Serial: Scribner’s Magazine Volume 0013 Issue 3 (March, 1893)
Title: The Jaffa And Jerusalem Railway [pp. 289-301]
Author: Merrill, Selah 18,
Collection: Journals: Scribner's Magazine (1887 - 1896)
Description for a trip while passing by Battir in August 1892.
"Seven miles farther brings us to a station called Deir Aban. We are now near the mountains, but the valley is still broad and rich, and the thirty-one miles of plain between this point and Jaffa suggest what the country under a better government might become.
Here crossed the Roman road leading between Nicopolis or Amwas and Eleutheropolis, now Beit Jibrin.
“A few minutes beyond Deir Aban we find our vision suddenly impeded in every direction by bold and rugged mountains. The ride of fourteen miles to the next station, Bittir, is through wild and romantic scenery, of which even Switzerland might be proud. The gorges, the cliffs, the peaks rising skyward, the masses of broken rock, the deep cuttings for the road – bed, the bridges, the few clusters of olive-trees deep in the valley or clinging to a little earth far up on the mountain side, make a picture in which there is an endless charm.
In the Alps there is in winter an abundance of ice which helps to disintegrate the rocks, and which forms streamlets of beauty; in the waterless Judean hills the rocks look old and time-worn, barren and dry.
In the Alps the patches of earth in valley or on mountain side are made fruitful and attractive by untiring and skilful industry ; in the Judean hills neglect is everywhere apparent and the result is desolation.
Were the same kind of skill and persistent energy spent here every year that is spent in the Alps, this aspect of desolation would in a large measure be removed. At the same time, unassisted nature does all in her power to remedy these defects, and those travelers who are so fortunate as to see Palestine in the spring may think the description just given to be overdrawn.
At Bittir the mountains recede or bend round in such a way as to form a vast natural
amphitheatre in the middle of which the town is situated. Below the village are large vegetable gardens for supplying the Jerusalem market—gardens most attractive to the eye in this wornout land. The view down the gorge to the west and up the valley for miles to the north, its superb air, and the fact that its fountain affords an unfailing water-supply, mark this as the place for a summer hotel—the delightful retreat of Jerusalemites from their city's stifling and dusty atmosphere. Rising far above the town is a long oval ridge covered with ancient ruins, admirable as a place for defence, and called the Ruin of the Jews. It is the traditional site of the city and stronghold Bethar, where, in the second revolt against Rome, A.D. 132–136, Bar Cochat and his brave followers made a memorable resistance against the Roman troops, but at last were compelled to yield, the famous Hebrew patriot himself perishing in the final slaughter.
Eight miles farther still, through picturesque scenery, and we shall be at our journey's end.
When we entered the mountains near Deir Aban, we were in the great Wady Es Surar, which toward the sea is called Nahr Rubin, and north-west of Jerusalem Wady Hannina. It is not uncommon for a valley to be called by different names in the different sections of its course. A little more than half-way to Bittir we turned into Wady Es Sikkeh, although it appears to be a continuation of Wady Es Surar, and from Bittir to Jerusalem, Es Sikkeh is called Wady El Werd— the Valley of Roses—on account of the great quantity of roses that are raised there.
In this valley, within a distance of four miles, there are three copious springs of the freshest, sweetest water that the country affords. What a pity that it cannot be brought to Jerusalem, since it could be done at a moderate expense."
Description of Battir village included the oldest paint for Battir which was drawn in August 1892 by V. Bérard “View from Bittir looking North up the Valley of Roses toward Jerusalem, showing the Bittir Station”
You can find the four oldest documented images for Battir since 1892 on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/user/Laitharaj
Battir, is through wild and romantic scenery, of which even Switzerland might be proud.
By L Al Araj
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