Mark Twain visited Israel in 1867, and published his impressions inInnocents Abroad. He described a desolate country — devoid of both vegetation and human population:
“….. A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… A silent mournful expanse…. A desolation…. We never saw a human being on the whole route…. Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
He was amazed by the smallness of the city of Jerusalem:
“A fast walker could go outside the walls of Jerusalem and walk entirely around the city in an hour. I do not know how else to make one understand how small it is.”
And he described the Temple Mount thus:
“The mighty Mosque of Omar, and the paved court around it, occupy a fourth part of Jerusalem. They are upon Mount Moriah, where King Solomon’s Temple stood. This Mosque is the holiest place the Mohammedan knows, outside of Mecca. Up to within a year or two past, no christian could gain admission to it or its court for love or money. But the prohibition has been removed, and we entered freely for bucksheesh.”
Chapters 45-56 of Innocents Abroad can be read on Shechem.org.
More quotes from pilgrims to the Holy Land can be found on the COJS website.
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