LYING in a secluded vale among the mountains, which skirt the plain of Esdraelon on the north, is the little town of Nazareth, where the Saviour passed the days of his childhood and youth. It is about seventy miles north of Jerusalem, and is said to be one of the most beautiful villages in all Syria.  A girdle of fifteen rounded hills encircles it, shutting out all view of the world beyond, and giving that air of quiet, peaceful seclusion which constitutes its chief charm. These hills rise around it like the edge of a shell, and seem as if formed to guard it from intrusion. The hill on the north-west of the vale overtops all the others, rising to a height of some four hundred feet above the village. Its side is steep, furrowed by ravines, and broken by ledges of bare rock. On its lower declivities, partly in ravines, partly on the shelving base, and partly on the sides and tops of the rugged ledges, stand the houses of Nazareth, plain, neat, substantial white stone buildings with flat roofs. This is the hill on which the evangelist tells us "their city was built" (Luke 4:29); and there is more than one cliff along its side that might have served the purpose of the infuriated people, when they led Jesus to the brow of a hill "that they might cast him down headlong."

Nazareth is now a secluded village of some three or four thousand inhabitants; and in the words of a traveler, "There is nothing at all to keep the place alive, except that all men know that Jesus had here his home." Says another, "Nothing can be plainer than those houses, with the doves sunning themselves on the white roofs, and the vines wreathing about them. There is about the whole place an indescribable air of quiet and repose; and the narrow, rugged glens that branch off in all directions among the hills, seem as if made for meditation."

Quite a number of traditional "holy places" are shown in and around Nazareth, but they have no historic basis. There is, however, a fountain which travelers visit with interest. It has from time immemorable supplied the town with water, and was without doubt daily visited by the youthful Jesus. "But," says a traveler, ''the charm of the spot is rudely broken by the scene that usually attracts the notice of visitors, the quarrels of the girls who come for water, contending who shall have the earliest supply." The town contains a mosque, a large Latin convent, and two or three chapels. 

From the summit of the hill on the eastern slope of which Nazareth lies, is obtained one of the finest prospects in all Palestine. Toward the north the eye glances over the countless hills of Galilee, and rests on the majestic and snow-covered Hermon. On the east the Jordan valley may be traced, and beyond it the dim heights of ancient Bashan. Toward the south spreads the broad and beautiful plain of Esdraelon, with Mt. Tabor and portions of Little Hermon and Gilboa visible on its eastern border, and the hills of Samaria on the south. Then comes the long line of Carmel itself, with the Convent of Elias on its northern end, and Haifa nestling on the shore at its foot. In the west gleams the Mediterranean, and Mt. Carmel, extending far out into the sea, dips his feet in its blue waters. 

Says Dr. Robinson in his "Biblical Researches in Palestine:" 

''I remained for some hours upon this spot, lost in the contemplation of the wide prospect and the events connected with the scenes around. 

In the village below, the Saviour of the world had passed his childhood; and though we have few particulars of his life during those early years, yet there are certain features of nature which meet our eyes now, just as they once met his. He must often have visited the fountain near which we had pitched our tents; his feet must frequently have wandered over the adjacent hills, and his eyes have doubtless gazed upon the splendid prospect from this very spot." 

Ah Nazareth! Though of such ill-repute among thy sister cities in the days gone by, yet now with reverent eyes shall all men gaze upon thee evermore, because that in thy streets and over thy hills lived and wandered the divine Son of God, in those days when he was made flesh and dwelt among men.