Sacred Texts  Asia  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

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

p. 129




P. 79. Bâb el Khalìl.--The western Gate of Jerusalem, is called Bâb el Khalìl (the Gate of the Friend, i.e. Abraham), probably because it is that by which any one who is going to Hebron (El Khalìl) would leave the city. But an ornamental Arabic inscription, just inside the sixteenth century gateway, reminding the passer-by that "Ibrahìm was the Friend of Allah," may have given the name. This gate was at one time called "Bâb mihrab Daûd" (Gate of the oratory of David), because of its proximity to the traditional Tower of David mentioned in the first section of this book. The present Zion Gate now called by the natives "Bâb en Nebi Daûd" (Gate of the prophet David) used then to be known as "The Gate of Zion," or "of the Jews' Quarter."

P. 79. ’Isa ibn Maryam and El Messìh ed-Dejjâl.--The minds of Moslem theologians have been much exercised by the difficult task of reconciling these conflicting traditions with actual topography, especially as another Apocalyptic statement represents the Dejjâl as coming from the East, and being met and slain on his reaching the banks of the Jordan, by ’Isa, who, with his believing followers will leave El-Kuds to withstand him. The Dejjâl, will come either from the ’Irak or from Khorassan, accompanied by an army of 70,000 Jews, who, having acknowledged him as the Messiah, son of David, hope to be restored to their kingdom under his guidance. From Jerusalem ’Isa will bring with him three stones which he will throw at the fleeing impostor; saying, with the first, "In the Name of the God of Abraham"; with the second, "In the Name of the God of Isaac"; and with the third, "In the Name of the God of Jacob." His aim will be unerring and fatal. The Jews, discomfited, will seek to hide themselves; but their places of concealment will be endued with miraculous power, the very stones behind which they crouch crying out, "There is a Jew behind me." As the Jordan is east, and Lydda west of

p. 130

[paragraph continues] Jerusalem, the difficulty of reconciling these statements is obvious.

P. 82. Jeremiah's Grotto.--Jeremiah's Grotto is so called from the belief that the book of "Lamentations" was composed and written there; while the sheer artificial precipice, at the foot of which it opens, is identified by modern Jewish legend as the "Beth-ha-Sekelah," or place of execution by stoning, mentioned in the Mishna. From this circumstance some have supposed that St Stephen was stoned here; and also that the top of the hillock, now occupied by a Moslem cemetery, was Calvary. This is not the place to discuss such speculations. The spot where the relics of the proto-martyr, said to have been discovered about A.D. 415, as the result of a vision vouchsafed to Lucianus, a priest of Kaphar-Gamala--wherever that village may have been--were buried with solemn rites, is shown in the recently and totally rebuilt church just north of the hillock, which stands on the site of that erected by the Empress Eudocia and consecrated in A.D. 460. It was a remarkable fact which can be proved by reference to pilgrim-writers, that at different periods of the history of Jerusalem, various spots, north, south, east, and west of the city, have been pointed out in connection with the death and burial of St Stephen.


P. 83. Turbet Birket Mamilla.--The great Mohammedan cemetery bearing this name is situated about half a mile west of Jerusalem. Modern research has shown that in crusading times and long before, it was a Christian burial-ground, the last resting-place of the canons of the Church and Abbey of the Holy Sepulchre. 1 It is remarkable for a large pool or birket called by Christian tradition the upper Pool of Gihon, by Jewish, Millo. In the cemetery itself, are the tombs of several distinguished Moslems, and, as might be expected, some interesting legends are connected with it. The oldest of these is attached to a cave some distance west of the pool and called the "Charnel-house of the Lion." Its story is as follows:--

