In the nineteenth century, the two major seaports in Palestine are Jaffa and Haifa

Between Tradition and Modernity: Representing the Urban Reality of the Holy
Land in the Nineteenth Century


In the nineteenth century, the two major seaports in Palestine were Jaffa and Haifa. The first, a green oasis on the doorstep of the Plain of Sharon, was an amphitheatre-shaped city, built upon a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. At the end of the nineteenth-century, it had a population of approximately six thousand, consisting predominately of Muslims (Guibout: p. 137). The second, located at the base of Mount Carmel, formed in the 1860s a community of less than four thousand people (Hamme, Guide indicateur: p. 593). None of the two towns had proper docking facilities and ships were often forced to anchor a mile short of their destination; passengers and their baggage were then landed in small boats. Such difficulties, however, did not keep travellers from their goal. On the contrary, eager to prove their valour in a post-Napoleonic war century when moving in space from one area to another became less hazardous and dangerous, these forerunners of mass tourism tended to overemphasise the negative aspects of disembarking in Jaffa or Haifa to the point where they appeared to be following in the footsteps of the Crusaders who had endured their share of hardships (while causing many casualties and much destruction among the Muslim ranks) during their nine major expeditions to the Holy Land. As Edouard Schuré (1841-1929)[1] points out in Sanctuaires d’Orient: “It is right that accessing to the Holy Land should be difficult; ever since the Middle Ages ‘going to Jaffa’ has been a synonym of danger. Once modern industry turns these reefs into a banal port, allowing [ships] to anchor in Jaffa the same way they do in Le Havre or New York, it would be the end, I fear, of the austere beauty of Palestine, already strongly compromised by the railroad tracks and travel agents”[2] (Schuré: p. 308).

While waiting for a boat to take them into shore, many Western travellers and pilgrims enjoyed the opportunity to take a closer look at the Palestinian city. This first impression was usually consistent with their expectations, since the physical distance separating travellers from the mainland enabled them to shove aside what they considered as “inauthentic” details. Of particular interest is how the French writer André Chevrillon (1864-1957), a visitor in 1892, describes the nature surrounding Jaffa: “This is exactly how we imagined Biblical landscapes: a dry ground, palm trees, bay trees and fountains, some olive trees, their grey leaves standing out against the blue sky; here and there, a shepherd leading his flock out to pasture, or a silent herd of camels walking single line between two rows of cactus”[3] (Chevrillon: p. 181). It is clear from the above that, in order to remain true to the aesthetic standards of Chevrillon, the countryside first needs to be “purified” of potentially harmful human intervention, leaving behind a “Bible-friendly” shepherd. His work done, Chevrillon can now safely asserts that “Jaffa, with its small, whitewashed houses nesting above the beach, is clear-cut and distinct [against the sky]: one of the most picturesque and oriental cities in the Mediterranean world”[4] (Chevrillon: p. 182). Similarly, George Robinson, who journeyed to the Levant in the early 1830s, praises the simplicity of the ancient fortifications and dwellings of Jaffa, lending to the city a certain authenticity and austere splendour rarely found: “It [Jaffa] is built on a conical eminence overhanging the sea, and surrounded on the land side with Saracenic walls, with towers at unequal intervals. The houses, which are of stone, rise in terraces from the water’s edge, and present, as approached from the sea, a very singular yet agreeable appearance; particularly to eyes wearied (as ours were), with the monotonous aspect of the mud-built villages of Lower Egypt” (Robinson: p. 20). The Free Church of Scotland minister Robert Buchanan (1802-1875) is equally impressed by the small stone houses, being in perfect harmony with the adjoining countryside: “It [Jaffa] looks well from the sea; – its flat-roofed, stone-built houses, towering in successive tiers one above another, give it an aspect of solidity and strength. The nakedness of its rocky site contrasts, at the same time, not ungracefully with the rich and exuberant verdure of the extensive orange-groves which, on the land side, girdle it all round” (Buchanan: p. 80). In a like manner, upon approaching Haifa, Léonie de Bazelaire romanticises the general appearance of the coastal scenery: “Palm trees with a crown of feathery leaves, bright white ground, intense blue sky, deep and luminous: how very picturesque it is”[5] (Bazelaire: p. 39). The first contact with Palestinian cities is, therefore, confined to a pictorial transposition, that is to say, the selection of elements worth mentioning because deemed to be visually charming and striking, and hence suitable for a painting (Rajotte: p. 100).

