The Sea of Galilee Mission of
the Free Church of Scotland
Chapter VI. The History of the
I. DESCRIPTION OF THE
WE read on more than one
occasion that Jesus came down from Nazareth to Capernaum. As He reached the
edge of the plateau, and began to descend towards the lake, He would get a
glimpse of the beautiful city of Tiberias away to His right, with- its
stately buildings, its towers, and walls. The most outstanding feature of
the scene would be the two heights overlooking the town — that on the west
crowned by Herod's palace, while on the north his massive castle presided
over the city.
To-day the traveller may
traverse many of the paths that Jesus trod. He may, like Him, descend from
Nazareth to the lake. But on reaching the brow of the hill, and looking down
on the blue waters of the lake, with the little modern town
of Tiberias nestling on its
shore, what arrest the eye are the beautiful Mission Buildings of the Free
Church of Scotland.
These are three in number.
The farthest out from the town, and close to the old city wall, is that
occupied by our clerical missionary, Mr. Soutar. In the centre is Dr.
Torrance's house. The one nearest the town is the hospital.
The main entrance to the
hospital grounds is on the south side, next the town. The hospital itself
fronts the lake. It is an oblong, grey-stone building, with tiled roof. At
the southern end of the building is a spacious out - patient waiting-
room—cool, light, and many-windowed. The white walls are relieved by Arabic
and Hebrew texts and pictures illustrative of the Prodigal Son, Blind
Bartinaes, Christ Walling on the Sea, etc.
The rooms on the northern
ground-floor have been set apart for the staff. The hospital sitting-room,
which faces the lake, opens on a pillared and arched veranda and open
balcony. Along the edge of this runs a row of flowers. In front of the
sitting-room windows a row of trees—lemon, apple, orange—has been planted,
which will in a year or two afford grateful shade, and greatly add to the
beauty of the hospital.
Ascending the stairs, and
turning to the right, we enter the male ward. This contains eight beds and
two cots. At one end of the ward is a picture of Moses lifting up the
Serpent in the Wilderness, while at the other is a representation of the
Conversion of Paul. Other pictures illustrate Daniel in the Den of Lions,
Jesus saving Peter when Sinking in the Waves, etc. There are also several
texts painted on cloth by Mrs. Torrance in Hebrew, and Arabic, and English.
Next to the male ward are two
small rooms, one for the male attendant, and the other fitted up with two
beds for Private patients.
The northern part of the
building is occupied by the female ward. In this ward there are eight beds
and four cots. The side windows look across to the upper end of the lake and
to snowy Hermon. On the wall opposite the door is a handsome memorial tablet
with the inscription:—
MRS. BARBARA NICOLSON OR
THE REVEREND JOHN MILNE,
FOR MANY YEARS A FAITHFUL MINISTER OF CHRIST AT PERTH, SCOTLAND, AND
CALCUTTA, IN INDIA, BEQUEATHED A SUM FOR THE FURTHERANCE OF THE CAUSE OF
CHRIST, ESPECIALLY AMONG THE JEWS. HER TRUSTEES HAVE DEVOTED £1,000 OF THIS
SUM TO THE BUILDING OF THIS WARD.
Above this a portrait of
Queen Victoria testifies to the national loyalty of the mission.
The pictures in this ward
include those of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, Little Samuel, Christ and the
Woman of Samaria. But what has called forth the greatest interest and
sympathy is a representation of the Raising of the Widow's Son at Nain.
'Walking from the one ward to
the other, we pass through a large open "leewan" or veranda, shady and airy,
and greatly appreciated by the patients, especially in the extreme heat of
Opening off the leewan, and
midway between the two wards, is the central ward-set apart chiefly for
Moslem patients. It is provided with four beds, and on the walls are several
pictures, the most noticeable of which represents Abraham and his son Isaac
proceeding to the place of sacrifice.
