2I8 PICTURESQUE PALESTINE.
heap, which forms so prominent a feature on the barren plateau. Following the road which
descends gradually north of Taliel-el-Ful, a fine view of the rugged ranges round Neby Samwil
is obtained ; and the two ancient fallen milestones, one of which is inscribed with the names
of the Antonine emperors, are passed. The road here bifurcates, one branch leading towards
Gibeon and Beth-horon on the left, the other passing by the village of Er Ram, which is
conspicuous for the white domed tomb-house on the hill-top (see page 214-). Er Ram is the
ancient Ramah of Benjamin ; but it seems too far south to represent the more famous town
of Ramah, the home and burial-place of Samuel, which was in Mount Ephraim.
The flat depression now gained is the head of the great valley called Wady Beit Hanina,
which has been previously described ; and the low ridge beyond it on the west conceals from
view the terraced hill of Gibeon. A crumbling mound, with traces of ruins, exists beside
the Beth-horon road, just beyond the valley-head, and is one of the sites generally overlooked.
Its present name 'Adasa, and its position, about thirty stadia from Beth-horon, and the
tradition common among the peasantry of a former conflict at the place, are indications
which when taken together seem clearly to indicate that this ruin is the site of 'Adasa, where
Judas Maccabaeus defeated and slew the impious Nicanor, who was advancing from Beth-
horon with the avowed intention of destroying the Temple. The bare plateau thus gains
interest in our eyes as the scene of one of the most gallant of the battles fought by the great
After passing Er Ram the path leads under the hill of 'Attara, the Astaroth of the
mediaeval writers, and thus reaches the village of Bireh, the ancient Beeroth of Benjamin, a
rambling stone hamlet with a fine spring, and ruins of a beautiful Gothic church and of an
ancient khan (see pages 215 and 216).
Pausing by the spring which runs out beneath the walls of a little building which forms
the village guest-house, we may glance at the history of the village and its church. Beeroth
of Benjamin is not a site conspicuous in Jewish history, though probably identical with the
Berea where Bacchides collected his forces before the fatal battle of Berzetho, in which Judas
Maccabaeus was slain.
The church, which was built by the Franks in the first half of the twelfth century, was
consecrated to St Mary, and the town, which boasted of Frankish burghers, was given by
Baldwin IV. to the Canons of the Holy Sepulchre, with Mezr'ah—not far north—in exchange
for Kefr Malik and 'Ain Kinia, villages in the same district. The place was sometimes
called Magina by the Franks, and sometimes Grand Mahomery, in contradistinction to Little
Mahomery, or Beit Surik.
A tradition mentioned by Maundrell makes Bireh to be the place where, after going a
day's journey with their company, Joseph and Mary found that the child Jesus had tarried
behind in Jerusalem. The story is not, however, mentioned in the Byzantine accounts of
the country, nor even in the Crusading descriptions before the fifteenth century.
The apses and side walls, with beautiful carved capitals of various designs once supporting