Parallel to Western travellers’ efforts to preserve the Holy Land of their faith and dreams, disillusion is already looming on the horizon. Here is an example from Méditerranée by the moderate Catholic feminist Lucie Félix-Faure-Goyau (1866-1913): “Jaffa is a curious conglomeration of houses; the first thing it evokes [to the viewer] is a sense of immutability”[6] (Goyau: p. 79). The use of the expression “first thing” suggests that, despite being far from shore, the narrator is fully aware of the optical illusion emanating from the oriental city. William Robert Wills Wilde (1815-1876), the celebrated Irish surgeon and father of Oscar Wilde, is more explicit: “The town of Jaffa stands on a hill that rises abruptly from the sea, from which, at some distance, it has a very picturesque appearance; but, on closer inspection, the streets are found to be dirty and narrow” (Wilde: p. 168). Yet it is the act of landing itself that deals a serious blow to the idealized image of the city when travellers find themselves abruptly confronted with a “sonorous” Holy Land. “Disembarkation is always accompanied by much noise and confusion” (Hamme, The Pilgrim’s Handbook: p. 29), says Brother Liévin de Hamme (1822-1898), author of The Pilgrim’s Handbook to Jerusalem and its Neighbourhood. American William Cowper Prime (1825-1905) adds: “The din of voices was, as usual, intolerable; and it was for a moment quite doubtful whether we should be able to effect a landing” (Prime: p. 26). The Scottish preacher Norman Macleod (1812-1872) conveys the same feelings of intrusion and helplessness. The account of his arrival to Palestine opens with a rather misleading scene: “On the afternoon of Tuesday we were approaching the Holy Land, and straining our eyes to get a first glimpse of its everlasting hills. The sun was setting as we descried the long low line of the Palestine coast” (Macleod: p. 131). The peaceful atmosphere begins cracking as soon as the boatmen arrive: “The twinkling lights of boats were then seen like stars coming towards us, and soon the port officials stood on deck demanding a clean bill of health; and this being produced, boat after boat came clustering to the ship’s side” (Macleod: p. 131). Later there comes the first direct intercourse with the city, or at least with some of its representatives: “Then arose an indescribable Babel from the screeching of their crews, who seemed engaged in some fierce and deadly strife of words, which was itself an interesting study, until, after a while, amidst the roaring of steam and of voices, we were by degrees carried along over the side and down to a boat in a current of sailors, Turks, Arabs, passengers, portmanteaus, dragomen, and travellers” (Macleod: pp. 131-132). Once duties and charges were paid at the Customhouse, the auditory discovery of the urban landscape of Palestine was far from complete. The Palestinian city turned out to be a noisy place, thriving with activity, swarming with men and animals, hence presenting a significantly different image from the soundless and reassuring visualisations of Palestine in Western paintings. In Buchanan’s Notes of a clerical furlough, spent chiefly in the Holy Land, the narrator is startled by the confusion of languages, which extends its ravages throughout the oriental city, serving as a modern equivalent to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel: “The path that runs along the beach, between the sea and the rock on which Jaffa stands, all the way into the town, was like a bee-hive ready to swarm. […] It was hard work to fight one’s way through this motley maze of tribes and tongues, and many coloured garbs, and most unsavoury smells” (Buchanan: p. 82). And Robinson bluntly points out: “The females were veiled, but their tongues were not tied; and from their shrill voices and incessant talking, we gathered, that their influence in social life is not quite of the passive nature, we in Europe, are accustomed to believe” (Robinson: p. 26).

