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The Hermit of Mt. Tabor

In the 50's of the 19th century there lived, apparently, a hermit by the name of Erinna on Mount Tabor.

In those years a maiden who was not so young set out from England to travel in the Land of Palestine and she described her journeys very well in a book entitled "Domestic Life in Palestine" by Mary Eliza Rogers.

In the afternoon hours of the month of October 1855 Rogers together with a safeguarded convoy of horses, reached the top of Mount Tabor where she met, not for the first time, the hermit who told her the story of his life: his father, he said, was a well-established land proprietor in the Crimea, where he was born until he moved to Bucharest. One night Erinna dreamed that an angel appeared before him and said: "Arise and go forth to the land that I will show you." The following night the angel repeated his words, and led him to a mountain and at its summit a small cave. On the third night he again led him to the mountain and told him he was to dwell in the cave. Erinna, disturbed by his dreams, took leave of his family and wandered for 20 years all over Russia, Greece, Egypt and Syria to seek the mountain of his dreams. Finally he spotted the cave on Mount Tabor and immediately settled there. At the time he was 84 years old and he said: "I thought I would die soon, but today I am healthier than ever even though I am nearly a hundred years old". One winter night, while he was sleeping alone in his cave, he felt something soft and warm stretched out beside him. It was a young tiger or a panther. He gave it food and the two became friends, and so the tiger stayed by his side and walked in his footsteps like a cat. For a long time Erinna and his four-legged friend were the lions of Mount Tabor.

Mt. Tabor view from Nazreth

"Erinna was just like Robinson Crusoe. After many years of solitude, he found his man-Friday, a fellow countryman, a sturdy-looking, rather silent, middle-aged man who volunteered to keep an eye on the little field of wheat and barley, gather firewood and fetch water from the rock cisterns. He called himself the hermit's servant, and hoped to inherit the place, the sheepskin cap, the frayed ragged mantle and Erinna's reputation" - so wrote Rogers.

And she went on to relate that "the Latins of Nazareth so strongly and perseveringly intrigued against him – presenting him as a Russian spy - he feared he should be banished from the country. Occasionally he visited the sick in Nazareth and the neighbouring villages. Many people believed he had the power to perform miracles though he did not profess it. He made excellent coffee of which he generally had a supply for guests, that is Christian pilgrims and travelers. He did not make the slightest attempt to render his cave clean or comfortable. Rough niches in the rocky walls served to hold his few books and a little earthenware lamp. A mat of reeds, some heavy clothing and sheepskins on a stone ledge formed his bed".

Rogers asked if he had ever been married and he answered that Mount Tabor was his only bride. He and his "man-Friday" assured her that they were very happy, and indeed they looked so. They divided their days regularly and worked, prayed, ate and slept systematically. They seemed to think that there was no need for washing, and wore the same clothes day and night. Erinna was ruddy and hearty and though his bushy beard was quite white, he did not look as old as he reckoned himself to be.

Erinna died in 1859, mourned by the peasants of the plain and by the poor of Nazareth.