Under the ground veranda is a
capacious cistern, so that there is an independent water supply. On the
southern wall of the hospital, above the balcony of the male ward, is hung
the hospital bell, a gift from Mr. Winter of Carnoustie.
The hospital leewan commands
a very fine view of the town and lake. In front, the mission property
to the water's edge; and on
it are three beautiful palms, the finest in the district. Close to the water
is part of the old city wall, with a fine old ruined tower at each end. One
of these towers belongs to the mission. Dancing on the water, about fifty
yards from the shore, fastened to a buoy, is the Clyde, a fine little cutter
sent out from Glasgow, the gift of friends there. Away to the right are the
Greek convent, the Mohammedan mosque, and the town stretching along the
shore; while still farther to the right, and about a mile beyond the town,
are the famous Hot Baths of Tiberias. Right opposite, on the other side of
the lake, is the rugged gorge of Gamala, the site of one of the strongest
Jewish fortresses finally taken by Titus; while on the sky-line is Aphek,
where Benhadad and his Syrians were defeated by Ahab. Farther to the left
(still on the opposite side) is the `alley of Gergesa; and about midway
between Gamala and Gergesa
is the steep place down which
the herd of swine ran violently into the sea and were drowned. Looking to
the left, we can see, at the head of the lake, the plain where Christ is
supposed to have fed the five thousand. Farther round, toward us, is a white
house marking the site of Capernaum; and nearer us still can be made out the
site of Bethsaida; while in the north, towering above all, is the splendid,
snow-capped ridge of Hermon.
II. THE OPENING OF THE
The hospital was formally
opened on January 1, 1894. Towards the end of the previous week, Dr.
Torrance sent out invitations to the rabbis and leading Jews (Ashkenazim and
Sephardim), to the Latin monk, to the Greek priest and Greek Catholic
priest, and to all the Turkish officials. The invites, Lions to the Jews
were in Hebrew, and were beautifully written by the Jewish scribe. Those to
the officials were in Arabic, and invited them to the opening of the
"Hospital of the Scottish Evangelical Church in Tiberias," which had been
erected "under the shadow of His Majesty the Sultan."
When New-Year's morning
arrived, it was dull and cloudy and rainy, and we had many forebodings. In
this country, if it rains, no one ventures abroad if he can help it.
However, we went on with our preparations, and our fears were disappointed.
Mrs. Torrance and her helpers decorated the
wards and upper balcony
nicely with palm branches. Here and there were fastened olive and orange
branches, with the fruit clustering among the leaves, while pots of plants,
lilies, etc., were tastefully arranged about the balcony. On the side of the
hospital next the town was displayed a Turkish flag, while other two hung
from the. front balcony. Over the staircase was suspended the word "Welcome"
in English and Arabic. The seats for the guests were arranged in the open
balcony upstairs; while in a frame over the central door, in front of the
chairs set for the officials, was the Turkish firman for the hospital, with
the royal signature and seal.
The hour fixed for the
opening was three o'clock (ten o'clock Turkish time). About the first to
arrive was the Greek Catholic priest, in his black robes and high, square,
black headpiece. He came about half-past two, and proceeded to pry about. He
seemed to be in rather a touchy frame of mind. About three o'clock the
leading Sephardim Jews arrived, and were received by Dr. Torrance in our
sitting-room; then they were conducted upstairs and assigned seats on the
right of the balcony. Some of them were grey-headed, patriarchal-looking old
Jews, with long grizzly beards. About half-past three the arrival of the
government party was announced. At their head came the governor, a
black-bearded, pleasant-looking man, dressed in black, with a red fez.. He
had his throat well muffled up, as he was invalided and confined to the
house, but came out on this occasion to show his respect for Dr. Torrance,
whose patient he was. Close behind the governor came the kadi, or judge, in
his long black robe and white turban. Accompanying him was the mufti, who is
a sort of official Turkish ecclesiastic, also distinguished by a white
turban. These and the rest of the officials were conducted to chairs facing
Dr. Torrance and the firman. As soon as they were seated, we sang a hymn of
praise in Arabic.