For most Western travellers, disembarking in Jaffa or Haifa also represented their first encounter with the Arab language, which often led to uncertainty and vulnerability, as remarked by the Austrian traveller Ida Pfeiffer (1797-1858): “I met none but Arabs, whose language I did not understand, and who could, therefore, give me no information” (Pfeiffer: p. 171). Backed by centuries of religious indoctrination, some, like François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848), Clorinda Minor and Léonie de Bazelaire, dismissed Arabic as “a piercing, glottal language”[7] (Chateaubriand: p. 330), “incoherent and rude” (Minor: p. 26) or as being “only suitable for angry people”[8] (Bazelaire: p. 39). All of that had negative repercussions on the way in which nineteenth-century Western travellers portrayed the voice of the Muezzin ringing out from minarets[9], which had become an integral part of the urban landscape in Palestine. Reverend Becq, for instance, viewed the daily Muslim calls for prayer as a symbol of Islam’s illegitimate dominion over a sacred Christian land. Leading his companions in a ceremonial procession into Jerusalem, he exclaims in Impressions d’un pèlerin: “The cross in the streets of Jerusalem! The voice of the saints where one can only hear the [wailing] of the muezzin from the heights of minarets! Jerusalem has not witnessed any such events for more than six hundred years”[10] (Becq: p. 23). During her sojourn in Hebron, Valérie de Gasparin (1813-1894), sweeping aside her natural contempt for the Muezzin, maintains that his chants can help Christians to better fulfil their duties to God: “Here is a Muslim who summons the fundamentalists of Islam [to prayer], and you, a poor sinner redeemed by Christ, you do not pray Jesus! This feeling has crossed my mind, and [now] compels me to throw myself upon the mercy of the Lord”[11] (Gasparin: p. 180). In such statements as these, it should not come as a surprise that travellers, like Amédée de Damas (1821-1903), saw the familiar sound of the church bells tolling throughout Nazareth as a celebration of the strength and endurance of Christianity in a country where urban life was traditionally punctuated by the Muezzin: “The distant sound of [church] bells came to us; the whole population [of Nazareth] has turned up to greet us, and the town of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is [built in form of] an amphitheatre on the side of a mountain”[12] (Damas: p. 112).

Above all, travellers found themselves intrigued by the cultural diversity of the urban community in Palestine. Distinctive characteristics were usually reduced to clothes and garments supposedly worn by each ethnic group. Here is Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) comparing typically:

The costume of all the inhabitants and travellers, who animate its roads with their figures, are picturesque and singular. There are to be seen Bedouins of Jericho or Tiberias, clothed in their capacious white woollen cloaks; Armenians in long robes with blue and white stripes; Jews from every part of the world, in every variety of national attire, distinguished only by their long bears, and by the noble dignity of their features, a royal people ill accustomed to their slavery, and in whose looks is seen the recollection and earnest of noble destinies; and Egyptians soldiers wearing red jackets, and exactly resembling our French conscripts in the vivacity of their eye and the quickness of their step : […] They may also be seen Turkish agas proudly passing along the road, mounted on horses from the desert, and followed by Arabs and black slaves; families of poor Greek pilgrims sitting at the corner of a street, and eating rice and boiled barley, […] and poor Jewish women, half clad, bending under the weighty burden of a sack of old clothes, and driving before them asses carrying double panniers full of children of all ages. (Lamartine: pp. 288-289)

Attention was also given to the cultural diversity as witnessed first hand in the bustling bazaars that most of the towns and cities in Palestine possessed; stalls selling fruits, vegetables, spices, crucifixes, holy portraits, beads and other goods introduced travellers to new sights, smells and tastes. Here is a typical passage from A Home in the Holy Land by Elizabeth Finn (1825-1921):

The place [the bazaar of Jerusalem] was alive with people going to and fro, jostling each other and being jostled; hundreds were pushing each other about in the passage, about four feet wide, which separated the row of stalls on each side from each other. […] Peasantry in striped cloaks; effendis in fine robes; a Bedawee sheikh smoking as he walked along in immense red morocco boots, and with a train of followers wondering and wandering; sellers of sherbet, with a jar under their arm, and chinking brass cups in their hands while they sidled along; pale emaciated Polish Jews in fur caps, and stately rabbis in gray turbans; peasant women with squeaking chickens on their heads, and children riding astride on their hip, or slung in a hammock at their back sometimes spinning with a distaff as they walk or squat on the ground; black slaves cracking jokes with the shopkeepers as they lounged along; a European consul preceded by his kawasses, who, by poking right and left with their silver sticks, barley succeeded in making way for him; soldiers leaning against the edge of a stall; Jewesses, in their white sheet, purchasing vegetables or a bit of calico print; a Turkish officer, in brass-plated fez and blue uniform, at a tobacco cutter’s, follower by a black pipebearer dressed in a uniform the caricature of his master’s, and exchanging gossip with a grinning woman slave, who was buying sweetmeats at the next stall; a dandy young effendi choosing an amber rosary at another; some screaming, all talking, some cursing, and some saluting; (Finn, A Home in the Holy Land: pp. 179-180).