Many hundreds of years ago their lived in Persia a great king who was both an idolater and a magician. He dwelt in a lofty tower in the topmost story of which was a temple where he worshipped the heavenly bodies with unholy rites, such as the sacrifice of new-born babes. In this temple might be seen very curious machinery which caused images of the deities, that

p. 131

the heathen supposed to rule the different heavenly bodies, such as Jupiter, Mars, and Venus, to move as if they were endued with life. Now this monarch, whose name was Khosru, was as ambitious as he was wicked. He sent a great army to overrun the Holy Land, massacre the monks at Mar-Saba, and then take Jerusalem. They slew every human being in the city, and having destroyed all the churches and carried off everything of value, including the true Cross which had been enclosed in a strong chest and sealed up by the Patriarch of Jerusalem some time before the arrival of the invaders, they returned to their own country. The skulls of the recluses martyred at Mar-Saba, are shown there to this day. The Persians were obliged to leave Jerusalem, where they had slain 60,000 persons, because of the stench arising from the vast number of unburied corpses. As there was no one to inter the fallen, God inspired a lion with pity for the remains of His servants slain by the pagans; and the wild beast not only drove off all others which would have devoured the dead, but actually conveyed their corpses, one by one, to this cavern which was originally very deep, and had a hundred steps leading down into it, and laid them there reverently, side by side. 1 Several hundred years later St Mamilla erected a church on the spot, and there prayers used to be said daily for the repose of the souls of the martyrs buried in the cave. In connection with this story, it may be worthy of notice that in several legends of Palestinian saints, lions figure in a remarkable manner. Thus St Jerome (died A.D. 410)) is, in mediæval art, very frequently represented in the company of a lion whose wounded paw the saint had healed in the desert of Chalcis, and who, in gratitude, became Jerome's faithful servant and protector. 2 In like manner, visitors to the convent of Mar-Saba are shown the cave where the founder of that monastery took up his abode with a lion, the former tenant, and are gravely told that when the saint expressed

p. 132

his opinion that the place was too small to accommodate two lodgers, the king of beasts courteously took the hint, and found a dwelling elsewhere; while in the Chapel of St Mary the Egyptian, close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, pilgrims admire a painting showing how a certain hermit, when on his way to visit the saint, found her dead, and a lion engaged in the pious task of burial.

P. 85. One kirât.--"It is customary in the East to measure everything by a standard of twenty-four kirâts. The kirât literally means an inch, or the twenty-fourth part of the dra'a or Arabic ell. The English expression "eighteen carats fine", for gold, is a survival of this usage. It signifies that the metal contains eighteen parts of gold in twenty-four of the alloy. Everything in the East is supposed to be made up of twenty-four kirâts or carats. Thus a patient or his friends will ask a physician how many kirâts of hope there are in his case. A'' man will say there are twenty-three kirâts of probability that such an occurrence will take place. A company divides its shares into kirâts, etc. (See Dr Post on "Land Tenure, Agriculture, etc.," in the Pal. Exp. Q. Statement for 1891, p. 100, foot-note.)


P. 89. En Nebi Daûd.--Although it is only since the twelfth century that Jewish and Christian traditions 1 have located the

p. 133

tomb of David at the spot situated outside the Zion Gate and known as the Coenaculum, or upper room where Christ instituted the Lord's Supper; it is only since A.D. 1560 that Mohammedans have recognised it as such. 1 Though, indeed, in 1479, Tucher of Nuremberg found a mosque installed in the lower part of the building, which already contained what were shown as the tombs of David and Solomon and other Jewish kings; there is evidence that the Moslems did not believe in the tradition, and they probably had the mosque there, in the first place, to be on terms of equality with the Christians, and in the next, because of their belief in the Coenaculum as the place where ’Isa ibn Maryam "miraculously caused a table to descend from Heaven." 2 As a matter of fact, we know, from the special statement of Mejr ed dìn (A.D. 1495), that in his day Mohammedans believed that both David and Solomon were buried near Gethsemane. 3 He indeed mentions the Coenaculum, but only as the "Church of Zion." 4 The group of buildings connected therewith was originally erected as a convent for the Franciscans, and this order had its chief seat here from 1313 to 1561 A.D. They had been expelled from it before the later date, but had succeeded in regaining possession. The tradition concerning their final expulsion, is as follows:--

In A.D. 1560, a wealthy and influential Jew from Constantinople came to Jerusalem, and begged to be allowed to pray at the tomb of David. The request being indignantly refused by the Latins, he vowed to be revenged, and accordingly, on his return to Constantinople, he told the grand wazìr that it was very wrong to permit the tomb of one of the great prophets of Islâm to remain in the hands of infidels. As a result of his representations, aided it is said by bribes, the Moslems were persuaded that the tomb of David was where both Jews and Christians agreed in stating it to be, and accordingly the

p. 134

[paragraph continues] Franciscans were again expelled, and had to find new quarters. Since that time, the place has been in Moslem hands.


