ADVENTURES IN THE HOLY LAND
Mr. D. D. Kimmel, one of the Cleveland sponsors of Yogoda, is a very earnest and sincere seeker after the spiritual realities of life. He has seen life in all its phases, and has lifted himself out of ordinary circumstances into the presidentship of the Midland Bank of Cleveland. In the following article, Mr. Kimmel tells some of his recent experiences in the Holy Land, as reported by Mr. Marshall R. Hall of the "Cleveland Times":
Kissed by two kings in as many days, visitor at a monastery that stands on the spot where Moses delivered the Ten Commandments to the Children of Israel, guest of a priest whose domicile held the skulls of 2,000 of his predecessors and the skulls of 5,000 monks under them, and then forced to interrupt a journey through the Holy Land because of raiding Wahabis of the Bedouin tribes, are a few of the varied episodes just experienced by D. D. Kimmel, president of the Midland bank , and the Rev. J. H. Goldner of the Euclid Avenue Christian church.
Mr. Kimmel, accompanied by the pastor, spent a lively and interesting two months in Palestine, Egypt, and trans-Jordania. He survived heat that killed camels, fled for 27 consecutive hours in an automobile to escape Wahabis that raided on the trail behind them, and he reviewed the historic scene of Biblical history that every person at some time has wished to visit and know.
With Dr. Goldner, Mr. Kimmel left Cleveland in March, planning a trip through the olden Land of Goshen, over the route followed by the children of Israel when they fled under Moses from the oppression of the Egyptians, 36 centuries ago. The route as planned would carry them into Jerusalem. Had it not been for the war-like Wahibis, the itinerary would have been carried out as planned, but the fates that scatter the "best laid plans" intervened, and now Mr. Kimmel, bearing a healthy tan engendered by the blistering heat of the Holy Land deserts, is back at his desk with the memories of a truly marvelous experience behind him.
Mr. Kimmel and Dr. Goldner left Suez by boat, thence journeyed to Tor, on the Sinaitic peninsula, where they picked up their caravan and their dragoman from Cairo. Along a great caravan route, which for hundreds of years was the best-known road between Mespotamia and Egypt, they traveled, through heat that blistered and scared; heat that dried their skins and became so intolerable that some of their camels died. Turning south from this route, they reached the foot of Mt. Sinai, one of the most famous heights in all history.
It was here that Mr. Kimmel and Dr. Goldner felt the surge of ancient years, saw time roll back and reveal a world of thousands of years ago, for they were guests in a Greek Orthodox monastery that stands within the walls of a huge granite fort, built nearly 1,400 years ago by order of Justinian.
This edifice stands on the exact spot where the Children of Israel pitched their encampment and waited while Moses held his fast upon Mr. Sinai. It was on this spot, too, that the golden calf which stirred Moses to wrath was built, and it was here that the venerable ancient prophet delivered the Ten Commandments. The walls of the fort hold the spring on which the Children of Israel depended for water, and the travelers drank from the same bubbling fount, therefore, that once quenched the thirst of Moses himself.
Mr. Kimmel said the abbot in charge was 93 and had lived at the scene all his life, with the exception of three days. The monks under the abbot knew no more of the world than a little child, but they were extremely hospitable and desirous of pleasing their guests.
Discussing the visit, Mr. Kimmel said:
"They showed us what they believed to be the oldest library in the world, priceless manuscripts on papyrus and sheepskin, among them fragments of the New Testament, and monkish legends without end. It was from the same monastery that, in 850, was recovered the Codex Sinaiticus, the second oldest copy of the New Testament, now in Leningrad.
"Here, too, they showed us the crypt, a stone building with four-foot granite walls, where their predecessors for hundreds of years had been laid to rest. The skulls of the priests were set about the walls and we estimated that there could not be fewer than 2,000 of them. The skulls of the monks made a great pyramid that must have contained 5,000 more—and the leg, arm and body bones were stacked up like cordwood.
"In one corner they showed us Saint Stephanus himself, the founder of the monastery. He died in a cave up the mountain in the year 581; died, crouched down in his black robe, with a great iron strap, which he wore by way of penance, about his waist. They brought him down from the hill and set him in a corner of the crypt, and he sits there yet."
