting and watching for them. They are mostly of the large, golden variety, with black heads, wings, and legs; though some are very much like the grasshopper. The writer saw many of them in the Valley of the Jordan, where John first baptized, and was reminded of their use by him for food.

Many other insects, nameless except to an adept in zoology; but altogether harmless, abound in the earth and the dry atmosphere.

All of the perennial streams of Palestine abound in fishes, and the Lake of Galilee has been famous for them in all its history. Those most abundant are small, only five or six inches in length, and are [75] eaten with the bones. But some of fine size are caught in all the larger streams; and in the market of Tiberias, the only market at the present day for the fish of the Lake of Galilee, many are seen from twelve to eighteen inches in length. Along the Mediterranean coast the sails of fishing-boats lying out from one to four miles from shore, are constantly in sight, showing that a considerable traffic is carried on in salt-water fish. In all countries where fish can be easily obtained they are a cheap and wholesome article of food, and they are fully appreciated in Palestine.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s