P. 94. Birket Israìl.--This great pool, which twenty years ago, before the discovery of the Double-pools at St Anne's was made public, used to be pointed out as "the Pool of Bethesda"; is now being rapidly filled up with rubbish.

P. 95. Bridge at Lydda--This bridge at Lydda was built by the same Emìr of Ramleh who treacherously sent assassins to kill the crusading Heir-Apparent of England, the same who afterwards became Edward I.


P. 99. Detective stories.--A good many tales are current respecting the means used by specially gifted persons for the detection of criminals. Some of them remind one of the Biblical Story of Solomon and the two mothers (1 Kings iii.; v. 16 to end)) and also of the Apocryphal account of Daniel's procedure in the "History of Susanna."

For two other and similar stories, versions of which are current in this country, see Dr Thomson's "The Land and the Book," edition of 1873, p. 153.

P. 100. "Writing and using magic arts" on the Sabbath.--Rabbinnic ordinances permit one for the preservation of life, to cook on the Sabbath, or even to cat pork; but it is doubtful whether writing or the practice of magic is permissible.

P. 101. Burial of Kolonimos.--It is no uncommon thing for very pious Jews to give orders that after their death, and by way of expiating sins committed during their lifetime, their bodies should be ill-treated. Some even direct that the four modes of capital punishment ordered in the Law, viz., beheading, strangling, burning, and stoning, should be executed on their corpses. Others arrange that they are, after death, to have the "malkoth" or public scourging with forty stripes save one, inflicted upon them; whilst others again, as in the case of a lately deceased Grand-Rabbi of Jerusalem, give orders that their bodies shall be dragged along the path to their graves. In the case just mentioned, the bier on which the corpse was lying was so dragged for a short distance.

P. 101. Grave of Kolonimos.--It is said that the small cairn now shown as the tomb of Kolonimos, was thus formed, and that the last stone was thrown upon it during the early part of the nineteenth century. It is in the bed of the Kedron, a little south-west of the so-called tomb of Zechariah.

The above story may contain a historical kernel. Kolonimos

p. 135

was a well-known person, and in his days very few people in Palestine could either read or write. Those who possessed these accomplishments exercised a tremendous influence over their contemporaries, knowledge in their case being indeed power as is proved by the following fact preserved traditionally:--

During the Greek War of Independence (1821-1828), a Tatar courier arrived one day from Constantinople bringing a written order from the Sublime Porte to the Governor of Jerusalem directing him to put to death at once the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and several of his chief ecclesiastics. It happened, however, fortunately for the condemned, that of all the Government officials, from the Pasha downwards, the only one who could read and write was an effendi well-disposed to the Christians. The letter from Stambûl was therefore placed in his hands to be deciphered. Having read it through, he informed his colleagues that it referred to a totally different matter. No one doubted his word, and the document was left in his possession to be answered. As soon as he could do so unobserved, he called on the Greek Patriarch and the other clergy mentioned in the order, and, having demanded a private interview, showed them the death-warrant, but promised to keep its real import secret. This promise he kept loyally, and the Orthodox Greek Community, out of gratitude for this great service, accorded to his descendants the right which they still enjoy, of being entertained as honoured guests not only at the Greek convent at Jerusalem, but also in all other Orthodox monasteries within the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

Now if this was the condition of things less than a century ago, it must have been even worse in the time of Kolonimos. What really took place was probably something like this: Whilst the rabbi was writing and muttering his hocus-pocus, he was furtively scanning the faces of the spectators in order to see whether there were any present who seemed particularly interested in the matter or in the result of his action.

Noticing fear or anxiety depicted on the features of one of them, he concluded that it was caused by an evil conscience, and, having made up his own mind, he needed only to point to the shrinking culprit in order to elicit the truth. Such methods for surprising wrong-doers into confession of their guilt are in vogue at the present day.