On the summit of Mt. Sinai, where Moses spoke with God, stands a little chapel, and Mr. Kimmel and Dr. Goldner climbed up to this. Here, they found again that time rolled back and they apparently were standing in a life that existed 30 centuries ago.
From Mr. Sinai, the travelers had planned on following the route of the Children of Israel in the flight out of Egypt, and it was then that the raiding Wahabis interupted the journey and caused a change in the itinerary. These tribesmen, at war with their fellow tribes, became obstreperous again and the contemplated journey onward was found out of the question. Having no desire to be victims of a desert massacre, Mr. Kimmel and Dr. Goldner changed their plans. In this connection, Mr. Kimmel said:
"We had no choice but to go back and make the journey to Jerusalem by rail. First, we had to reach a railroad. Tor was three days from Sinai, but there would be no boat there for weeks, so we had to strike across country, and it was hard work. There is but one waterhole on the way, and they told us it was an eight-day trip. By promising them an extra pound a day we made it in six, but camels died on the way in the awful heat, and sometimes we thought we would.
"When we got to Jerusalem they told us we could not get to Petra in any way. The American Express company agents laughed at us, and Cook's said we might try if we'd hire an armed guard of 10. We had a letter to Abdulla, king of Trans-Jordania, given us by an Arab we met on the Leviathan, going over, and we knew Petra was within his boundaries. We got a new American automobile and set forth. It was a 100-mile drive to Rabboth-Ammon, the capital of Trans-Jordania, and we drove it in a morning, following first the motor road to Jordan and beyond that the military road blasted through the mountains by Allenby's troops during the late war.
"Ten miles out of Rabboth-Ammon we were halted by a cavalry squadron, but our letter to the king got us past, and when he returned from a review of his troops, he gave us a most gratifying reception, and invited us to lunch with him. His younger son sat at table with us, and we carried on an animated conversation through interpreters.
"The king of Trans-Jordania, Abdulla, is the second son of Hussein, sheriff of Mecca, direct descendent of the prophet Mohammed and, since the war, king of the Hedjaz. Abdulla's brother Feisul, designated king of Syria, until expelled by the French, is now king of Iraq (Mesopotamia), and the oil fields so much in dispute. Naturally, when Abdulla offered to show us pictures of his father we were politely interested. When he asked if we would care to see the old gentleman, we made no secret of our eagerness.
"At 4 the next morning we left Rabboth-Ammon by automobile, preceded by a big Italian car which carried Abdulla's oldest son and a brother-in-law, and escorted by two cars filled with soldiers. It was 11 in the evening before we left our machine and were led through a stone archway into a walled garden. Soldiers led us to a tent, lifted the flap to reveal a floor strewn with priceless rugs, walls draped with brocaded silks, and all the splendor that the reader of the 'Thousand and One Nights' might dream. There was King Hussein himself, about the finest looking old gentleman that I had ever seen. He was all in flowing white save for the gold and green about his turban, and I never hope to see a more magnificent white beard. He grasped us by the hand when our dragoman gave us his name and drawing us to him, kissed us three times each upon the cheek.
"Next morning, while we talked, three messages were brought to him and presently he dismissed us with courtesy, but a surprising suddenness, and we started back for Rabboth-Ammon with a doubled escort.
"On the way we met Abdulla of Trans-Jordania with a whole string of motor cars loaded with soldiers and guessed what the trouble was. The Wahabi were raiding across our path, but fortunately they passed behind us. It was early morning before we reached Rabboth-Ammon, but Abdulla's ministers had orders never to let us stay, inasmuch as Arabs are in the good graces of the great powers and never care to take chances with the lives or welfare of Occidentals. We drove onto Jerusalem, 27 hours' ride in all, and were half dead when we got there.
"Reuter telegrams posted in Cook's office, told us that at that very hour the Wahabi, under Ibn-Sayud, were besieging Petra. They could not have arrived there many hours after our driver had pointed out the site, some miles off the main road we followed."
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