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Diary entry by Gertrude Bell

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Bell, Gertrude Margaret Lowthian
Creation Date
Extent and medium
1 entry, paper

32.699635, 35.303546

Fri 25. [25 April 1902] Off at 6.30, delicious morning. Got to Suleiman
Al Ruhana's in an hour and a half and heard to my delight that the
donkey had been recovered. Then up through delicious woods of
oak and saris, leaving Sheikh Abreik to the right and down into the
Great Esdraelon plain. Up to the ridge most of the land belongs to
Suleim Khury[?] who lives in Haifa, beyond it the proprietor is one
Shursa, a richissime of Beyrout [Beyrouth (Beirut)]. We crossed a
most fertile plain to Jeida [Ramat Yishay], a flourishing village on a
ridge, along the top of which extend a long line of ruins, then down
again into the plain; I stopped and eat a little under some bushes and
a friend of ours an Arab on a donkey whom Nasib knew accepted my
invitation to share my lunch. We then skirted under the hill - I ought to
have seen Semunieh [Shimron] but I missed it - and climbed up to
Mujeidel [Migdal Ha'Emeq], leaving Ma'lul on the hill top to the right
and Jebata on the point of the hill to the left. The villages usually
stand up on tells out of the plain which is a sea of corn and new
ploughed land which they are just busy sowing with corn. Here and
there is a tree-y place - a garden of olives and pomegranates and
vegetables, watered I suppose and all belonging to Shursa. On the
top of the Mujeidel hill is an olive grove and from here one has one's
first view of Nazareth, as one climbs up the hill. Over the brow is a
magnificent view of Little Hermon [Sheikh, Jebel esh] and the
Esdraelon plain and valley with the Jebel Ajlun far away. You see
also for a few moments the top of Tabor [Tabor, Mt]. The road skirts
round the hill past Yafa, below it is a little depression full of olives figs
and pomegranates and even a palm or two, with a little bit of a rise
beyond. Coming over a little ridge you catch sight of the first
scattered suburbs of Nazareth, the most marked feature being the
Greek chapel of the Precipitation as the most marked feature of the
landscape is the rounded summit, falling steeply to the west which the
Latins hold to be the the real site. (Ma'mun el Mesih I think it's called)
I went to the little German hotel at the entrance of the village. Got in at
11.45 and lunched. Shursa's wakil was my convive; we talked Arabic.
Slept for an hour and then sallied forth. First to the Franciscan Ch of
the Annunciation wh is built over St Helena's ch. A nice Alsatian monk
showed me the grotto with the suspended pillar and a narrow
passage through wh the angel Gabriel came - All this is part of
Helena's church but the actual walls of the house of the Virgin are in
France at Lazarets. The grotto they cd not remove. It is divided by an
altar into 2 parts and beyond a narrow stair leads up into what was
probably a cistern, wh is now called Mary's kitchen. A nice old party
there took me to Saint Josef where I found a most charming French
monk. This is supposed to be Joseph's workshop and on the site are
the foundations of a Crusader church. The Franciscans have got the
plan and are going to build a church. The Ch of the Annunciation was
built in 4 months and for that reason they cd not follow St Helena's
lines. The Sheikh of the town was going to Mecca [Makkah] and he
gave permission to build during his absence - 6 months. I think this
was in the 18th cent. One gets in it, I don't know why, perhaps from the
altar pictures, an extraordinary feeling of the Child, the little child
everywhere, with Joseph or with Mary, who was to bring a sword into
the world. But on the hills above one thinks of the man, the dreamer
the mystic, who wandered here and looked over the lovely cup of
Nazareth into the Esdraelon plain and across to Haifa and the sea
and the wonderful plain of Buttauf with Seforieh [Zippori] in the middle
of it. (Sephoris was a great Jewish place and had a sanhedrun in it.)
My work took me to the Ch. of the Mensa Christi where thre is a big
slab at which tradition says he used to sit and teach. Then I went
down to the Greek Ch. which is supposed to be the site and indeed
part of the actual walls of a synagogue where he used to preach.
Then to the Greek Ch of the Bashara wh is the only interesting building
here. The Grotto lined with a charming arcading and tiles and some
mosaic patterns. The Ch itself looks very old. There is a carved slab
over the door, the cup and the candlesticks if I remember. It is the
Greek Good Friday and the ch was decorated and in the middle a
little coffin canopied with flowers. Then down to Mary's well wh is the
only authentic site here one can't help feeling and then up to the
English orphanage, having a letter to give to Miss Scott. Miss Newey
received me, gave me tea, told me of their work wh seems in every
respect admirable and afterwards took me for a walk to the top of the
hill. The view was perfect. The Mount of Precipitation divides the cup
of Nazareth from the plain of Esdralon. To the E Tabor sticks up his
head and on the hillside is a monastery set with cypresses. All
Carmel is visible, and the sea and Hermon and Seforieh. We
returned to the orphanage - I went home via the Greek Church where I
picked up a friend who had seen me in Jerusalem [El Quds esh
Sherif, Yerushalayim] and who walked back with me. Got in at 6. Mr
and Mrs Suitor from Tiberias and Dr and Mrs Pattison from Hebron in
the Hotel. I went out after dinner with Dr P. hoping to see Nazareth
under a moon, but it was cloudy.

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