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The Well of the Leaf, Jerusalem

The story says that in the days of Omar, one of the faithful pilgrims came to this well to draw water. His bucket fell to the bottom, and he went down to get it. To his great surprise, a door opened before him, and he found himself in beautiful fragrant gardens, in which he walked for some time with great satisfaction.

Before leaving this delightful place he plucked a leaf from one of the many trees, stuck it behind his ear, and so ascended to the upper earth without difficulty, but there is no record of whether he brought his bucket up or not.

Of course, the story spread, till at last it reached the ears of Omar, but only as an impudent invention, for no door could be found by any investigating travelers. Omar, however, treated the rumor with respect, and said there was a prophecy that one of the faithful should enter Paradise alive. Everything depended on whether the leaf retained its verdure, and so could maintain its claim to have grown upon a tree of Paradise.

This test was triumphantly passed, for the leaf was green as ever, and so the story has lived to this day, and so it is always told on the brink of the “Well of the Leaf.”

The Mohammedans seem fond of tests. If the true believer can pass between two columns, outside the Mosque El Aksa, standing very close together, he leaves all his sins behind him. Now, the thinnest of our party could only just manage to squeeze through, and fair Mussulmans must assuredly find it difficult.

A still more difficult test is at another place, a little beyond the same mosque, where Solomon’s throne once stood. Here hangs—visible only to the eyes of the faithful—(and even they must wait for death to unseal their vision)—the bridge, thin as a hair, and sharp as a sword, between earth and Paradise. Beneath it yawns the abyss of Gehenna, and the faithless will miss their footing, and tumble headlong into its depths, while the true believer crosses the bridge easily and swiftly.

Passing still along the wall, we came to the garden gate. Within are most beautiful carvings, and some fine pillars, said to have been brought from Gaza, by the Queen of Sheba, as a present to Solomon. It was quite the afternoon before we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which occupies the site of the church built by Constantine over our Lord’s tomb.

Just inside the door is a slab on which is supposed the body of Christ was laid in order to be anointed, and it is worn quite into holes by the kisses of devout pilgrims. It is quite touching to see the faith these poor creatures place in every possible and impossible site.

Many of the peasants of the South of Russia save up their money for half a lifetime, in order to make this journey, which they perform in the most economical way possible. They travel as deck passengers on board ship, in all weathers, and walk when they are on land.

When, at last Jerusalem is reached, they take up their abode in the Russian hospice, and there the wretched priests never let them go till they have stripped them of their uttermost farthing, so that they literally have to beg their way back, and often starve on the roadside.

--Mrs. Strassey, in Fraser’s Magazine.

Published: January 4, 1880 Copyright © The New York Times

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Let's say that one of the faithful pilgrims came to the well hoping to get the free water he had been hearing about from the flock of other thirsty pilgrims. He too had been fleeced by the russian hosteliers who now directed him to the remote and distant well. He leaned over the well and dropped his bucket in and it fell to the bottom. He heard the clunk and decided to climb down to retrieve the bucket, even though knowing that it would be empty; the bucket was all he had. He found the door, entered, saw, found a leaf and tucked it behind his ear. When he came out again, he left the empty bucket, useless, and took the leaf instead. It had come to him that he could keep the leaf with him, plant it carefully between the pages of books, and it would retain it's greenness indefinitely. That's what he did. That leaf opened many doors for him, through which he moved, progressing thereafter with great satisfaction.

Amazing how something that may or may not have occurred two thousand years ago can come alive in the present, literally pregnant with meaning.

That leaf appears much greener than the one in your windshield wiper, but which one, really, is more vibrant?

They're equally vibrant as metaphors, but I prefer the green because it has more depth of meaning.

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