There are also a great many sick Jews in Jerusalem, because it is such an unhealthy place. The water in the wells and pools gets very bad in summer, and gives the ague and even the plague. Good English Christians have sent a doctor to Jerusalem to cure the poor sick people. One little girl of eleven years old came among the rest—all in rags and with bare feet: she was an orphan, and she lived with a Jewish washerwoman. The doctor went to see the child in her home. Where was it? It was near the mosque, and the way to it was down a narrow, dark passage, leading to a small close yard. The old woman lived in one room with her grandchildren and the orphan: there was a divan at each end, that is, the floor was raised for people to sleep on. The orphan was not allowed to sleep on the divans, but she had a heap of rags for her bed in another part. The child’s eyes glistened with delight at the sight of her kind friend the doctor, he asked her whether she went to school. This question made the whole family laugh: for no one in Jerusalem teaches girls to read except the kind Christian lady I told you of.
The most gloomy and horrible place in the Holy Land is the Dead Sea. In that place there once stood four wicked cities, and God destroyed them with fire and brimstone.
You have heard of Sodom and Gomorrah.
A clergyman who went to visit the Dead Sea rode on horseback, and was accompanied by men to guard him on the way, as there are robbers hid among the rocks. He took some of the water of the Dead Sea in his mouth, that he might taste it, and he found it salt and bitter; but he would not swallow it, nor would he bathe in it.
He went next to look at the River Jordan. How different a place from the dreary, desolate Dead Sea! Beautiful trees grow on the banks, and the ends of the branches dip into the stream. The minister chose a part quite covered with branches and bathed there, and as the waters went over his head, he thought, “My Saviour was baptized in this river.” But he did not think, as many pilgrims do who come here every year, that his sins were washed away by the water: no, he well knew that Christ’s blood alone cleanses from sin. There is a place where the Roman Catholics bathe, and another where the Greeks bathe every year; they would not on any account bathe in the same part, because they disagree so much.
After drinking some of the sweet soft water of Jordan, the minister travelled from Jericho to Jerusalem. He went the very same way that the good Samaritan travelled who once found a poor Jew lying half-killed by thieves. Even to this day thieves often attack travellers in these parts: because the way is so lonely, and so rugged, and so full of places where thieves can hide themselves.
A horse must be a very good climber to carry a traveller along the steep, rough, and narrow paths, and a traveller must be a bold man to venture to go to the edge of the precipices, and near the robbers’ caves.