The overall impression is that of contemplating through the bazaar a miniature version of the Orient fuelled by common Western fantasies and stereotypes, such as those of the noble Bedouin warrior and the sensual black female slave. The above passages also highlight the chaotic interactions between humans and animals, whether within the urban landscape of Palestine or in the largely unpopulated areas of Northern Galilee and the Jordan Valley. As the American clergyman and missionary William McClure Thomson (1806-1894) observes in The Land and the Book, while staying at the Khan et Tejjar (the Inn of the Merchants) on the outskirts of Nazareth: “The noise is incessant, and at a distance sounds like that ‘of many waters’. Every man is crying his wares at the top of his voice, chickens cackle and squall, donkeys bray and fight, and the dogs bark. Every living thing adds somewhat to the many-toned and prodigious uproar. It is now a miscellaneous comedy in full operation, where every actor does his best, and is supremely gratified with his own performance” (Thomson: p. 152). To which we should add his further remark, this time about life in Jaffa: “I have been strolling along the streets, or rather street of Jaffa, for there seems to be but one, and a more crowded throughout I never saw. I had to force my way through the motley crowd of busy citizens, wild Arabs, foreign pilgrims, camels, mules, horses, and donkeys. Then what a strange rabble outside the gate, noisy, quarrelsome, ragged, and filthy!” (Thomson: p. 281). Wandering through the narrow streets of Jerusalem, Finn similarly notes: “It was difficult to pick our way through the crowd of men, women, and donkeys” (Finn, A Home in the Holy Land: p. 67).

Yet in choosing to focus their observations almost anecdotally on their Biblical expectations of oriental towns and on the exotic aspects of the urban environment of Palestine, the great majority of Western travellers put themselves in a position where they tended to oppose the first rays of modernization in the Holy Land. For indeed from the last third of the nineteenth century onwards, the Ottoman province of Syria-Palestine started to absorb strong influences from the West and successive waves of immigrants, which considerably altered its way of life[13]. As Yehoshua Ben-Arieh indicates in The Rediscovery of the Holy Land in the Nineteenth Century, the telegraph was introduced in Jerusalem in 1865, followed, four years later, by the opening of the first carriage road between Jaffa and Jerusalem (Ben-Arieh: p. 192). 1892 saw the coming of the railroad with the inauguration of the Jaffa-Jerusalem line. The end of the Crimean War (1854-1856) and the implementation of the Tanzimat reforms throughout the Ottoman Empire, which started in 1839 and ended with the adoption of the 1876 Constitution, led to yet further industrial and social development in the Holy Land. From the late 1860s, new suburbs and rural settlements, established by Jewish immigrants and Christian Millenarian groups from the United States and Germany, began to sprawl in the vicinity of Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem.

