Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Palestine, 1792

From The New Universal Gazetteer; or, Geographical Dictionary. [With] Atlas,  By Clement Cruttwell, 1792, under the entry for Palestine:

The population of this country is also greatly diminished; but at present no certain calculation can be given of it, as the number of inhabitants continually varies, on account of the Bedouin Arabs, who always come hither at certain periods from Arabia, and the country beyond the Jordan, in. order to feed their flocks.

If this country has lost its ancient splendour by the destruction of its cities, and the decrease of its population, it still retains its natural advantages, being beautifully variegated with mountains, hills, and delightful plains.

Its climate is exceedingly good. It seldom rains here ; but this deficiency is supplied by most abundant dews. The cold is never excessive; and if the summer heats are great, they are, however, mitigated by a periodical breeze, which renders them supportable.

Palestine abounds with every thing almost that is useful or necessary for the life of man. It produces wheat, barley, pulse of all kinds, fruits, wine, and oil, in such plenty, that though a part only of the country is cultivated, great quantities of these articles are distributed in the neighbouring provinces of Syria, and even transported to Europe, particularly wheat, barley, and pulse.

With regard to domestic and wild animals, it produces various kinds, many of which are not known in Europe. Cotton grows bere in great perfection, particularly in Samaria and Galilee. Among its productions may be reckoned also silk, tobacco, drugs, and aromatic herbs. The fields and woods, m the proper seasons, abound with flowers of every species ; but notwithstanding those advantages which it enjoys, all Palestine is not cultivated with the fame care as the vast plains of Galilee and Samaria. I observed that the mountainous country towards Jerusalem was more barren than any other part; but there is no reason to suppose; that it has always been in the same condition. The cause of its being at present neglected is, the want of population; for the inhabitants have abandoned the mountains, and retired to the plains, where agriculture is attended with less labour, and where they find mor econveniencies for their cattle.

Even in Galilee and Samaria there are many parts still uncultivated; but, as they abound with grass, they afford pasture to the cattle, which form the whole riches of the Arabs. These people, therefore, would quarrel much sooner for a sheep-fold than for a large tract of country; and, indeed, the only wars which they carry on are undertaken in order that they may rob each other of their oxen, camels, sheep, horses, or goats.