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Alexander Boddy at Jaffa

Updated on July 20, 2014

Holy Land Adventures in the 1890s

More than 100 years ago the Rev. Alexander A. Boddy, an Anglican vicar from the parish of Monkwearmouth, Sunderland, in the north of England, traveled throughout the Holy Land alone on a bicycle. Although Boddy later became known as a leading pioneer of the Pentecostal movement in Great Britain, he also was a member of the Royal Geographical Society and his six travel books chronicle journeys through Canada, Palestine, North Africa, Russia, and Egypt. His 1900 book, "Days in Galilee and Scenes in Judaea," contains accounts of at least two separate journeys to the Holy Land, the first likely some time before 1894. Two years later he again traveled throughout the Holy Land and Syria, this time riding a Humber bicycle. As a highly educated Anglican ministers, Boddy provides vivid descriptions of the Palestinian landscape with a depth of historical and biblical background detail.

It is the Terra Sancta! The Holy Land!

Jaffa on a find day, taken from a steamer lying in the roads. A boat is coming for passengers
Jaffa on a find day, taken from a steamer lying in the roads. A boat is coming for passengers

Arrival: Palestine's Jaffa in the mid-1890s

View of the port of Jaffa on a fine day taken from a steamer

On Boddy's first voyage to the Holy Land, he travels on the S.S. Hapsburg, a steamship, to Palestine's port city of Jaffa, departing the day before from Egypt's Port Said, a city located about 20 miles north of the Suez Canal, along the Mediterranean Sea. Two years later, in Boddy's second voyage, he describes arriving at Jaffa aboard an unnamed Russian steamer.

Regarding the first voyage, Boddy says, "The evening for my departure to Galilee came, and I stepped into a little boat pulled by gay Arabs, and climbed up the sides of the S.S. Hapsburg." This steamship was built in 1875 by Earle's Shipbuilding Co., in Hull, England for the North German Lloyd line and sailed regularly out of Bremen, Germany. The iron steamship weighed 3,094 tons and was about 53 feet longer than a football field. The S.S. Hapsburg, at its launch in 1875, could travel at speeds up to 12 knots and had accommodations for 142 first class passengers and 800 third class passengers and traveled between New York and Germany. However, from 1887 until about 1894 the steamer was used on the route to Adelaide, Australia, via the Suez. In 1898 the steamer was sold to Italy and stranded near Cadiz, Spain, in 1898 and scrapped in 1899. From this timeline we can easily deduce that although Boddy's book, "Days in Galilee and Scenes in Judea," was published in 1900, the that it describes actually took place a few years earlier in the 1890s.

Boddy's arrival at the Holy Land - Soon 16 boats appear to ferry the passengers ashore

Boddy describes the Land of Palestine as it appears some time in the mid-1890s: "The white houses of Jaffa rise in steps and terraces before us, dominated by a Latin Church high above. Memories of Jonah, and of S. Peter, and of Richard the Lion-hearted rise up in one's mind. It was through the surf here that our King Richard leapt ashore to do such marvelous deeds of valor....To the south the yellow coast of Southern Palestine, towards Gaza, stretches sandy and desert-like. To the north the German Temple Colony and green orange groves. Further north the houses become more scattered, and the sandy shore stretches towards Caesarea. (There is a rough carriage road up the coast to Mount Carmel.)"

A marker -
Jaffa, Israel
get directions

Signs of Ottoman Rule

The gümrük resmi (also called a selametlik resmi, paid to a gümrük emin) was a customs charge, or tax, in the Ottoman Empire.

Boddy says:

I did not fall on my knees and kiss the white dust of the Holy Land as I found myself on shore, though almost inclined to do so; all was rush and excitement, and we went straight into the Gumruk (Turkish Custom House). The Ottoman Empire ruled Jaffa throughout most of the 19th century folowing the Napoleonic assault of 1799. Turkish rule continued until 1917, when the British conquered Palestine.

Oriental Confusion

“I was soon treading the narrow by-ways of Jaffa, among camels, and hammals, and piles of luggage, and piles of fruit, all in delightful picturesque Oriental confusion.”

Camels and more

Your trains run at 50 miles an hour,” said a native to me, “but ours go at three miles an hour.” He was referring to the trains of camels coming across from Hauran.”

Jaffa Sights: House of Simon the Tanner

Site of the Apostle Paul's rooftop vision of unclean animals

Strolling through the streets of Jaffa, Boddy passes by the house of Simon the Tanner, explaining to us that this is likely the very house mentioned in the New Testament, in Acts chapter 10, as the place where the Apostle Peter saw a vision.

The Apostle Peter was was hungry and waiting while a meal was being prepared when he went up on the roof to pray. There he saw a vision of all kinds of animals, many of these unclean and considered inedible according to Jewish law. Three times Peter was commanded to kill and eat. God said, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean." Three times Peter refused to eat, saying that he had never eaten anything unclean. Finally, the vision of animals was withdrawn.

Shortly afterward, messengers arrived there from Caesarea, where the Roman centurion Cornelius had been told by God that the house of Simon the Tanner in Joppa was the place where the apostle could be found. The Apostle Peter went with the messengers and preached to the household of Cornelius in spite of Jewish laws forbidding associations with Gentiles, based on the vision he had just seen. He told the Gentiles: "...God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection."

Boddy says:

Probably it is very near the original house, as it is thought a tanner's yard would not be moved when once established.

Viewing the Sea from Simon the Tanner's House

“It was interesting to look out from the hilltop, over the azure sea and round on the views of coast and country and innumerable white roofs. Such a scene would S. Peter also have on that memorable day when he was commanded henceforth to extend Christianity beyond the narrow circle of Judaism. The unknown west lay beyond those blue waves.”

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