A close reading of a large number of nineteenth-century travel texts shows how narrators vacillated between admiring and condemning the process of modernization that profoundly affected the urban landscape of Palestine. Entertaining readers with his humorous discourse – in which one can detect a hint of arrogance and a dash of self-righteousness – Mark Twain (1835-1910) sharply criticizes in The Innocents Abroad the maintenance of buildings, streets and other facilities that had significantly worsened in the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century before the first noteworthy housing and sanitary measures came into force during the Egyptian rule of Palestine (1831-1840) and under the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909). To illustrate, here is how Twain depicts the Galilean village of Magdala: “Magdala is not a beautiful place. It is thoroughly Syrian, and that is to say that it is thoroughly ugly, and cramped, squalid, uncomfortable, and filthy – just the style of cities that have adorned the country since Adam’s time, as all writers have labored hard to prove, and have succeeded” (Twain: p. 503). Twain continues: “The streets of Magdala are any where from three to six feet wide, and reeking with uncleanliness. The houses are from five to seven feet high, and all built upon one arbitrary plan – the ungraceful form of a dry-good box” (Twain: p. 503). In the same way, Reverend Albert Augustus Isaacs (1826-1899) gives a negative image of Tiberias: “Tiberias is a miserable town. About five thousand souls are collected within its bounds, of which about half are Jews. Its walls, which bear the appearance of having been substantial and well-built, are now for the most part in ruins” (Isaacs: p. 135). To which Thomson adds: “There is no town in Syria so utterly filthy as Tiberias, or so little to be desired as a residence. […] Of course it swarms with all sorts of vermin. What can induce human beings to settle down in such a place? And yet some two thousand of our race make it their chosen abode” (Thomson: pp. 76-77). For the French diplomat Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé (1848-1910), the matter is clear: these manifest signs of urban deterioration are attributable to the country’s administration by the Ottoman Empire. “The least of efforts”, he writes in Voyage aux pays du passé, “will be rewarded with all the treasures that a land longing to produce can offer; but no one seems to care about it”[14] (Vogüé: p. 114). In La Syrie d’aujourd’hui, Louis-Charles-Emile Lortet (1836-1909) gives voice to the same discontent by describing a monument near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, “buried little by little under piles of debris, mixed with chicken feathers and broken jars – all sorts of trash typical of oriental towns”[15] (Lortet: p. 220). By way of contrast, Lortet plainly refers to the cleanliness and the material wealth of the colony founded in 1868 by the Temple society (Tempelgesellschaft) on the outskirts of Haifa: “Twelve to fifteen years ago, German Templars founded in this region a colony that has [now] become very prosperous. […] Around the houses, there are lovely gardens, enclosed by a fence, stocked with vegetables, fruit trees and flowers, [a fact] which is extremely rare in Syria”[16] (Lortet: p. 170). It would be too easy to say, however, that Lortet welcomes the expansion of Western influence in Palestine with open arms. Indeed, notwithstanding his appreciation of modern comfort, Lortet treats the future construction of the Jaffa-Jerusalem line with suspicion and disdain, though he is shrewd enough to acknowledge the inevitability of change: “I grant that my ears would have been unpleasantly affected by calls such as ‘Five minutes to Ramallah; change for the Hebron line!’ If a country must be spared from the vulgarity of the [railway] engine and its whistle, it is definitely this one. Unfortunately, […] railroad will be here in a very short lapse of time. This region is so fertile and rich, […] that, for better and for worse, it will be necessary to resort to steam power”[17] (Lortet: p. 360). A similar perspective may be found in Haifa, Or Life in Modern Palestine by the British diplomat and mystic Sir Laurence Oliphant (1829-1888), who settled with his wife, Lady Alice, in the German Templars colony in Haifa (and during the summer heats in the Druze village of Daliat el Karmel) from 1882 to 1886. Oliphant lays stress on the remarkable results achieved by the new colony: “The whole [German Templars] settlement contains about sixty houses and three hundred inhabitants. […] Some of the colonists are in business, and have stores in Haifa. […] There is one wind grist, and one steam mill, the latter in process of erection. There is a manufactory of olive-oil soap, the export of which to America is yearly increasing, and now amounts to 50,000 pounds” (Oliphant: p. 24). Oliphant further underlines the urban growth of Jerusalem, whose population, according to generally accepted estimates, increased from around 15,000 in 1844 to nearly 46,000 in 1896 (John Oesterreicher and Anne Sinai: p. 1): “New hotels and shops have been opened to meet the increasing demand. Within the last twenty years the population of the Holy Land has certainly doubled, the increase consisting entirely of Jews and Christians” (Oliphant: pp. 309-310). Oliphant thus seems to accept the emergence of urban modernization in Palestine, provided that it does not spoil the panoramic view mingled with Biblical episodes that he enjoys from his residence in the German colony (Oliphant: pp. 24-25). He is, however, strongly opposed to the construction of a railway from Haifa to Damascus (by “British shipowners and capitalists”, as he puts it) whose consequences would be the submersion of the whole Jordan valley with waters from the Mediterranean. “Even in England and America”, Oliphant argues, “there would be a strong objection to the Lake of Tiberias, with the historic sites of Capernaum and the other cities on its margin, […] being buried five hundred feet deep beneath the sea” (Oliphant: p. 207). This controversial discourse is hardly surprising coming from a person who, on the one hand, pays a tearful tribute to the period when Mount Carmel was still a terra incognita where “almost every hilltop was crowned with a ruin” (Oliphant: p. 93), and, on the other hand, encourages house-building on the Carmel (Oliphant: p. 162) and the establishment of a winter resort for consumptive patients in Jericho (Oliphant: p. 326). The importance of the urban transformations in Jerusalem is also recounted by the American Biblical scholar John William McGarvey (1829-1911), who came to Palestine in 1879: “If you leave the Joppa gate and follow the Joppa road, which is the only macadamized road in Palestine, you pass on your right a row of one-story shops, cafés, and dwellings, […] Neat and new residences, many of them with yards in front, after the European style, and all separated by stone fences, continue to line both sides of the road for nearly a mile, […]” (McGarvey: p. 202). And here is Finn witnessing the construction of the first neighbourhood outside the walls of the Old City in the 1860s; her description is tinged with nostalgia, as if mourning a biblical world now bound to disappear: “European residents seem to have increased, and there are new buildings, and even one outside the walls, where formerly silence reigned as around a city of the dead. I believe that the desolate days have passed from Jerusalem for ever; people are beginning to seek her out” (Finn, A Third Year in Jerusalem: p. 221). However, it is in Souvenirs d’un voyage en Terre sainte by the French archaeologist Louis-Félicien de Saulcy (1807-1880) that hostility towards the increasing “westernisation” of Jerusalem is clearly shown: “Farewell to the religious and imposing character of the Jerusalem that I saw at one time, […] Once again, [modern] innovations have spoilt it all. From the Russian city to the Jaffa gate, the old ways have turned into streets packed with cabarets bearing French or Italian names: Café du Jourdain. A La mer Morte, on donne à boire et à manger. Bah! It makes me feel sick”[18] (Saulcy: p. 73).

