The Innocents Abroad - Chapter 49


The Innocents Abroad - Chapter 49
The Ancient Baths—Ye Apparition—A Distinguished Panorama—The Last Battle of the Crusades—The Story of the Lord of Kerak—Mount Tabor—What one Sees from its Top—Memory of a Wonderful Garden—The House of Deborah the Prophetess

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Submitted by scott on

Ian Strathcarron made some remarks on this battle:
Two touches Mark Twain left out were that Salah al-Din had his army light brush fires upwind of the Christian soldiers to make their thirst worse, and then had his water camels bring fresh water from the Sea of Galilee half a mile away and empty their water vessels onto the ground to increase the Christian anguish. Twain might also have mentioned that the relations between Christianity and Islam never recovered from the carnage of the crusades. The site of the battlefield is still as he described it, 'a grand, irregular plateau, that looks as if it might have been created for a battle-field'. It is now irrigated around the edges and growing almonds and olives on the higher ground, where Salah al-Din encamped, and below newly planted citrus groves, all in uniformly neat rows, rather as the Christian host might have stood.

Submitted by scott on

Another quote from Ian Strathcarron:
When Mark Twain was here there were around five thousand Jews in the Syrian part of the Ottoman Empire - mostly body-snatchers and mostly in Jerusalem, but also in Safed, Hebron and as he had just seen, in Tiberias. Fifteen years after his visit here the Orthodox Church in Russia instigated anti-Jewish pogroms and these coincided with the birth of political Zionism, the desire of the diasporic Jews to return to the lands of their Bible. The Russian Jews fled to the Holy Land and settled in country very much as Mark Twain described" 'There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country... The only difference between the roads and the surrounding country, perhaps, is that there are rather more rocks in the roads than in the surrounding country...'

Submitted by scott on

Twain remarks that Mt Tabor is the site of the Transfiguration. This has been disputed. From Wikipedia:

None of the accounts identifies the "high mountain" of the scene by name.

Since the 3rd century, some Christians have identified Mount Tabor as the site of the Transfiguration, including Origen. Tabor has long been a place of Christian pilgrimage and is the site of the Church of the Transfiguration. In 1808, Henry Alford cast doubt on Tabor due to the possible continuing Roman utilization of a fortress which Antiochus the Great built on Tabor in BC219, and which Josephus records was in use by the Romans in the Jewish War.[39] Others have countered that even if Tabor was fortified by Antiochus this does not rule out a transfiguration at the summit. Edward Greswell, however, writing in 1830, saw "no good reason for questioning the ancient ecclesiastical tradition, which supposes it to have been mount Tabor."

John Lightfoot rejects Tabor as too far but "some mountain near Caesarea-Philippi" The usual candidate in this case is Mount Panium, Paneas, or Banias a small hill situated at the source of the Jordan, near the foot of which, Caesarea Philippi was built.
R. T. France (1987) notes that Mount Hermon is closest to Caesarea Philippi, mentioned in the previous chapter of Matthew. Likewise Meyboom (1861) identified "Djebel-Ejeik." but this may be a confusion with Jabal el Sheikh, the Arabic name for Mount Hermon.
H. A. Whittaker (1987) proposes that it was Mount Nebo primarily on the basis that it was the location where Moses viewed the promised land and a parallelism in Jesus' words on descent from the mountain of transfiguration; "You will say to this mountain (i.e. of transfiguration), ‘Move from here to there,’ (i.e. the promised land) and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

Submitted by scott on

According to Ian Strathcarron, Innocence and War, the reputation of Mt Tabor diminished after the the battle of Hattin wherein Saladin defeated (demolished) the crusaders. He remarks that:
Ruin and desolation befell Mt Tabor until six years after Twain's visit when the Franciscans bought permission from the Ottomans to colonize it again. Initially lack of funds prevented serious excavation or renewal and it was not until 1921 that a rich American benefactor enabled work to start on a new basilica. Using many of the ruins that were lying around during Mark Twain's visit, and copying as far as could be known the original design, the basilica took twenty years to complete.