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Sheikh Hartman Father Louis Hartman, 1960.

Letter 6: A Trip to Persia


American School of Oriental Research
Jerusalem, Jordan
March 23, 1960


Dear Folks:

When I last wrote to you a month ago, I thought that I would not send you another circular letter till after Easter. As far as I could then foresee, there would have been nothing worth recounting till the ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter in the Holy City. However, shortly after writing my last circular letter I found that a trip to Persia, or Iran, as it is now called, was being planned by some members of my "School" here, and I could not let this chance of visiting lands further to the east pass by, although the time chosen for the trip, the first two weeks in March, which was right at the beginning of Lent, was not entirely to my liking. So I decided to join this safari with four other members of our Jerusalem School. As it turned out, the trip did not last two full weeks, but only twelve days, from the first to the twelfth of March.

We had hoped to make the whole journey in the Peugeot, the little French auto, belonging to John Marks, one of our group of five. While our main objective was Persia, we thought we would first drive east into Iraq, ancient Mesopotamia, and then, after visiting some of the famous historical sites in this land of the Euphrates and the Tigris, such as Babylon and Ninive, drive east from Baghdad into Persia. With this possibility in mind we spent the first day of our trip driving north to Damascus, an easy one-day drive from Jerusalem. We had to go to this city as the nearest place with an Iraqi consulate, in order to get a visa to enter Iraq. Otherwise we could have driven directly from Jordan into Iraq (two full days of hard driving) on the much better road than the one from Damascus to Baghdad. The Jordan road follows the "Tapline" (Trans-Arab-Pipeline) across the Syrian Desert. In Jerusalem and Amman we had previously secured the necessary visa for Iran, as well as visas for Syria and Lebanon. One oddity about my visa for Iran (Persia): as a priest, I had to sign an affidavit that I would not engage in any missionary work in that country; if I wanted to enter Persia as a missionary, I would have to apply to the capital at Tehran, and it would take at least a month to get the visa. The kindly Persian consul in Amman explained to me that it was the Jehovah Witnesses who had brought on this regulation.

The second day of our trip was then spent in Damascus trying to get a visa for Iraq. This effort, however, was not successful. The Iraqi consul was a most gracious gentleman, an old neighbor, in fact, of mine, since he had studied at Georgetown University. Yet the best he could do for us was to send a telegram to Baghdad requesting a visa for us, which, he said, if we were lucky, we could pick up at the Iraqi consulate in Tehran in about two weeks. Therefore, there was no possibility of driving through Iraq on our way to Persia. Besides, the various American consuls in Jerusalem, Amman and Damascus whom we consulted all told us the same story: they said that there was no longer any order from Washington forbidding Americans to go to Iraq, but they urged us not to attempt it, since we might run into trouble trying to get out of that country. We then thought of driving north through Syria into Turkey and finally across northeastern Turkey into northern Persia. No visa would be necessary for Turkey, though in its militarized zone near the Russian border we would have to stay on the main highway and not visit any Hittite sites on the way. But it would have been a very long, round-about way and we would have had to cover it both in going and in returning. Moreover, the Turkish consul told us that there was still danger of late-winter blizzards in the Armenian mountains of eastern Turkey—including Mount Ararat, where Noe's ark came to rest after the Deluge! Finally we decided to put our car away in a garage at Damascus and fly over Iraq directly to Persia. That's what we did.

This day back in Damascus was like old times for me, since I had spent several days there on our Syrian trip last October. I was even recognized as an old visitor (and perhaps as something of a nuisance) at St. Anthony's Church where I went for Mass--near our rather primitive but inexpensive "Hotel Palmyra" in Damascus. This is one of my favorite cities. It is not as completely Oriental as Aleppo in northern Syria, but also not as Europeanized as Beirut in Lebanon. However, I don't think it is now too happy in its present role of playing second fiddle to Cairo in the United Arab Republic.

