My Three Days In Gilead By Elmer U. Hoenshel


By Elmer U. Hoenshel, D. D.,

I love to breathe where Gilead sheds her balm - Page 1
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By Elmer U. Hoenshel, D. D.,

I love to breathe where Gilead sheds her balm; I love to walk on Jordan's banks of palm; I love to wet my foot in Herman's dews; I love the promptings of Isaiah's muse; In Carmel's holy grots I'll court repose, And deck my mossy couch with Sharon's deathless rose. - J. PIERPONT.

Principal of Shenandoah Collegiate Institute and School of Music

In profound gratitude, this little volume is dedicated to the memory of William Barakat of Jerusalem.

My faithful, careful dragoman, who in manhood's prime, yet not many months before his death, guided me in safety, not only during my trying "Three Days in Gilead," but also throughout an extended tour otherwhere in his native land - the Holy Land of my faith.



At last, after waiting twenty leaden-winged years from the time in which a fixed purpose was formed in me to visit the Orient, the realization came. The year that saw the fulfillment of my cherished ambition was definitely determined upon eight summers before it took its place in the calendar of history. Fortune smiled upon my plan. I was ready. My joy was akin to ecstasy.

Imagine my disappointment when, in the month of May of my chosen year, 1900, I learned that no agency would organize a tourist party to move at a time in the summer or autumn that would suit me! There was but one alternative - to travel independent of any organization. This I would do. The decision to do so brought instant and happy relief.

At no time in my period of absence of five months did I meet a single former acquaintance. I planned every move, and held myself in every way responsible for results. The experience I thus gained in the many countries visited I value highly. Not infrequently I found myself in trying situations; but all ended well. To-day, in my inventory of life's rich and helpful experiences, though it were possible for me to do it, I would not eliminate one of these. It was a kind Providence that denied me the luxury of a place in a modern "personally conducted" tourist party.

A few articles descriptive of certain experiences have been written by me for publication. Some themes I have presented on the lecture platform a few hundred times. My auditors, universally, have been kind in their criticisms. Many have been the requests that I write a volume reciting the story of my travels. In response I have steadily refused. Many books on travel have appeared in recent years, possibly too many; but I have seen very little that has been written about the trans-Jordanic highlands. And it is not strange, for, though multitudes of tourists annually visit Palestine, not one person out of a thousand of them ever goes east of the Jordan. And is it worth while? We shall see.

On my trip I tried to identify no biblical site; I tried to locate no city of antiquity; I dug into no mound; I disturbed no ruin. All this I left to the geographer, the historian, and the archaeologist who had preceded me, or who should come after me. True, with the help of my Bible, map, guide-book, and guide, I formed opinions, and was happy in the fitness of some of them; but, in the main, I was content to rest in the conclusions reached by those who had studied scientifically and reverently every hill and valley and ruin in this neglected region.

But my observation and experience no other has had. I know of no other who mapped out or traveled the route chosen by me. I sought and expected much; I found and experienced more. And though eight years have passed since my journeyings in Gilead, yet so fresh is the memory of those days that I need make but slight reference, as I write, to the notes that were then written. Often, in recent years, I have found myself lingering in thought on some high ridge looking out over an extended panorama filled with sacred associations, or silently gazing up into the strangely impressive Oriental sky by night. Even as I write I seem to catch again a perfume-laden breeze, bearing repose to my weary soul. And if the memory of this land seen in its desolation is so refreshing to a foreigner, what must not the possession of the real in the days of its fatness have been to the weary, battle-scarred Israelites who secured permission to abide here!

So, in response to the call of my friends, and with the hope of adding somewhat to the meager fund of information concerning a once famous district, or, at least, to create additional interest in the territory occupied by the tribe of Gad in the days of early allotment, I undertake to tell the story of "My Three Days in Gilead."

Dayton, Virginia, February 20, 1909.


Chapter I. "Waiting at Damascus" Chapter II. "Through Bashan" Chapter III. "Among Bedouins" Chapter IV. "At Gerasa" Chapter V. "Up Into the Mountains" Chapter VI. "By the Watch-Tower" Chapter VII. "Down to the Jordan" Chapter VIII. "At the Bridge"

"Waiting at Damascus"


Damascus! A city that numbers the years of its existence in millenniums; that witnessed in the dawn of history the migration of Abraham as he went out from Ur to a land not known to him, and to whom she gave one of the best of her sons; that sent out the leper, Naaman, to Palestine for healing and received him back whole; that hailed with great preparations the coming of Elisha, who had previously blinded her army at Dothan; that welcomed Saul of Tarsus in his blindness, restored his sight, and sent him, transformed in his life, to transform Asia Minor and classic Europe. Damascus! A city surviving an age-long struggle with the encroaching desert - a struggle that must go on through ages to come; but, as long as the Abana and Pharpar continue to flow, the sands that would bury her forever in oblivion will be changed into a soil of life-giving and life-sustaining fertility sufficient to support her thousands of inhabitants.

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