Then Dr. Torrance rose and
said that Christ had enjoined his followers to go into all the world and
heal the sick and preach the gospel. In obedience to that command, this
hospital had been erected. He was sure they would all agree with him that
there was but one God; and if one God, surely we should all be one people.
The best way for us to be one people is by loving each other and helping
each other; and when can this be done better than in time of sickness? He
had to thank the Sultan and the government for their gracious assistance in
granting a firman. He would now call upon Mr. Soutar to lead us in prayer;
and though they would not understand his words, they would understand the
feelings of his heart, which would be those of praise and thankfulness to
Mr. Soutar then prayed
shortly in English. Then Dr. Torrance rose again, and said he would, now
request the governor, as the representative of the Sultan, to open the male
The governor at once rose
with a very pleased expression, and was presented with the key on a little
salver. He was conducted to the door of the ward by Niccola Effendi, an
influential Greek merchant, and a warm friend of the mission. He unlocked
the door and threw it open, and then returned to his seat and sat down again
with an unmistakable smile of gratification on his face.
Mrs. Torrance then performed
a similar duty with respect to the female ward. Then the whole audience
rose, and while the Turks stood with heads bowed and hands raised, the mufti
solemnly repeated the official prayer to God (Allah) for the Sultan, closing
with a few words of prayer for the hospital.
Then some speeches were
delivered, beginning in each case with praise of the Sultan, and going on to
speak in glowing terms of Dr. Torrance, and of "the good Scottish charitable
association," and of "the splendid hospital of which they had heard, but
which they now saw with their own eyes," etc., etc.
Tea, coffee, and cake were
then handed round, and the proceedings terminated with an inspection of the
The governor and his
followers seemed much interested and pleased with all they saw. They went
off in the greatest good - humour, well pleased with themselves and
everybody else. Then Dr. Torrance conducted several of the Jewish rabbis
(Sephardim) round the premises, after which they and the rest of the company
departed with universal expressions of good-will.
The Latin monk did not put in
an appearance for personal reasons, though he is quite friendly, excusing
himself on the ground of ill-health.
III. METHODS OF WORK.
At an early hour patients may
be seen wending their way towards the hospital. Entering the out-patient
room, they make for the dispenser's window. Here they are each provided with
a card bearing their name and number. By the possession of these cards—for
which a very small nominal charge is made—they become out-patients of the
hospital. The dispenser then makes out prescription papers corresponding to
the cards, and these he sets aside for the use of the doctor.
At a fixed hour the hospital
- bell is tolled, and half an hour later a second bell announces that the
time for giving in names is over. By this time the waiting-room is usually
Inside there is a motley
gathering, some on the floor, some on benches; mothers squatting with their
infants; here and there a small child crawling about on all-fours; Fellaheen
from the surrounding country, or Bedouins from the desert, with their black
"kafeeyahs" (head-dresses) and their coarse camel's-hair "abbas;"
black-turbaned Jews with their beards and side-curls; Jewesses with their
heads and brows carefully covered; Arabs of different kinds from the town;
sometimes a Turkish official mixing with the rest;—in short, a small
assembly of "all sorts and conditions of men."
As the missionary enters,
there is a lull in the general conversation. Strangers look curiously at the
"hakim Ingleese " (English doctor), of whom they have heard, or at the
After a passage of Scripture
has been read, it is followed by a short address,, which is probably
interrupted from time to time by questions or comments. Anything of the
nature of a story at once arrests the attention, and Arabs and Jews alike
listen with great interest.
After a short prayer, the
doctor retires into his consulting-room, and the patients are shown in one
by one, in the order in which they have given in their names.
Half of the patients speak
Arabic only, but a large number of the Jews converse in a sort of massacred
German known as "jargon."
Where practicable, a small
charge is made for medicine, as what is paid for is always most valued.