P. 106. The people of Deyr es Sinneh.--v. 128, Josephus, Antig. xv. 10, 5; Wars, ii. 8, 6; Antig. xiii. 5, 9; xviii. 1, 5, 6; xvii. 13, 3.

p. 136

The suggestive name and the tales told of the eccentric people of Deyr es Sinneh are supposed to be reminiscences of the once famous sect of the Essenes, of whom mention is often made by Josephus, but of whom, as far as the writer is aware, no actual traces have as yet been discovered, except those of the cistern and baths above referred to.

P. 108. "The times of the infidels."--This is the way in which the Moslem peasants usually refer to the period when Palestine was under Christian rule.

P. 109. Tombs on the site of the present Greek convent of St Onuphrius.--Ecclesiastical tradition says that these tombs and the ruined mediæval building close by which covers a deep rock-hewn pit, mark the site of Aceldama. During the Middle Ages the earth from the hill-terraces here used to be carried to Europe by the ship-load to various cemeteries, such as the Campo Santo at Pisa, because of the general belief that it possessed the peculiar property of accelerating decomposition. It also was endued with the strange gift of knowing the difference between one nationality and another. Thus we are informed that "By order of the Empress Helena, two hundred and seventy ship-loads of it were translated to Rome and deposited in the Camp Santo near the Vatican, where it was wont to reject the bodies of the Romans and only consume those of strangers." 1

P. 110. Christians beyond Jordan in the time of the crusades.--Baldwin I. tempted many of the Christians living beyond Jordan 1 to come and settle at Jerusalem. They were granted special privileges and immunities, and in A.D. 1121, his successor passed a free-trade measure remitting all customary dues on articles of commerce. (Will Tyrensis, xii. xv.; Williams’ "Holy City," vol. i. p. 404 and foot-note.) It has for centuries been customary for criminals and outlaws to flee to the district east of the Jordan, and take refuge there under the protection of some Bedawai sheykh. The custom illustrates such episodes as the flight of Jephthah (Judges xi. 2), and David's sojourn in. Philistia (1 Sam. xxi. 10; xxvii., xxviii. I, 2).


P. 120. The judgements of Karakash.--The expression "This is one of the judgements of Karakash," is usual among the natives of Palestine, when a decision arrived at is hopelessly absurd, though based strictly upon the evidence in the case. It is said to have originated several hundred years ago during the administration

p. 137

of the Emìr Beha-ed-dìn Karakash, or Karakush, who lived during the latter part of the twelfth Christian century, and was a faithful lieutenant of the great Saladin who entrusted to him the construction of the new fortifications on the Jebel el Mokattam at Cairo. The rock-hewn trench protecting the citadel there is said to have been dug by his orders. He was also in chief command of the garrison at Acre when that town was taken by Coeur de Leon, about 1192 A.D. He was therefore a historical personage, and the judicial eccentricities for which he is remembered, may have originated in lampoons circulated by his enemies. (Bohaeddin's "Life of Saladin," P.E.F., Col. Conder's translation, p. 107, foot-note, and also pp. 202, 209, 238, 260, 269.)

P. 122. "Hang the first short man you can find."--In 1857, an American subject was murdered at Jaffa. The United States’ Government sent a man-of-war, the crime was investigated, and the supposed criminal hanged at the yard-arm of the vessel. However, to this day the tradition is current at Jaffa that the victim was not the real murderer, but a poor and almost imbecile negro bread-seller who was sacrificed in his stead.


P. 126. Mohammed's "night-journey" from Mecca to Jerusalem.--"From Jerusalem he is said to have been carried through the seven heavens into the presence of God, and brought back again to Mecca the same night." "It is a matter of dispute amongst Mohammedan divines, whether their prophet's night-journey was really performed by him corporally, or whether it was only a dream or vision. Some think the whole was no more than a vision and allege an express tradition of Moawìyeh, one of the khalifehs, to that effect. Others suppose that he was carried bodily to Jerusalem, but no further; and that he ascended thence to heaven in spirit only. But the received opinion is, that it was no vision, but that he was actually transported in the body to his journey's end; and if any impossibility be objected, they think it a sufficient answer to say, that it might easily be effected by an omnipotent agent." Sale's foot-note to verse 1, of Koran Surah xvii. entitled "The Night-Journey" (Chandos Classics, pp. 206, 207).


