Biblical Archaeology Review 33:5, September/October 2007

Past Perfect: The Frightful Road to Jericho

By Henry Van Dyke

Biblical Archaeology Review

Diplomat, clergyman, Princeton professor, prolific writer and poet, Henry van Dyke (1852–1933) traveled worldwide. Passionate about nature, the meliorist’s journey across the Holy Land was the “epitome of his whole outdoor philosophy.”1 He camped his way (with his wife, Ellen, and friends Dr. and Mrs. John Knox McLean) from Jerusalem to Damascus, covering the valleys of the Dead Sea to the mountains of Samaria, and his “impressions of travel in body and spirit” were published in Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land in 1908. The book was dedicated to his friend Howard Crosby Butler, professor of archaeology and art at Princeton.

Following is an excerpt from van Dyke’s book where he describes the much-maligned road from Jerusalem to Jericho:

To this day, at the tables d’hôte of Jerusalem the name of Jericho stirs up a little whirlwind of bad stories and warnings.

Last night we were dining with friends at one of the hotels, and the usual topic came up for discussion.

“That Jericho road is positively frightful,” says a British female tourist in lace cap, lilac ribbons and a maroon poplin dress, “the heat is most extr’ordinary!”

“No food fit to eat at the hotel,” grumbles her husband, a rosy, bald-headed man in plaid knickerbockers, “no bottled beer; beastly little hole!”

“A voyage of the most fatiguing, of the most perilous, I assure you,” says a little Frenchman with a forked beard. “But I rejoice myself of the adventure, of the romance accomplished.”

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.