On p. 644
But, what interested us more is, a recent excavation under the pavement of this mosque, which proves to be an ancient gate. It has been closed and walled up, while the city has been built around it on the outside. The massive though broken floor, the solid columns, and the heavy transverse stones which rest upon them, are wrought in a style neither Saracenic nor Greek, but shaped and ornamented in a manner which we remarked in the Egyptian temples. This newly-discovered gate-way is believed, by the distinguished explorer, Captain Wilson, to have been one of the original entrances to the Temple of Solomon. Not only El-Aksa, but the whole area enclosed within the outer walls, now wears the appearance of neglect, dilapidation, and decay. Is this an evidence of the decline of the Mohammedan religion, or only of the increasing isolation of Jerusalem? We must go farther into the Turkish Empire to decide. Meantime, it is suggestive of much thought that not only the Mayor of Jerusalem, but the obliging sheik of the mosque, plaintively and earnestly invoked Mr. Seward to use what they thought would be an influence of some weight with the Sultan at Constantinople, for the repair of the Mosque of Omar. The various points we have described in the Mosque of Omar are held to fix beyond all dispute the site of the ancient Temple of Solomon. History, tradition, and a pride of the Jews, greater than was ever exhibited by any other nation, made that temple an object of admiration to the whole world. Though its base was Mount Moriah, the hill which bore that name must have been levelled when or before the temple was built. It was easily accessible by a gentle descent from all parts of the city, while the high wall built on the outer precipice rendered it impregnable on that side.
From p. 652
The Jewish sabbath being on Saturday, and beginning at sunset on Friday, the weekly wail of the Jews under the wall takes place on Friday, and is a preparation for the rest and worship of the day which they are commanded to "keep holy." The small rectangular oblong area, without roof or canopy, serves for the gathering of the whole remnant of the Jewish nation in Jerusalem. Here, whether it rains or shines, they come together at an early hour, old and young, men, women, and little children--the poor and the rich, in their best costumes, discordant as the diverse nations from which they come. They are attended by their rabbis, each bringing the carefully-preserved and elaborately-bound text of the book of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, either in their respective languages, or in the original Hebrew. For many hours they pour forth their complaints, reading and reciting the poetic language of the prophet, beating their hands against the wall, and bathing the stones with their kisses and tears. It is no mere formal ceremony. During the several hours while we were spectators of it, there was not one act of irreverence or indifference. Only those who have seen the solemn prayer-meeting of a religious revival, held by some evangelical denomination at home, can have a true idea of the solemnity and depth of the profound grief and pious feeling exhibited by this strange assembly on so strange an occasion, although no ritual in the Catholic, Greek, or Episcopal Church is conducted with more solemnity and propriety.
Though we supposed our party unobserved, we had scarcely left the place, when a meek, gentle Jew, in a long, plain brown dress, his light, glossy hair falling in ringlets on either side of his face, came to us, and, respectfully accosting Mr. Seward, expressed a desire that he would visit the new synagogue, where the sabbath service was about to open at sunset. Mr. Seward assented. A crowd of "the peculiar people" attended and showed us the way to the new house of prayer, which we are informed was recently built by a rich countryman of our own whose name we did not learn. It is called the American Synagogue. It is a very lofty edifice, surmounted by a circular dome. Just underneath it a circular gallery is devoted exclusively to the women. Aisles run between the rows of columns which support the gallery and dome. On the plain stone pavement, rows of movable, wooden benches with backs are free to all who come. At the side of the synagogue, opposite the door, is an elevated desk on a platform accessible only by movable steps, and resembling more a pulpit than a chancel. It was adorned with red-damask curtains, and behind them a Hebrew inscription. Directly in the centre of the room, between the door and this platform, is a dais six feet high and ten feet square, surrounded by a brass railing, carpeted; and containing cushioned seats. We assume that this dais, high above the heads of the worshippers, and on the same elevation with the platform appropriated to prayer, is assigned to the rabbis. We took seats on one of the benches against the wall; presently an elderly person, speaking English imperfectly, invited Mr. Seward to change his seat; he hesitated, but, on being informed by Mr. Finkelstein that the person who gave the invitation was the president of the synagogue, Mr. Seward rose, and the whole party, accompanying him, were conducted up the steps and were comfortably seated on the dais, in the "chief seat in the synagogue." On this dais was a tall, branching, silver candlestick with seven arms.
The congregation now gathered in, the women filling the gallery, and the men, in varied costumes, and wearing hats of all shapes and colors, sitting or standing as they pleased. The lighting of many silver lamps, judiciously arranged, gave notice that the sixth day's sun had set, and that the holy day had begun. Instantly, the worshippers, all standing, and as many as could turning to the wall, began the utterance of prayer, bending backward and forward, repeating the words in a chanting tone, which each read from a book, in a low voice like the reciting of prayers after the clergyman in the Episcopal service. It seemed to us a service without prescribed form or order. When it had continued some time, thinking that Mr. Seward might be impatient to leave, the chief men requested that he would remain a few moments, until a prayer should be offered for the President of the United States, and another for himself. Now a remarkable rabbi, clad in a long, rich, flowing sacerdotal dress, walked up the aisle; a table was lifted from the floor to the platform, and, by a steep ladder which was held by two assistant priests, the rabbi ascended the platform. A large folio Hebrew manuscript was laid on the table before him, and he recited with marked intonation, in clear falsetto, a prayer, in which he was joined by the assistants reading from the same manuscript. We were at first uncertain whether this was a psalm or a prayer, but we remembered that all the Hebrew prayers are expressed in a tone which rises above the recitative and approaches melody, so that a candidate for the priesthood is always required to have a musical voice. At the close of the reading, the rabbi came to Mr. Seward and informed him that it was a prayer for the President of the United States, and a thanksgiving for the deliverance of the Union from its rebellious assailants. Then came a second; it was in Hebrew and intoned, but the rabbi informed us that it was a prayer of gratitude for Mr. Seward's visit to the Jews at Jerusalem, for his health, for his safe return to his native land, and a long, happy life. The rabbi now descended, and it was evident that the service was at an end. Coming down from the dais, we were met by a band of musicians playing on drums, fifes, and violins. We questioned whether this music was a part of the service of the synagogue, but our doubt was removed when we found it accompanying us to the gate of our hotel. The Jews, in their dispersion, are understood to be forbidden the use of musical instruments in worship. Their chants of praise are the traditional songs of Israel, just as the Christians, who have succeeded them, prefer, to all other devotional hymns, the Psalms of David.
A pleasant dinner ensued with the United States consul and his accomplished wife, where we had the honor of meeting the venerable Bishop Gobat and Mrs. Gobat. We infer that the Coptic, Catholic, Greek, and Armenian Churches have given up the design of proselytism here, and now confine their labors to the enlargement and improvement of their several convents for the entertainment of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. On the other hand, the Protestant missionaries from Germany, Great Britain, and the United States, are the living, active preachers and teachers of the Gospel in Syria...