P. 127. A sultan dreamt that all his teeth fell out.--To dream that one has lost a single tooth is a fearful omen. Grown up people suffering with their teeth make vows, and

p. 138

children, losing their first set, take each of the old ones as it falls out, and throw it up to the sun, crying: "O sun, take this donkey's tooth and give me instead the tooth of a gazelle." The formula differs amongst the fellahìn of Silwan, whose children are taught to say: "O Sun! take this donkey's tooth, and instead of it give me the tooth of one of thy children." Amongst native Arab Jews the tooth is thrown into a well with the formula given in the text. Others say: "O Sun! take this iron tooth and give me a tooth of pearl."

Up to the year 1868, when the new iron dome was placed over the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a great number of human teeth were to be seen sticking, as witnesses to vows made by their owners, in the cracks and interstices of the clustered columns on the left hand side of the great portal to the said Church.


130:1 See Professor Clermont Ganneau's "Archaeological Researches," vol. i. pp. 279-290.

131:1 According to Williams'" Holy City," vol. i. p. 303, this legend is first mentioned by Eugesippus about A.D. 1120, and is introduced in order to account for the name by which the cavern was then known, namely "Caverna" or "Spelunca Leonis," as William of Tyre writes when mentioning the adjacent pool. In a tract by an earlier writer, supposed by Williams to have been Modestus, there is a statement to the effect that the pious care of "a Nicodemus and a Magdalen" provided for the decent sepulture of those slain by the Persians. The name of the man is said to have been Thomas; whilst a third version of the legend makes out that the corpses were buried by an aged woman and her female dog. Quite a different story is that the bodies buried in this cave were those of the Holy Innocents.

131:2 See Prothero's "The Psalms in Human Life," p. 27.

132:1 The following is the well-known story first told by Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela who visited Jerusalem soon after A.D. 1160: "On Mount Sion are the sepulchres of the house of David, and those of the kings who reigned after him. In consequence of the following circumstance, however, this place is hardly to be recognised at present. Fifteen years ago one of the walls of the place of worship on Mount Sion fell down, which the Patriarch ordered the priest to repair. He commanded to take stones from the original wall of Sion, and to employ them for that purpose, which command was obeyed. Two labourers, who were engaged in digging stones from the very foundation of the walls of Sion, happened to meet with one which formed the mouth of the cavern. They agreed to enter the cave and to search for treasure; and in pursuit of this object they penetrated to a large hall, supported by pillars of marble, encrusted with gold and silver before which stood a table with a golden sceptre and crown. This was the sepulchre of David, king of Israel, to the left of which they saw that of Solomon, and of all the kings of Judah who were buried there. They further saw locked chests, and desired to enter the hall to examine them, but a blast of wind, like a storm, issued forth from the mouth of the cavern, and prostrated them almost lifeless on the ground. They lay in this state until evening, when they heard a voice commanding them to rise up and go forth from the place. They p. 133 proceeded terror-stricken to the Patriarch, and informed him of what had occurred. He summoned Rabbi Abraham el Constantini, a pious ascetic, one of the mourners of the downfall of Jerusalem, and caused the two labourers to repeat the occurrence in his presence. Rabbi Abraham hereupon informed the Patriarch that they had discovered the sepulchre of the house of David and of the kings of Judah. The Patriarch ordered the place to be walled up, so as to hide it effectually from every one to the present day. The above-mentioned Rabbi Abraham told me all this." (See Williams’ "Holy City," vol. ii. pp. 609, 510.)

133:1 Robinson's "Biblical Researches," vol. i. p. 242, etc.

133:2 "Uns el Jelìl," vol. i. p. 145. Cairo edition.

133:3 "Uns el Jelìl," p. 105 and 131.

133:4 "Uns el Jelìl," p. 402, vol. ii.

136:1 Monroe, as quoted by Barclay, "City of the Great King," p. 208.

Next: I. Folks Gentle and Simple