THE SOUTH COUNTRY OF JUDjEA.
especially the flora of the wilderness or midbar, " the highland downs," as contrasted with the
lowland plains. During the ride we descend from Tekoa-which is two thousand seven hundred
and eighty-eight feet above the sea—two thousand one hundred and twenty-eight feet to the
cliff over Engedi (see page 205), which, though only six hundred and sixty feet higher than the
Mediterranean, yet overlooks the Dead Sea immediately beneath from a height of all but two
thousand feet (see page 204). On the way we see here and there traces of ancient beacon
stations. One of these may have been that " watch-tower in the wilderness," the wilderness
of Jeruel, mentioned in Jehoshaphat's history (2 Chronicles xx.). But of the name Jeruel we
have found no trace in the Arabic nomenclature, though this must be the region, as it lay
between Tekoa and Engedi. But of Hazziz, the cliff of Ziz, we have the equivalent in El
Hasasah, the tableland just before the pass.
The pass itself is not recognisable till we are close upon it. It is simply a zigzao- path,
chiefly artificial, but occasionally aided by nature, cut out of the sides of the precipices, at the
inner edge of a semicircular wall of cliff, which, spanning a chord of about one and a half miles,
embraces a horse-shoe plain, which gently slopes to the shore and forms a sub-tropical oasis.
This pass and cliff have been, from the days of Chedorlaomer and Abraham, the one ascent
by which invaders from the south and east entered the hill country of Judaea. As far as
Engedi they could march by the shore without any obstacle; north of it the shore line is
impracticable, even for footmen, and there are no paths by which beasts could be led up. 1 lad
they taken any of the openings south of Engedi this must have entailed a long march across
a rough and almost waterless wilderness. The trade between Jerusalem and Kerak in Moab
is still carried on by this route, by which also the salt is brought from Jebel Usdum.
Few landscapes are more impressive than the sudden unfolding of the Dead Sea basin, and
its eastern wall, from the top of the pass of Engedi (see pages 200 and 201). The whole
length of the lake may here be taken in one view ; the opposite hills are veiled in a delicate
haze, the evaporation from the sea clothing the mountain-sides with a gauzy pink, and the tops
with as gauzy and light a blue. We wind down the zigzag niche which serves for a path.
After descending more than one thousand two hundred feet, there is a break in the cliff. It
becomes a rugged slope for the next six hundred feet, and at the base of a rock, the copious
warm fresh " Fountain of the Kid" (En-gedi or 'Ain-Jidy)* bursts forth amidst an oasis of
tropical vegetation (see page 203), and then, kid-like, skips from rock to rock, till it reaches
the plain below. From the level at which this spring gushes out of the cliff there are evidences
of the most careful system of irrigation, carried round the little amphitheatre at different levels,
in the days when the palm, the camphire, and the sugar-cane brought in rich revenues to the
possessors of the oasis. It is still the home of many of the choicest and most peculiar plants,
birds, and insects of the Dead Sea shore. The camphire still lingers. The fine and striking
* The ancient name of Engedi ('Ain-Jidy) was Hazezon-tamar, "the pruning of the palm" (Genesis xiv. 7). There is no doubt about this
identification, for, in 2 Chronicles xx. 2, the place is referred to as » Hazazon-tamar, which is Engedi." The vineyards and camphire of Engedi
are mentioned in the Song of Solomon, and Pliny praises its palm-trees, which, according to Josephus, were of "the best kind » (Ant. ix. i, | a) ,
he also alludes to its precious balsam, «' opobalsamum." In the time of Eusebius « Engaddi " was still a place of importance, and its position,
" east of Hebron," is described by the Arab historian, Mejr ed Din, who wrote towards the end of the fifteenth century.-M. E. R.