Overall, prisoners of their romantic idealization of the Holy Land, many Western travellers made deliberate attempts, at least in their narratives, to minimise the positive effects of the growing modernization of Palestine during the second half of the nineteenth century. It would be wrong to assume that they failed to see the suffering and misery in some quarters of Jerusalem, Jaffa and Tiberias. As has been shown, their travel texts do feature descriptions of dirty narrow streets and deteriorating buildings. However, while deploring the living conditions of the urban destitute, Western travellers were disposed to dismiss them either as a variety of obstacles and unpleasant sights traditionally imposed on Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy City – such as those vividly recounted by their medieval predecessors – or as yet another sign of the decline of the Ottoman Empire. When taken in this context, their ambivalent attitude towards industrial and technological advances should not be regarded as the rejection of modernization as a whole, but rather as the fight against its spread in the Levant, and in the Holy Land in particular. To put it another way, in order to live up to Western travellers’ preconceived and simplistic oriental pictures, Palestinian cities needed to remain poor but also joyful, deceitfully tortuous but also colourful, cordial but also firm, Biblical but also accessible to dilettantes, or more concisely still, to be the Other with a capital ‘O’, helping foreign visitors to shape their own identity and locate their place in the world (Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies: pp. 169-170). This is not to say that Western travellers, whatever their background, did not enjoy the modern facilities and means of transport resulting from Western penetration of Palestine. In fact, many travellers tolerated them, even encouraged them, as long as the oriental city and its environs went on to provide them with some sort of an enclosed space in which the familiar and predictable Holy Land was confined, serving as a screen for projecting their desires and fantasies (Said: p. 63).

