Nazareth – December 13, 1865

We are encamped on this my thirtieth birthday in a group of olive-trees just by the fountain of Nazareth. We left Haifa early this morning and rode along the base of Carmel for several hours, then struck across the plain, crossing the Kishon by a deep and rapid ford. Soon after we came to the first of the Galilee hills, and climbing it saw Mt. Tabor, the great mountain of Galilee, before us, and the plain of Esdraelon stretched out between it and Carmel. It was just the landscape which I have always expected in Palestine, — low, round, wooded hills, and rich plains between. Tabor is the finest, most beautifully shaped of the sacred hills, a soft smooth cone with wooded sides and top. We rode on all the afternoon through hills and glens, till about four o’clock, when we came suddenly to the top of a steep hill, and there lay Nazareth below us. It was a strange feeling to ride down through it and look in the people’s faces and think how Christ must have been about these streets just like these children, and the Virgin like these women, and to look into the carpenters’ shops and see the Nazarenes at their work. The town lies in a sort of gorge, halfway up the side of a pretty steep hill. As soon as our horses were left at the camp, we climbed the ” hill on which the city was built,” and saw what is perhaps the finest view in Palestine. I thought all the time I was looking at it how often Jesus must have climbed up here and enjoyed it. There were the Lebanon hills and Hermon to the north, Tabor to the east, and a line of low mountains, behind which lie unseen the Sea of Tiberias and the Jordan; beyond them, the hills of Moab stretching towards the south. On the southern side the noble plain of Esdraelon, the battle-field of Jewish history, with Mt. Gilboa stretching into it, where Saul and Jonathan were killed. Jezreel lies like a little white speck on the side of Gilboa, and Little Hermon rises up between. On the west, the plain is closed by the long, dark line of Carmel, stretching into the sea, and the sight that His eyes saw farthest off was that line of the Mediterranean over which His power was to spread to the ends of the world. It is a most noble view. The hill is crowned with ruins of the tomb of some old Moslem saint. It is the same hill up which they took Jesus, to cast Him down from the cliff. The scene was very impressive in the evening light.

When we came down we went to the village fountain, where the women of the town were drawing water. Such a clatter and crowd ! Some of them were quite pretty, and the sight was very Oriental, as they walked off with their water-pots upon their heads. The Greeks, by their tradition, put the Annunciation at this fountain ; the Latins have a grotto for it, which they say was Mary’s house. This is a good place to keep a birthday, isn’t it ? Our tent fire is burning bright, and I shall sit by it a little while and then to bed.