More serious cases are
admitted into the hospital after arrangements have been made through the
While dispensary work is
being carried on, the Scripture reader is present in the waiting-room,
reading or conversing with the patients.
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and
Saturdays are reserved for special cases and operations.
For the indoor hospital work
the doctor is assisted by the matron or lady superintendent, a native nurse,
and a Jewish male nurse.
Ward visits are made in the
morning before the dispensary begins, in the forenoon, and in the evening.
In the afternoons a visit is
paid to the hospital by the Scripture reader.
On Sabbath morning an Arabic
service is held in the outpatient room at ten o'clock, and is attended by
the members of the mission, by the patients and their friends, and by a
number from the town. Benches and chairs are arranged for them, and rugs are
spread on the floor for those who prefer it.
The patients are specially
dressed for the occasion. (For this the dressing-gowns sent out from
Scotland have proved most useful ; the demand, however, is rather in excess
of the supply.)
Those of the patients who can
be moved, but are unable to walk, are carried downstairs and laid on the
mats and rugs prepared for them. The grouping of the patients and their
friends, and the variety of costume, give quite an Oriental picturesqueness
to the scene. This service is very popular with the patients. They look
forward to it, and often specially ask to be allowed to go down to it. They
enjoy the singing of the hymns. The discourse is listened to with great
attention, and is afterwards well discussed and talked over amongst
IV. INSIDE THE WARDS.
The first case admitted into
the wards proved a happy augury of the success of hospital work in
overcoming enmity and opposition. In the spring of 1893, Mr. and Mrs.
Christie' were attacked and robbed at a little village on their way from
Safed to Nazareth. Our first patient was from this same village. His name
was Yakoob. He was brought to the hospital in a state of great emaciation,
with one of his legs ulcerated and gangrenous. He was accompanied by a
undergrown little brother
called Ibrahim. Though the hospital was as yet unfinished, they were in such
a state of utter misery and destitution that Dr. Torrance admitted them
both. Though at first it seemed almost hopeless to think of saving the limb,
after many weeks of good feeding and careful nursing the huge ulcer at last
began to assume a healing aspect. The little brother was pulled safely
through a very severe attack of pneumonia; and by the time they left the
hospital they were both so plump as to be almost unrecognizable. If this
were Dr. Barnardo's hospital, he would have taken a photo on admission and
another on departure, and said, "Look on this picture and on that!" One
thing is certain, that if any of us should happen to be benighted at the
village of Arrabeh, and should be recognized as coming from the hospital at
Tiberias, we should run little risk of attack or robbery, and our reception
would be characterized by a different kind of warmth from that accorded to
our Safed friends on the previous occasion.
In order that the visitor may
get an 'idea of what sort of patients we have in our hospital, we shall take
a walk through the wards. As we approach the door of the male ward, we
suddenly hear a ripple of laughter from within. The cause is not far to
seek. As we enter, another quaint remark from the bed behind the door again
brings a smile to every face. Looking round, we find a grey-haired,
feeble-looking old man sitting up in bed with a merry twinkle in his eyes.
As we turn to speak to him, he seizes our hand and kisses it affectionately.
"How is it, Elias," the doctor asks him, "that you are always so bright? "
Back comes the answer at once, "Praise the Lord! the times are good." What
is his story? Some weeks ago he was journeying from Jerusalem. When
passing near Nablous (the
ancient Shechem), he fell amongst thieves. They stripped him, wounded him
most brutally with their iron-spiked clubs, and departed, leaving him half
dead. He lay unconscious for nearly a whole day. Then by chance some men
came where he was, and took pity on him, and put him on an ass and brought
him to Nazareth. From there lie was brought down to Tiberias, and set down
at our hospital gate. One leg was so smashed and gangrenous that it had to
be amputated, and it was doubtful whether the old man would pull through.
