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The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918

Palestine — Past and Present

page 7

Past and Present

The sudden rise of Palestine under the rule of Solomon has always been somewhat of a puzzle to historians; but I think, in a way, we shall be able to understand if if we consider the history of David, his father and predecessor.

David learned military tactics in a very hard and thorough school. First of all, he was hunted as a fugitive for many years by Saul, the then King, so that he knew every fold and wadi of the hill country of Palestine. Then he fought with the Philistines all over the plains of Gaza, and the vale of Sharon north as far as Acre, and down the Jordan Valley. All this time he was acquiring valuable knowledge of the terrain. Maps, to him, were unnecessary. He knew where to conceal his men in caves, and exactly where water was to be found. Ultimately he gathered a very considerable army around him, of fine fighting men; and when, at last, he came to the throne, he made Jerusalem the capital city of Palestine for the first time.

As I write this article in the sweltering heat of the Valley of the Jordan, I can look up and see the wonderful country of Ammon, the mountains of Moab and the far blue hazy stretch of Edom, as rich a stretch of small kingdoms as ever existed. David writes in the

Psalms of these countries, all of which, as king, he conquered. "The cattle on a thousand hills", he owned the lot by conquest, as well as the grain.

The Kings of Ammon, Moab, and Edom had amassed enormous wealth in gold and silver from the sale of their produce down the Gulf of Akabar to Arabia and Sheba (we have all heard of the Queen of that country). The loot that was carried from thesecountries by David was brought across the Jordan, up the old road we all know so well, and deposited in "storehouses" in Jerusalem. Large numbers of wallads were also brought back to work on public buil-dings, to build the "houses" to store the loot: so that when, at last, David handed over the Kingdom to Solomon as a going concern, all his military successes were embodied in "indemnities" as a result of conquest, as follows:—

1.In wealth: Gold, silver, timber, brass, etc.
2.In labour: Captured inhabitants from Ammon, Moab, and Edom.
3.In Taxation: Yearly tribute in cattle, wheat, sheep, camels and asses.

Philistia, of course, provided fruits and Huts and olives. Is it surprising that we should come across little bits of "swank" in some of the Psalms? There are, indeed, many such:

"Moab is my wash-pot": Yes! he wiped it out as clean as any bint would with a wet cloth to-day.

"Over Edom will I cast out my shoes'': Now he could treat with contempt this mighty country!

"Philistia..... I triumph": And this was the crowning triumph of all.

We can picture David, at last, walking around his palace and gazing at all points of the compass from the apex of the hill country of Judaea, and writing some of these familiar Psalms, as he looked over the country he had conquered, and now owned by conquest.

When Solomon at length started to build the Temple and all its courts, we can hardly imagine the bustle, and armies of slave-workmen. The huge blocks of stone exposed in the Jewish court of weeping, now 3000 years old, show a knowledge of handling thess monoliths which must have been gained from Egyptian masons. Jachin and Boags, two immensely tall bronze pillars, were cast in the Jordan Valley, in clay selected by workmen from the North. The gold was beaten into thin sheets and used instead of wall paper. Two stone towers of enormous height were raised, the foundations of which await our excavations.

Solomon's marriage relations were some-what obscure, and in these days of shortage of paper it would be almost impossible to tabulate them. But one event stands out prominently; he well and truly married the daughter of Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt; and with her Solomon received as a dowry the City of Geser, the ruins of which we see crowning a hill to our right as we travel from Ramleh to Latrone; and thus the last possession of a foreign power was handed over to the King, and "Solomon in all his glory" stands out as one of the wost won-derful figures in History.

But all this "glory" depended on, and was the result of, bitter fighting and cruel in-demnities. The brilliancy of the star which suddenly shone upon us a few weeks ago, and then paled away into obscurity, was the result of a violent collision between certain heavenly bodies in space, resulting in friction and intense heat which could only last for a certain limited time. So one might define the period of "glory" under the rule of Solomon, which came to a sudden end when he passed out, and the whole country, revolting under the threatened taxation of Rehoboham, sank into a chaotic state of contending parties, which were ultimately siezed and taken into captivity themselves.

When Our Lord referred to this period of "glory" that the Jews were always long-ing for, he did it by takingas an illustration one of the beautiful flowers of Palestine, and saying that "Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these." And we know that the lily has always stood as an emblem of purity.

The Temple of Herod, which was the third Temple erected on the space known as the "Haram", was far more extensive than any previous building. It was in these courts that Our Lord, in his infancy, was presented. Recently a very in-teresting model has been construct-ed of the Temple of this period; and by means of this we are able to identify, within a few yards, the very spot where old Simeon uttered the familiar words of the Nunc Ditmittis, "Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace". The spot which tradition says was the home of Simeon, not far from Jerusalem, and a mile west of the Bethlehem road, was, until re-cently, the residence of the Greek Archimandrite of all Palestine. We have recently taken over this residence, with its beautiful terrac-ed gardens, as a convalescent rest home lor soldiers on this front. On the road from Latrone to Jerusalem, when we approach the Holy City, we see on the right, up among the hills, the clean garden town of Ain Karem. It was here that the Virgin Mary met her cousin Eliza-beth and the Priest Zacharias. Here it was that the Virgin uttered the emancipation song of all womanhood, in the words of the Magnificat, " My soul doth magnify the Lord. All generations shall call me Blessed"; andZacharias, addressinghisinfantson John (The Baptist), uttered the "Benedictus", "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel

And thou child shall be called the Prophet of the Highest". I wonder how many of our lads, as they rode past this beautiful mountain village, perched up so high on the hillside, knew the wonderful associations it possessed.