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Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer [1907], at

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FOUR different sets of traditions are associated with, and furnish as many names to the only open gate-way (there being others walled-up) in the Eastern wall of Jerusalem. It is known to the Moslems, as "Bâb el Asbât," or Gate of the Tribes, a name derived from that of the adjacent "Birket Asbât Beni Israìl," or Pool of the Tribes of the Children of Israel, which is generally abbreviated to "Birket Israìl," a huge reservoir lying along part of the northern side of the Temple area, and said by learned Mohammedans to have been one of three constructed by Ezekiel or Hezekiah, King of Judah. Amongst the native Christians the gate is called of "Our Lady Mary," because just inside it is the traditional site of the birthplace of the Virgin, and also because the road leading through the gate is that by which her supposed tomb, in a great underground church of the crusading period down in the valley, is reached. For several centuries past, Europeans have called the gate by the name of St Stephen, because a tradition, not older than the fourteenth century, states that he was stoned on a bare rock which is pointed out by the road-side not far from the above-mentioned church. In crusading times the gate that stood where the Bâb el Asbât now is, was called "the Gate of Jehoshaphat," from the valley that runs past it; whilst amongst the modern German-speaking Jews,

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it is known as "das Loewenthor," from the pair of roughly carved lions built into the city-wall on either side of the entrance.

Now, as it is a rare thing to find "the likeness of anything in heaven or earth" in the ornamentation of Mohammedan buildings, though here and there (as in the case of the very interesting thirteenth century bridge at Lydda), such representations are met with, one naturally looks for some tradition to explain the unusual ornament. In the case of the Bâb el Asbât the story has been preserved in current folk-lore, and is as follows:--

Sultan Selìm 1 dreamed a dream in which he imagined he was being torn in pieces by four lions. Awaking in terror, he sent at once for all the learned to interpret his vision. But they could not. He then had recourse to a famous sheykh who dwelt at a distance. This sage, being informed of the matter, asked to know what the Sultan had been thinking about before he slept on the night in question. "I was thinking how to punish the people of Jerusalem," was the reply. "They have refused to pay their taxes, and are quite unmanageable." "Ah!" said the sheykh, "Allah has sent the dream in order to prevent your Majesty from committing a great sin. El Kûds is the House of the Sanctuary, the city of the saints and prophets. So holy is it that according to the learned it was founded by the Angel Asrafìl, at

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[paragraph continues] Allah's command, built by his assistant angels, and then visited by them in pilgrimage fully two thousand years before the creation of our Father Adam, who was buried there. Ibrahìm el Khalìl, En Nebi Daûd, and many other prophets and saints lived and died there; therefore Allah Himself loves the place and will punish all who hate it and would do it an injury. I advise thee, O Monarch of the Age, to put in hand some work that may improve the city."

Struck by these words, the Sultan set out shortly on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; and in the course of his stay there gave orders for the restoration of the Haram, and the rebuilding of the walls.

The work on the walls was entrusted to the superintendence of two brothers, who were architects. Each of them had his own party of workmen, and his sphere of labour. They both began at Bâb el Asbât, one party working northwards and the other southwards. It took seven years 1 to complete the task. At the expiration of that time both working parties met again at Bâb el Khalìl. The architect who had been given the duty of enclosing the southern part of the city was however beheaded by the Sultan's orders, because he had left the Coenaculum and adjoining buildings outside and unprotected by the new rampart. The lions at the Bâb el Asbât were

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placed there in order to recall the incident that led to the great work.

The foregoing is not the only legend connected with Bâb el Asbât. Just inside the city, a few yards from the gateway and between it and the historic Church and Abbey of St Anne, there stood, till the summer of 1906, an interesting old Saracenic bathhouse, which has been pulled down in order to make room for a new building. The following legend used to be told concerning it:--

When Belkis, Queen of Sheba, visited Jerusalem, King Suleyman, enchanted by her loveliness, wished to marry her; but a mischief-maker told him that the queen was not human, but a jinnìyeh, having legs and hoofs like a donkey. The king ordered his informant, a jealous woman, 1 to hold her tongue on pain of death. But the charge rankled in his mind, and he determined to see for himself that it was untrue. So he caused the Jân to build a spacious hall, whose floor was one huge pane of transparent crystal, through which could be seen a stream of running water with fish swimming about in it. At one end he placed his own throne, and beside it that of Belkis, which was made of the precious metals, encrusted with the costliest jewels. On leaving her own land the queen, who valued this throne as her greatest treasure, had it locked up inside the innermost

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of seven chambers, in the most inaccessible of her castles, with guards at the gates day and night, to prevent any one from getting near it. But all these precautions were vain, for Suleymân, wishing one day to convince her of the power of the name of Allah, by invoking that name, had the throne transported to Jerusalem in less time than it takes to relate. 1

When all was ready he sent for the queen to come and see his fine new building. On entering she was surprised to behold the king upon a throne which seemed to be set, like that of Allah, on the face of the waters. In order to get to her own throne, at his side, she perceived that she would have to wade, so she lifted up her skirts, exposing her feet and legs almost up to the knees. The next moment showed her mistake, but, as shoes and stockings were unknown in those days, Suleymân had seen that her feet were human feet, but yet her legs were covered with shaggy hair, like a young donkey's. Having converted her to the true religion, Suleymân called together all the learned for counsel how to remove that extraordinary growth of hair. "Let her shave," was the unanimous suggestion. "No!" roared Suleyman in anger, "she might cut herself, and the hair would only grow again." He drove the learned forth, and convoked the Jân, who either could not or would not help him. In despair, he finally asked help from real devils, who told him to build the above-mentioned bath-house for the queen's use, and also taught him how to concoct a depilatory,

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by the use of which her limbs quickly became as smooth, white, and comely as if they had been of cast silver. Ever since that time," says a famous, learned, and veracious Arab historian, 1" people have used bathing and depilatories, and it is said that the bath-house is the same that is situated at the Bâb el Asbât, close to the Medresset es Salahìyeh, 2 and that it is the first bath-house ever built."


95:1 Sultan Selìm conquered Palestine in A.D. 1,527, and planned that thorough restoration of the walls of Jerusalem which was carried out by his son and successor, Suleyman, surnamed the Magnificent, who, on the extant inscriptions, is styled: "King of the Arabs, the Persians, and the Ram (Romans, i.e. Byzantines)."

96:1 This statement that it took seven years is an orientalism. According to the inscriptions still to he seen, the work was begun A.D. 1536 on the north side of the city, and finished on the south side A.D. 1539.

97:1 Some of the learned say it was a jinni who came to Suleymân with this tale about Belkis. The Jân feared lest the royal lady, whose mother had been a jinnìyeh, should be converted from idolatry to El Islâm and, on her marriage with the king, blab certain secrets of might to keep them (the Jân) for ever in the servitude to which El Hakìm had reduced them.

98:1 He did this, of course, before her conversion. It is a sin to play tricks upon a woman who is a true believer.

99:1 Mejr-ed-dìn. "Uns El Jelìl," vol. i. p. 125.

99:2 Now St Anne's Church.

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