However, he slowly recovered. Though very feeble, and anxious about his
return to his distant home in Aleppo, he has been a constant source of
cheerfulness in the ward, keeping all the other patients amused by his droll
remarks. How many of us in similar circumstances in Scotland would have such
a spirit of cheerfulness and contentment, and be able to praise the Lord
that "the times were good"?
Leaving Elias, our attention
is next caught by a fine-looking old man. His long white beard and side
curls and type of features are unmistakably Jewish. His face lights up, and
he stretches out his hand as we walk towards him. This is Marcus Boruch, a
Roumanian Jew from the town. He is very frail, and suffering from a very
trying and chronic lung complaint. After being only a few hours in the
hospital, he announced that he already felt "a thousand days better." His
gratitude for everything that is done for him, and his constant desire to
help with the others in every way he can, are a great encouragement and
stimulus to doctor and nurses alike.
In one of the beds opposite
is a fair-haired, intelligent-looking Jew. He has been in delicate health
for some time, but is now gaining strength every day. Since his admission he
seems to have taken stock of everything. What seems to impress him greatly
is the contrast between his experience at his own home, where, when he was
ill, sometimes no one came near him for days, and his treatment in this
Christian hospital, where he is cared for in every way. He brought in with
him a well-thumbed Torah, with the Hebrew and Chaldaic in parallel columns.
This, however, was soon laid aside in favour of a copy of a Gospel in
Hebrew. He sleeps badly at night, and if we were to enter the ward about
midnight we would probably find him lying with his head towards the light
poring over the German and Arabic versions of the New Testament, and
comparing them carefully. One night when the doctor was making a ward visit,
Shaniweel was asked what he was reading. He at once began to read aloud most
earnestly the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel. Several patients—Jews and
others—gathered round and listened intently as he went on to read, "And thou
shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."
This was read and listened to without the slightest murmur of dissent.
As we leave the male ward, we
are arrested by angry shouts from the neighbouring room. Looking in we find
Isaac (the male nurse)) vainly endeavouring to give needed medicine or food
to a man stretched on a shake-down on the floor. For every kindly attempt he
is rewarded by a volley of curses. The wretched elan is a native of Tripoli.
He is dying, and has been brought to the Christian hospital. Everything
possible has been done for him, yet he has never expressed one word of
gratitude. In such a case there is little to encourage except the words and
example of the Master who, in spite of continued opposition and ingratitude,
went about continually doing good, and even gave His life for those who
Fortunately such cases are
rare, and the scene is changed as we enter the middle ward. The occupant of
the first bed sits up as we approach. His swarthy countenance, piercing dark
eyes, and long coil of black hair proclaim him a genuine child of the
desert. This is Derwish, the son of a well-to-do Bedouin chief in the Hauran.
As he seizes our hand, lie calls down blessings on our head. It is now a few
weeks sinpe he arrived at our out-patient dispensary. He had been suffering
for a long time, and all treatment had been unavailing. He was admitted into
the hospital, and Dr. Torrance performed an operation, which was necessarily
followed by a considerable amount of pain. While he was still suffering
considerably, and before it could be known whether the operation was to be
successful or not, his father and three brothers came to visit him. They
made a most picturesque group—fine stalwart fellows in their Arab dress,
with swords and huge pistols in their belts. When the father saw the care
that was being bestowed on his son, he stepped forward, and grasping the
coverlet of the bed, said earnestly, " This shows love and fear of God."
Then the four sat down by the side of Derwish's bed, and listened with the
greatest interest and attention, every now and then nodding their heads in
approval, while Dr. Torrance related to them one of Christ's parables.
Before leaving, the father presented the doctor with three gold Turkish
liras (in addition to two given previously), and expressed the hope that he
would visit them in their own home, and saying also that they would be
delighted to receive any of his friends, even if a hundred came. . At night,
as I was going my rounds, Derwish produced other two gold liras as a further
token of gratitude, explaining that one was for the "sitt " ("the lady"—that
is, Miss Donaldson). When I remarked that neither I nor the "sitt" took
money for ourselves, but that it would help to make others well, Derwish
looked up and then said reverently, "May Allah grant it!"
