National Geographic : 1920 Jan
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE roasting the sacrifice, and in procuring the necessary wood and brush for fuel. The ascent to the camp spot on Geri zim requires usually an hour, whether mounted or on foot. Nablus is left be hind by a path leading up from its west ern suburbs, and passing the Samaritan cemetery, an open field, its rocky and stone-strewn surface overgrown with weeds on which donkeys and cattle may be seen browsing. The trail leads up in short, stiff, winding courses through a slight depression where olives and other trees grow vigorously. The way soon becomes so steep that beasts as well as pedestrians are forced to halt at intervals for breath. But the time is not wasted, for the view of the town in its glaring whiteness below, fringed with verdant gardens and nestling between the twin mountains, is a scene truly beautiful. TIHE ENCAMPMENT OF TIHE ISRAELITES Once up this steep ascent, the ridge is gained. Along it the path, now fairly level, leads to a slight depression in the saddle, where suddenly the visitor sees before him more than forty white Egyp tian and Damascus tents, the only ver itable Israelitish encampment of religious significance in the world. A pity it is that these more modern tents are used instead of the primitive goat-hair ones of the Bedouins, which would more nearly, if not entirely, re semble those used during the Exodus. To the east, towering above the en campment, is the loftiest of Gerizim's peaks, crowned with ruins, a spot where once temples stood. It is Passover eve. Selected sacrificial lambs are contentedly wandering about, unconscious of their impending fate. They have been purchased some days in advance of the Passover, in obedience to the law, "in the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb. . . . Your lamb shall be with out blemish, a male of the first year . . . And ye shall keep it up until the four teenth day of the same month." But the scene is not quiet. Scores of people, non-Samaritan, young and old, have come up to "smell the air," for to the Nablus people, and especially for the lads, it is a day of excitement not to be missed. The camp ground is a small, elongated field, the property of the Samaritans. No special system is observed in pitching the tents, beyond leaving a path between the two uneven rows. Each family has one tent; a few have two. At the eastern extremity of the camp is the kiniseh (synagogue), where the re ligious rites are observed while in camp. It is a small, oblong plot surrounded by a low rubble wall except to the east, where terrace above terrace, now much dilapidated, rises in step form to the mountain crest beyond. THE TRENCII-ALTAR At the northern end of this space, or prayer inclosure, a trench has been dug and lined with uncut stone. "An altar of earth shalt thou make unto me. And if thou wilt make an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone; for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it." Across this altar two large copper ket tles, filled with water, are placed. Beyond the northeastern end of the inclosure, and higher than its level, is the tanoor, or ground oven, for the sheep-roasting. It is a pit, the depth equal to a man's height, from five to six spans in diam eter, and lined in a circular form, like a well, with rough stones. Here the rock crops out so near the surface that, in order to get the tanoor deep enough, it has to be built partly above the surface and a terrace filled in about it, thus of necessity elevating it above the rest of the space devoted to the Passover ob servances. It is about three hours before dark as we arrive, and since the Samaritan time starts its count from sunset, let us forget our Western watches while we remain on Gerizim's heights. On approaching the camp, one of the first things to attract our attention is the cloud of smoke pouring forth from the tanoor and curling skyward from beneath the kettles, for five hours of steady heat produced by burning "saris" brush and thorn bushes are required before the oven is ready for fleecing the sheep.