Guy Galazka

Notes de pied de page

  1. ^ Unless otherwise indicated, all quoted passages from French travel narratives are my own translations from the original French into English.
  2. ^ “Il est juste que la Terre Sainte soit d’un abord difficile et que depuis le moyen âge « aller à Jaffa » soit synonyme d’un danger à courir. Lorsque l’industrie moderne aura réussie à changer ces récifs en un port banal, lorsqu’on mouillera à Jaffa comme au Havre ou à New York, c’en sera fait, je le crains, de l’austère beauté de la Palestine, déjà fortement compromise par quelques tronçons de chemin de fer et les agences des voyageurs”.
  3. ^ “C’est bien ainsi qu’on imaginait le paysage biblique : un sol sec, de rares bouquets de palmiers, des verdures de lauriers autour des fontaines, quelques oliviers festonnant de leurs feuilles d’argent la pureté limpide de l’azure, çà et là un pâtre menant ses chèvres, ou bien une file de chameaux débouchant silencieuse et inattendue, entre deux haies de cactus”.
  4. ^ “Cette Jaffa même, qui jette jusqu’à la plage les petits cubes blancs de ses cases, est nette, précise : la ville la plus pittoresque, la plus orientale que l’on puisse voir sur la Méditerranée”.
  5. ^ “Palmiers aux feuillages flottant en panache, terre très blanche colorée vivement par ce soleil d’orient, ciel bleu intense, profond et lumineux : tout cela est tellement pittoresque”.
  6. ^ “[…] Jaffa, curieuse agglomération de maisons qui frappe d’abord par je ne sais quel aspect immuable.”
  7. ^ “[…] langue bruyante et fortement aspirée”.
  8. ^ “[…] écorche l’oreille du plus sourd et ne semble crée que pour les gens en colère”.
  9. ^ A minaret is a tall tower adjacent to the mosque from which a muezzin summons the faithful to prayer.
  10. ^ “La croix dans les rues de Jérusalem ! La voix de la prière des saints, là où l’on n’entend jamais que celle du muezzin au haut des minarets ! Depuis plus de six cents ans Jérusalem n’a rien vu de ce genre”.
  11. ^ “Voilà un musulman qui convoque les sectateurs de Mahomet à prier, et toi, pécheresse rachetée de Christ, tu ne pries pas le Christ ! Ce sentiment vague a traversé mon cœur, il l’a jeté aux pieds de l’Eternel”.
  12. ^ “Nous suivons encore le chemin de la plaine durant une heure ; alors commence une montée difficile et glissante, au bout de laquelle il nous sera donné de voir Nazareth ! Nos pensées deviennent graves ; notre cœur se remplit d’émotion. Bientôt, le son lointain des cloches se fait entendre ; toute la population se porte à notre rencontre, et la ville de Jésus, de Marie, et de Joseph nous apparaît doucement couchée en amphithéâtre sur le flanc d’une montagne”.
  13. ^ Based on the Ottoman statistics, Justin McCarthy asserts that the population of Palestine at the beginning of the nineteenth century was 350,000, against 411,000 in 1860 and 600,000 in 1900 (McCarthy: p. 26). These figures should be used with caution because of the unreliability of the Ottoman census statistics. For further information, see
  14. ^ “[…] le moindre effort serait ici récompensé par tous les trésors d’une terre impatiente de produire ; mais nul ne s’inquiète de le tenter”.
  15. ^ “Cette ravissante construction, malheureusement déshonorée par les monceaux d’ordures que les habitants viennent dans cesse y déposer, est ainsi ensevelie peu à peu sous des débris de toute nature, mêlés aux plumes de poulet et aux cruches brisées qui caractérisent les immondices des villes de l’Orient”.
  16. ^ “Depuis douze à quinze ans les Templiers allemands sont venus dans la contrée fonder un établissement qui est fort prospère. […] Les habitations de ces étrangers sont bien construites et tenues avec une prospérité remarquable : aussi tranchent-elles fortement, sous ce rapport surtout, avec celles de leurs voisins orientaux. Autour des maisons, de jolis jardins, protégés par des murs de clôture, sont plantés de légumes, d’arbres fruitiers et aussi ornés de fleurs cultivées : ce qui est excessivement rare en Syrie”.
  17. ^ “J’avoue que mon oreille aurait été désagréablement affectée en entendant crier : « Ramlèh, cinq minutes d’arrêt ; – changement de voitures pour la ligne d’Hébron ! » – Décidément, si un pays doit échapper aux vulgarités de la locomotive et à ses coups de sifflets, c’est celui-ci. Malheureusement, ceux qui aiment à se reposer quelquefois loin du bruit fatigant de l’industrie moderne, ne doivent point se faire illusion : ces lignes ferrées se feront d’ici à un très court laps de temps. Les territoires desservis sont si fertiles, si riches, la prospérité de Jérusalem et de Jaffa s’est accrue dans de telles proportions depuis quelques années, qu’il faudra bientôt, bon gré mal gré, en arriver à employer la vapeur”.
  18. ^ “Adieu le caractère religieux et imposant de la Jérusalem que j’avais vue naguère, […] Cette fois encore, les innovations ont tout gâté. De la ville russe à la porte de Jaffa, les anciens chemins sont devenus des rues bordées de cabarets aux enseignes françaises ou italiennes : Café du Jourdain. A la mer Morte, on donne à boire et à manger. – Pouah ! cela donne des nausées.”

Référence électronique

Guy GALAZKA, « BETWEEN TRADITION AND MODERNITY », Astrolabe - ISSN 2102-538X [En ligne], Novembre / Décembre 2007, mis en ligne le 29/07/2018, URL :