In the bed opposite Derwish,
lies an old grizzly-bearded man. The green sash round his turban proclaims
him a descendant of the "prophet." Inside the hospital, however, there is
little fanaticism, and his homely rugged face exhibits nothing but
kindliness and satisfaction as he holds out his arm for inspection. When he
came into the hospital he was nearly despairing—in bad health, and his hand
gangrenous. After the amputation, the stump has healed beautifully. The old
man is greatly delighted with the result. As the wound is rapidly healing,
he will soon be leaving for his distant village. He will take home a glowing
account of the hospital, and we shall soon have more patients from the same
We must, however, hurry on,
and have a peep into the female ward. This is usually not quite so crowded
as the other ward, and our attention is caught as we enter by the sweet
bright face of a young woman in the first bed. This is Baashe, a Jewess. She
suffers great pain from chronic rheumatism. She is quite unable to walk, and
has been on this account divorced by her husband and thrown aside as
useless. Though her fingers also are affected, she is able to occupy her
time with a little rough painting and sewing; and she always has a smile •
on her face as we enter the ward.
A frequent inmate of the ward
is Chave Bruche (see Page 72), a gentle, little Jewish lassie. She suffers
complicated heart disease.
Her case is hopeless, but she is admitted from time to time to get toned up
a little. Her Prospects are dreary enough; and it is one of the few
pleasures of her life to be allowed to spend a week or a fortnight in the
Any visitors from home when
they enter the ward are usually impressed with the nice, wrinkled, old
(women) patients and the children. We are quite proud of our baby patients.
They are usually as good as gold, and never cry except from dire necessity.
A little picture of one of them is found on page 80. This is Mohammed ibn
Der-wish. He was quite a pet. He had great black eyes, and was willing to
make friends with any one. Dr. Torrance removed a tumour from his head. The
operation was an anxious one, but the tiny patient
made a splendid recovery, and
a few days later was carried off in triumph by his delighted father.
We have only mentioned a few
cases out of many. We trust that the influence of the hospital will extend
much further than mere medical or surgical. results. We cannot see far below
the surface, but we have every reason to hope much. The Jew is hidden from
the outside world under the mask of a fossilized Judaism. We can see his
outward conduct hedged in on every hand by rabbinical laws; but what his
inmost thoughts are, who can tell?
The lights are low in our
hospital ward. It is long past midnight. On one of the beds a Jew lies
dying. He has only a few minutes to live. As the nurse hangs over him and
whispers the name of Jesus in his ear, the dying man opens his eyes. Raising
his head he glances round the ward. Not till he has made sure that all are
wrapped in slumber do his lips move, and under his breath come the words, "I
am trusting in the Lord Jesus. I am a Christian in heart." While he tries to
tell how he had received a New Testament, and there learned 'to know Christ
as his Messiah, his breath fails, and his spirit flies to meet the Saviour
whom he had trusted, though trusted only timidly and secretly "for fear of
May God grant that in our
hospital many a Nicodemus may receive grace and strength to confess Christ,
not only secretly at death, but openly in life!
There is great reason for
thankfulness and encouragement in the work at Tiberias. The members of the
mission have to a large extent won the affections of the people.
A few months ago, when one of
the mission circle was lying apparently at death's door, the most kindly
inquiries and offers of assistance carne in from all quarters. One day the
news was brought up to the hospital that the Jews in the town were praying
for us! One pious Jewess spent her Sabbath interceding for the recovery of
the "Herr Doctor," and keeping her Scriptures open before her on her knee,
in the hope that in this way her prayer would have special efficacy! God's
spirit of love is not less powerful to-day than it was in the same regions
and amongst the same people eighteen hundred years ago. Let us go forward in
faith and hope, and we may rest assured that love will conquer in the end.
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