The Kia ora coo-ee : the magazine for the ANZACS in the Middle East, 1918
Through the way of the Philistines
Kantara means bridge. In former times, one of the arms of the Nile, branching off somewhere a little north of Cairo and passing by Salhieh,— whence we started on our night march—emptied itself into tne Mediterranean north-east of the ancient town of Pelusium; in fact, it was called the Pelusiac Nile. When going from Kantara to Port Said, you will notice the places where the present Suez Canal cuts through the old Nile formations. The main crossing for ah armies and caravans operating eastward was in tns neighbourhood of Kantara; hence the name.
It was with keen anticipation as to what we might experience at we turned our horses eastward, and entered on our task of Desert work. Where we now found ourselves, the country was not quite so bad and barren as where we had come from. Here, small palm groves were met with every few miles. These "bodys", as they are called, are in hollows and depressions, and frequently are not discernable until one rides right on top of them. We often found them hidden by very high and steep sand ridges, which, encroaching more and more with each succeeding sand-storm, would finally cover the whole plantation. In the most of them the flies were a great nuisance.
Our great trouble was the scarcity of water, which was brought to us on camels, and, of course, was greatly heated by the sun, so that it was only fit to drink when made into tea. A drink of good, cold spring water was an unknown quantity throughout our Desert campaign. We were now guarding what we can safely term the oldest highway in the world. This northern route had ever been the road followed by invading armies, whether going east or west. It was traversed in very ancient times by the Egyptian and Babylonian armies, followed by those of Assyria and Persia, later on by Greeks and Romans, Crusaders and Saracens. Napoleon, with his Frenchmen, crossed and recrossed it. And be it pointed out, it was one of our own people, Captain Sydney Smith, who stopped him at Acre, and finally foiled his ambition of becoming mater of the East —even as it was another Englishman, Wellington, who, humbling Napoleon at Waterloo, saved theWest from his grasp.
Old indeed is this road, for among the many great and noble men that history spreads out before our mental vision as those who have travelled it, loo us Abraham, called the trnend of God, and the great progen tor of our race. Four thousand years have pased since he left his old home in Ur in the Chalrees and became a wanderer. He crossed into Egypt, and, with added wealth, back into Palestine. We shall meet some places intimately connected with him as we go east. Jo eph, ot dream fame, was led as a slave boy across these sandy wastes, on his way to be sold to Potiphar the Egyptian, He also, in after years, re-cro-sed them as a rich and influential man, heading the kingly funeral cortege which conveyed the remains of his father, Jacob, to Palestine, for burial with those of Abranam and Isaac in the cave of Machp la. And there to-day lie the embalmed bodies of the patriachs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with their wives, under the floor of the mosque at Hebron, which has been built over the saced resting place, the cave of Machpela. Held in reverenceby all occupiers of the land, their sanctuary has never been violated. But let me not forget the greatest of all their descendants, Who also, as a little child nd a tugitive, travelled this Wonderful road, The Christ.
So, night after night, and month after month, as we lay under the blue dome of Heaven, pierced with myriads of lights, the vision of the travellers of this old road would rise up before as, and we would picture to oursleves the throb-bing life that many a time had broken, the surrounding stillness by the passing of the hosts that are no more.