That night we had a strange experience. Our plane for Abadan in Persia was due to leave Damascus shortly after midnight. But at midnight, after we had been out at the Damascus airport for more than an hour, we were told that our plane, which came from Europe, could not land here because of a strong "cross wind," and that we would have to board it at Beirut, where it made an emergency landing. This gives you some idea of the smallness of these little independent countries of the Near East: if a plane cannot land at the capital of one country, it lands at the capital of a neighboring country! So the five of us from Jerusalem, together with two other passengers, were put into two autos at the expense of the airline and driven in the middle of the night for two hours across the Mount Hermon range of Syria and the Mount Lebanon range of Lebanon to the Beirut airport. What made the ride thrilling at that hour of the night was the loss of light in the headlights on one of our two cars shortly after leaving Damascus. With help from the light of the halfmoon and by keeping close behind the other car's headlights, the blind car succeeded in speeding safely along the curving mountain road without tumbling over the edge into the precipice. Fortunately, there was no snow on the road, though it lay on the surrounding peaks. I am also happy to say that I myself was in the car with the good headlights. Finally, after the delay and trouble with the border formalities of passports and so forth, we reached the Beirut airport at about 2:30 a.m. and we soon took off on a wonderful plane, an S.A.S. (Scandinavian Airlines System) Caravelle jet plane. The flight from Beirut to Abadan covered almost a thousand miles, yet we made it in two hours, going almost five hundred miles an hour--a marvelously smooth ride. To console us for our midnight ride over the mountains, as soon as the plane took off we were given a delicious Scandinavian late supper or early breakfast, prepared that morning in Copenhagen. Small world, ain't it? Since we were flying towards the sun, we arrived at Abadan just at sunrise. We had to put our watches one and a half hours ahead. Persia is on this odd time.

Abadan is a large sprawling collection of various settlements set in the midst of extensive groves of date palms. Besides the old native town, there is a modern suburb of rich colonial houses belonging to the oil men--Europeans, Americans and Persians, and on all sides are miles and miles of petroleum refineries. Abadan is Persia's busy port on the Shatt al-Arab, the lower stretch of the combined Tigris and Euphrates, about fifty miles from its mouth at the head of the Persian Gulf. Several pipe lines from various oil fields in this part of Persia end here. The heavy tropical air, quite hot even at the beginning of March, has the gaseous smell that comes from oil refineries an odor that can be sweet only to one who might be homesick for the Jersey Turnpike near Newark. We did not find Abadan a pleasant city, perhaps because we had to put up for one night in the "Hotel Ferdowsi" in the native quarter, the only really bad caravanserie in which we stayed on our whole trip. Like a medieval khan, it consisted of a series of rooms around a central courtyard, in which there were several donkeys, goats and sheep and, strange to say, a pair of tame monkeys. We tried to get into the luxurious "Guest House" of the oil company, but were told that we had to be recommended by one of the wealthy members of this tropical country club. When we complained to the innkeeper of the "Hotel Ferdowsi" about the sanitation, or lack of it, at his establishment, he said in good plain English, "What do want for a dollar a night? Even plumbing in the toilet?"

Anyway, we spent almost the whole of our first day in Persia away from Abadan by taking a long drive in a hired car to visit the famous site of Susa, once the capital of Elam and then the administrative center of the Persian empire under the kings of the Achaemenid dynasty (5th and 4th centuries B.C.). The Louvre Museum in Paris is full of treasures found by the French excavators of this site, including the renowned stele of the Code of Hammurabi, which the Elamites had stolen from Babylon. At the foot of this vast mound of ruins is now the little Persian village of Shush, which still carries on the old illustrious name. The only thing of interest in Shush is a neat little mosque containing what purports to be the tomb of the Prophet Daniel. Though the events narrated in the Book of Esther are said to have happened at Susa, it is hard to see why Moslem tradition should have got Daniel buried there.

