immediately north of it, we cross into the region of Samaria and become concerned with
Samaritan traditions and topography.
The fine oak-tree near the spring of Khan Sawieh is one of the few large trees of
Southern Palestine, the number of which can almost be counted on the fingers. Three species
of oak exist in Syria, of which the evergreen oak attains the largest size, and is called ballut
in Arabic. The second species, called siudidn and afsy forms a brushwood of prickly shrubs
eio-ht to twelve feet in height; and the third, the gall oak, grows as a small tree twenty feet
high, called generally malliil, but sometimes sindidn. The large single oaks, like Abraham's
oak at Hebron, are rare, but the gall oak is very common in parts of Galilee, growing in
thick woods and open glades west of Nazareth, on Tabor, near the sources of Jordan, and in
the northern part of the plain of Sharon. The second species flourishes in the copses which
cover the hard limestone of the spurs west of the watershed, but never occurs in the soft
chalky districts, which are bare of brushwood.
From the oak tree of Khan Sawieh we now march outward into Samaria, and gain
the crest of a ridge whence Gerizim and the Mukhnah plain are distinctly visible. We enter
upon a region of sacred tombs, and find the old heroes of the Hebrew invasion lying buried
round the Mount of Blessing. Were these sites only venerated by the Samaritans, we might
feel doubtful of their authentic character, but Jew and Christian agree in pointing to the
same sites for the tombs of Joshua, Caleb, and Nun, Phinehas, Eleazar, and Ithamar, and that
of Joseph rather farther north. The modern Samaritans identify Timnath Heres, where
Joshua was buried, with the village Kefr Haris, on the hills south of Gerizim, where are three
square domed buildings, sacred respectively to Neby Lush'a, Neby Nun, and Neby Kifl (an
historic character of the age of the Prophet). In the fourth century St. Jerome apparently
speaks of this same place in describing the route of Sta. Paula, in connection with the other
sacred tombs lying in this district, and as being still venerated. "Much she wondered," he
writes, " that the divider of the possessions should have chosen for himself a lot so rugged
and mountainous." A remark which applies well to the rough mountains round Kefr Haris.
In the fourteenth century Marino Sanuto makes Kefr Haris and the tomb of Joshua in correct
position on his map, but the Jewish descriptions of the place are still more important. Rabbi
Jacob, of Paris, in 1258, notices the three tombs of Joshua, Caleb, and Nun at Kefr Haris.
Estori Parchi gives the distance from Shechem as two leagues. Rabbi Gerson, of Scarmela,
in 1561, speaks of the monuments over the tombs, and of the caruba and pomegranate trees
growing beside them. And finally, in 1564, Rabbi Uri, of Biel, gives a sketch showing three
domed buildings with two trees, and lights burning inside the domes. As regards these
sepulchres, we have thus an accord between four distinct lines of tradition, and the existence
of the name of Mount Heres in the modern form of Haris.
The plain called El Mukhnah, which we now approach, is a plateau larger than any
previously crossed, though smaller than the watershed plains north of Shechem (see page 237).
It measures about nine miles north and south, by four miles east and west, and consists of