National Geographic : 1950 Dec
Home to the Holy Land the River Jordan * (which ceased being a fron tier when Jordan annexed Arab Palestine in April this year), crossed over, and rolled into Jericho, five miles farther on. Again, as when Mark Antony gave it to Cleopatra, Jericho is a winter resort. But last winter the town was covered with four inches of snow, the severest winter in 264 years. One of the lowest towns on the earth's surface, it lies 840 feet below sea l~yel. Only 15 miles from Jerusalem, it is 3,500 feet below the Holy City. Misery in the "Kingdoms of the World" Above the town towers the Mount of Temp tation, where the Devil led Jesus and "shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world" (Luke 4:5). Today Satan could show Him only human misery and suffering. Below, the land is dotted with thousands of tents and thousands of ragged Arab refugees. These homeless men, women, and children, who fled Israel two years ago and cannot re turn to their homes until the issue is settled, huddle together in their despair and await their fate. Their thirst is quenched from the same fountain which Elisha sweetened with salt (II Kings 2:19-22), but not their thirst for home. The plight of these homeless souls is the saddest in all the Holy Land today. At 'Ain es Sultan camp (pages 709, 727), close to "where the walls came tumbling down" before Joshua's trumpets, I encountered the first of many Arab refugees I was to see. Most of them would starve if it weren't for UN and Red Cross relief. "They talk of history," one of them said to me, "but what is history compared with a man's own home?" These restless, despair ing Arabs are one of the world's touchiest problems today. With a heavy heart I started my climb to the city of Jerusalem (page 735). A Mosque for Omar's Deed Upon arriving, I went first to the American Colony, where old friends greeted me warmly. That evening I strolled through the shadowy souks within the historic walls of the Old City to Christendom's holiest site, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The tiny gate to the courtyard was locked. Above me towered the minaret of the Mosque of Sidna (Caliph) Omar, to whom the Patriarch Sophronios sur rendered Jerusalem A. D. 637. When Sophronios invited Omar to join him in prayer in the Holy Sepulcher, then the Church of Constantine, the latter begged to be excused. Omar explained that, if he did, his Moslem countrymen might claim the church. He said his prayers near by. The mosque which commemorates his good deed still shines down on Christian pilgrims. As I stood there, a Sudanese policeman, in soft-spoken Arabic, asked Allah's blessing on my evening. I tramped home, listening to the sound of heelless slippers of the half-veiled East. The spell of Jerusalem was upon me. In the Jerusalem souks the lights and shadows of oven and forge, the rich glow of oranges, eggplants, and tomatoes, the peddlers' street cries and the "oo-ah" warning of the muleteers, the smell of spices, new boiled cof fee, and fresh-baked bread, all appeal more to sense than to soul. But this, too, is the Holy City. One day, as I left the American Colony to take in some sights of postwar Jerusalem, a military convoy passed along Nablus Road. Arab forces were escorting Jewish guards to Hadassah Hospital inside the Arab lines. Once a month road traffic stops long enough to admit the Jews and change the skeleton guard at the closed-down hospital. Victims of Holy Land War Looking up to Mount Scopus from the north wall of the Old City, you can see the Rocke feller-endowed Palestine Archeological Mu seum, which is still open but has little hope of new finds (page 726). Since Palestine is broken up, new discoveries will go either to a Jewish or Arab museum, unless Arab, Chris tian, and Jew can unite to keep the splendid establishment alive. Another great institution on Mount Scopus is closed. Because access to Hebrew Uni versity lies in Arab territory, the classrooms and laboratories of the modern campus are empty. Ironically enough, Arab College lies in the Jewish section of Jerusalem and no longer functions. From the Mount of Olives I looked down on the walled city, bathed in morning light. Then I descended a steep path to where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. I passed Gethsemane, climbed to the Temple Area, sought out the Wailing Wall of the Jews and the other antiq uities of the Walled City. To me, few spots have the quiet dignity of the Haram esh Sharif-the Noble Sanctuary (page 728). It was here that Solomon built his Temple and Herod the one where Jesus taught. The peaceful mosques repeat the Christian promise: "Come unto me, all ye that * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Geography of the Jordan," by Nelson Glueck, De cember, 1944; and "Canoeing Down the River Jor dan," by John D. Whiting, December, 1940.