Mark Twain: The Innocents Abroad


About an hour's ride over a rough, rocky road, half flooded with water, and through a forest of oaks of Bashan, brought us to Dan.

From a little mound here in the plain issues a broad stream of limpid water and forms a large shallow pool, and then rushes furiously onward, augmented in volume. This puddle is an important source of the Jordan. Its banks, and those of the brook are respectably adorned with blooming oleanders, but the unutterable beauty of the spot will not throw a well-balanced man into convulsions, as the Syrian books of travel would lead one to suppose.

From the spot I am speaking of, a cannon-ball would carry beyond the confines of Holy Land and light upon profane ground three miles away. We were only one little hour's travel within the borders of Holy Land--we had hardly begun to appreciate yet that we were standing upon any different sort of earth than that we had always been used to, and see how the historic names began already to cluster! Dan--Bashan--Lake Huleh-- the Sources of Jordan--the Sea of Galilee. They were all in sight but the last, and it was not far away. The little township of Bashan was once the kingdom so famous in Scripture for its bulls and its oaks. Lake Huleh is the Biblical "Waters of Merom." Dan was the northern and Beersheba the southern limit of Palestine--hence the expression "from Dan to Beersheba." It is equivalent to our phrases "from Maine to Texas"-- "from Baltimore to San Francisco." Our expression and that of the Israelites both mean the same--great distance. With their slow camels and asses, it was about a seven days' journey from Dan to Beersheba---say a hundred and fifty or sixty miles--it was the entire length of their country, and was not to be undertaken without great preparation and much ceremony. When the Prodigal traveled to "a far country," it is not likely that he went more than eighty or ninety miles. Palestine is only from forty to sixty miles wide. The State of Missouri could be split into three Palestines, and there would then be enough material left for part of another--possibly a whole one. From Baltimore to San Francisco is several thousand miles, but it will be only a seven days' journey in the cars when I am two or three years older. --[The railroad has been completed since the above was written.]-- If I live I shall necessarily have to go across the continent every now and then in those cars, but one journey from Dan to Beersheba will be sufficient, no doubt. It must be the most trying of the two. Therefore, if we chance to discover that from Dan to Beersheba seemed a mighty stretch of country to the Israelites, let us not be airy with them, but reflect that it was and is a mighty stretch when one can not traverse it by rail.

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