Orthodox Church of the Mother of God

Joy of all the Sorrowful - Mays Landing, NJ (f. 1966)

Palestine

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Palestine

The land of Palestine, upon whose soil our Saviour lived, is comprised of a comparatively small strip of land, about 150 miles long and 80 miles wide, situated along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

In the north of Palestine, on the slopes of Mt. Lebanon, lies Galilee. Picturesque hills, green pastures, and innumerable gardens make Galilee the most beautiful part of Palestine. Its chief adornment is the Sea of Galilee, which is also known as the Lake of Gennesaret or Tiberias. It is more than twelve miles in length, and a little more than five miles in width. At the time of the Saviour, the shores of this sea were covered with lush vegetation. Palm trees were growing there, along with vineyards, fig trees, almond trees, and flowering oleander. Beautiful cities, Capernaum, Tiberias, Chorazin, and Bethsaida, situated on the banks of this sea, were not large, but densely populated. The inhabitants led simple and industrious lives. They cultivated every plot of land, and engaged in commerce and various trades, the chief of which was fishing.

To the south of Galilee lies Samaria. The inhabitants of Samaria, the Samaritans, were in constant conflict with the Jews. They even built themselves a separate temple on Mount Gerizim in order to avoid going to Jerusalem.

The largest part of Palestine, to the south of Samaria, is Palestine at the Time of the Saviour called Judea. The western part of it is level plain, interrupted by small streams flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. This plain gradually rises toward the east and is bordered by the Judean hills; from ancient times it was famous for its fertility. The slopes of the Judean hills are dressed in green, covered with whole groves of olive trees; more distant and higher mountains become rockier and more dismal. Among these hills is the great city of Jerusalem, the capital of Judea and of all Palestine.

The largest river in Palestine is the Jordan. The Jordan begins in the mountains of Lebanon in the form of sparkling mountain streams. Downstream in the valley these streams form a single river which spills into and forms the Sea of Galilee. From this sea, the Jordan flows out in the form of a fast wide river with low, green banks; at that time this was called the Valley of the Jordan. Approaching Judea, the banks of the Jordan become higher and drier, composed of bare rocks, devoid of any vegetation. Only the backwaters along the Jordan are thickly covered with reeds. There crocodiles swim, and wild beasts hide. This was the Jordan desert in which John the Baptist lived and preached. At the end of its course, the Jordan flows into a most wild and uninhabited country and empties into the Dead Sea.

Now we call the land of Palestine the Holy Land, since it was sanctified by the life of the Saviour.


(from: The Law of God by Fr. Seraphim Slobodskoy)

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