4 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
"gazing up into heaven" (Acts i. u); and still farther northward is Scopus, the brow of the
hill whence Titus and his legions looked down upon the doomed city (see Frontispiece).
The ride from Scopus along the crest of Olivet to the Church of the Ascension is one
of the greatest interest and 'beauty: on one side there are ever-changing views of the deep
depression of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea; on the other, every step brings more
prominently to view some spot, or it may be some building, which no thoughtful man can look
upon without at least a passing emotion.
The view from the Mount of Olives is one which, from its strange beauty and its
extraordinary interest, lingers long and lovingly in the memory of those who have seen it.
Away to the north is the minaret-crowned height of Neby Samwil, the Mizpeh, perhaps, of
Scripture, whence many a weary pilgrim has caught his first glimpse of the long-looked-for
Zion. To the east are grey, bare hills, cut up by a thousand ravines, which descend abruptly
to the Jordan Valley, and that strange salt sea which occupies the deepest depression of the
earth's surface. The atmosphere is so clear, so transparent, that the placid water seems at
times almost within reach, yet it is many miles away, and its surface is no less than three
thousand nine hundred feet below the mount. Beyond the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea,
a long mountain wall, which is broken here and there by wild gorges through which the waters
of Arnon and other streams find their way to the lower depths, extends from Mount Gilead
on the north to the Mountains of Moab on the south (see page 9). In the evening, when
the sun is low and the blinding glare from the white hills in the foreground is somewhat
subdued, the colouring on the distant mountains is exquisite, and the changing light produces
a succession of ever-varying tints which it would be impossible to transfer to canvas.
The view towards the west, which should-be seen by morning light, embraces the entire
city of Jerusalem; every hill and valley and nearly all the important buildings can be
recognised at once, and a general impression of their relative positions obtained. Looking
down from his vantage ground on Olivet, the spectator is at once struck by the appearance of
ruin and decay which the city presents, and especially by the vast accumulation of rubbish
within and around it: the deep gorge of the Tyropceon, which cut through the heart of the
town, is now but a slight depression; the wild ravine in which the Pool of Bethesda was cut is
filled to overflowing; Kedron's bed is deeply covered with debris; the precipices which Joab
scaled are slopes of earth and stones planted with corn and vegetables; and the Via Dolorosa
is forty to fifty feet above the level of the ancient roadway. The extensive cemeteries which
hem in the city on almost every side give a mournful aspect to the view, and this effect is
heightened by the oppressive silence which broods over the place during the greater portion
of the day, and by the sober grey of the dome-roofed houses. How strangely changed from
that Jerusalem which the Psalmist once described in loving terms as " Beautiful for situation,
the joy of the whole earth !"
From the Church of the Ascension the ground shelves down to the dry bed of the
Kedron and then rises steeply to the summit of Mount Moriah, on which is now situated the