Haifa, At The Foot Of Mt. Carmel
( Originally Published Mid 1800's )
Monday Evening, December 12, 1865.
DEAR MOTHER, — I sent a letter to William from Tyre, which I hope he received. I will carry on my story from there. We left Tyre early yesterday morning, and as we rode out saw the fishermen spreading their nets on the rocks, as the old Prophecy of Ezekiel, you know, foretells. It was a lovely morning, and the seashore was sparkling in the early light as we came across on to the mainland and struck down the coast. We passed, yesterday, a group of fine old fountains and pieces of moss-grown aqueducts, where the city of old Tyre stood, and a beautiful little spring on a hill where was once a town called Alexandros Kyne, or Alexander's Tent. It is said the great conqueror lodged there on his way to besiege Tyre. In the afternoon we climbed over a great white cliff which runs out into the sea and is called the Tyrian Ladder. It is the southern limit of Phoenicia, and below it Palestine begins. Soon after, we came to our camping-place at the little village of Eszib, whose old name was Achzib, which you will find in Judges i. 31, and was one of the towns given to Asher, but never captured by them. We camped close by the well, and all the evening women were coming for the water, which an old man, sitting on top of the well, drew for them; the scene was very picturesque, but the town, except for one or two splendid palm-trees and a noble sea coast, is forlorn.
Today we have been riding down the coast. The scene is all changed. We are in the plain of Acre, a rich country, the very sight of which lets you under-stand how Asher " dipped his foot in oil " and " his bread was fat, and he yielded royal dainties." All along the coast are the creeks and bays where he lingered when Deborah reproached him with " abiding in his breaches." We rode past golden orange or-chards, and ate the fruit fresh from the tree. About noon we came to Acre, an old city formerly called Ptolemais, whose principal history belongs to the Crusades and to Napoleon's time. We went through it ; saw the fortifications and the ruins of an old church, but there was not much to look at. After it, came a long beach of twelve miles, stretching from Acre to where Mt. Carmel runs out its grand promontory into the sea. We crossed this rapidly, and just before we reached Carmel came to the mouth of a swift river, where we sat down under a palm-tree and lunched.
It was " that ancient river, the river Kishon." It comes up from the plain of Esdraelon and passing through the Carmel Mount runs into the sea near this town of Haifa, which lies at the foot of the hill, and in which our tent is now pitched. The old stream looks strong enough to sweep away another Sisera, but Carmel is what we came here for. There it is with all its " excellency," a long ridge running far out into the sea and back into the rich country, with Sharon on its south and the plain of Acre on its north. There is the place where Elijah and the priests of Baal had their trial, and there is the ridge where his servant went up and looked seven times till he saw the little cloud rising out of that bright Mediterranean, which has not had a cloud on it to-day. All is clear as if we saw the prophet's altar burning. This after-noon we climbed the cliff to where the convent stands overlooking the sea. The Carmelite brothers received us hospitably. They are jolly, comfortable-looking fellows, with brown coarse coats and cowls. In their church they take you down under the high altar and show you the cave where Elijah hid from Jezebel. It is fitted up in their tawdry style with a small chapel. Halfway down the hill is another, larger cave, called the Cave of the Sons of the Prophets, where it is said Elijah received the chiefs of the people. This is in the hands of the Mohammedans and is fitted up for their worship, so curiously are things mixed up here. But the mountain itself, and its glorious view, is just what it was in Elijah's time, wooded to the top, looking out on beauty and richness everywhere. West-ward, over the blue sea, north along the splendid bay of Acre, over the great fertile plain to the Lebanon hills in the distance, with Hermon's white head looking over them, east into Galilee to the hills of Kedesh-Naphtali and the fertile plain of Esdraelon, and south along the beautiful coast over the smooth pasture-land of Sharon, what a place for a prophet, and what a scene for the great trial of his faith ! Below, the Kishon runs through the plain as if it were still telling to-night of how he took the prophets of Baal and slew them there. We sleep under the shadow of Carmel. I am very tired, and all is still, except the jackals screaming in the distance. Good-night. I wish I were going to bed in that back room at home.