While we could not get into Iraq, which lies just across the river from Abadan, we saw plenty of typical Mesopotamian scenery on this long drive to Susa. I used to think of Susa as lying in the mountains. Actually, it is in the same alluvial plain in which lay the great cities of ancient Sumeria and Babylonia, only the plain of Susiana lies further east and is watered by its own rivers, the Karkheh and the Karun. Most of the land here is flat, barren, dusty desert, except where it is irrigated by the waters of these two streams that come from the Zagros Mountains. The road that we took over this plain from Abadan to Susa is part of the highway built by the Americans in World War II for bringing supplies from the port of Abadan, via Tehran, to Russia. The first half of the 150 mile stretch from Abadan to Susa, that is, as far as the town of Ahwaz, is well paved; but beyond Ahwaz its unpaved dirt surface has become very bumpy from the heavy truck traffic on it, and our hired car bounced along it like an unbroken bronco. We had left Abadan rather late in the morning after first arranging for a hotel and we had stopped for lunch in a restaurant at Ahwaz, so that it was rather late in the afternoon before we headed back from Susa towards Abadan. We were only a short way on our return ride over the bumpy road when we got a flat tire. In a jiffy our driver put on his spare tire, and we continued on the trip. But after stopping for supper in Ahwaz, we were still about 30 miles from Abadan when, lo and behold, we got another flat tire, and no more spare tires in the car. Quite pessimistically I foresaw the possibility of spending the night out there in the desert. But not our optimistic driver! He simply hailed every passing car and asked for a spare tire. Surprisingly enough, practically every car would stop and listen to our driver's tale of woe; but most surprisingly, after about a half hour of such begging, another "taxi" like our own came along and its driver proved to be a friend of ours. He generously lent our man his own sole spare, and even helped him change tires in the dark. After that we finally got back to our hotel (!) in Abadan and got a good night's sleep (the first in two days) on our hard cots at the Hotel Ferdowsi. (I can't help remembering the name of that inn, because it means "Paradisal" in Persia; so called, however, not from the nature of the hotel, but after one of Persia's great poets.)

The next day at noontime we flew on an Air-Iran plane from Abadan to Shiraz, about 375 miles due east. Shiraz, a city of some 150,000 people, is interesting enough in itself, especially for those who like Persian poetry, since two of the greatest poets of medieval Persia, Hafiz and Saadi, have their mausoleums here in the midst of lovely gardens. (I'm sorry, but Omar Khayyam, the Persian poet best known to English readers, is not buried here.) For us, however, Shiraz primarily meant the starting place for a two-day excursion by hired car to Persepolis and Pasargadae. Our visit to these two places was well worth the cost (quite considerable) of the whole Persian safari. Pasargadae was the capital of the Persian empire under its founder, Cyrus the Great, and under his son and successor, Cambyses, while Persepolis was its capital under the next kings, Darius the Great, Xerxes (who got a licking from the Greeks at Marathon), and all the following kings of the Achaemenid dynasty. The remains of ancient Pasargadae are relatively few, though, like its tomb of Cyrus, quite impressive. But Persepolis is something really unique. Despite the burning of the magnificent palaces here by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C., there is still a great deal left of the many-columned halls with their highly polished sculptures and reliefs--at least enough to show something of the former splendor of this place where for two centuries one Persian "king of kings" after another ruled over the whole civilized world from India west to Greece and southern Egypt. If the many pictures that I took here with my Leica camera turn out well (they will soon be sent from Beirut to Paris for development), I should be well supplied with colored slides for an "illustrated lecture" on ancient Persia. Of course, I also took pictures of the quaint rock reliefs of the later Parthian and Sassanian kings, not to mention snapshots of the many lovely mosques in other parts of Persia.

Our next flight on Air-Iran was from Shiraz to Isfahan, about 200 miles north by northwest. The local air service in Persia uses rather decrepit old DC-4 planes, and on this flight over the mountains and deserts we ran into such bumpy air that I thought our old crate would break up. On this hour-and-a-half flight three of my four fellow travelers got a good dose of airsickness, as did most of the other passengers aboard. But as an old hand at fishing on the ocean on small craft from Sheephead's Bay, I enjoyed being tossed about on the stormy air. In fact, some of the sudden drops our plane would take down into airy nothingness, that brought your stomach up to your throat, were as much fun as the roller-coaster at Coney Island, that is, if you are not inclined to get airsick. Sometimes when the plane, or rather its American pilot, would not bother getting enough altitude to fly over the snow-covered mountains, it would wind its way between the frightening narrow gorges. Quite thrilling, though I would not want to do it at night.

Isfahan is not a very ancient city, but it is one of the loveliest in Persia. Modern Isfahan dates mostly from the 16th century, when it was the capital of the country under the enlightened kings of the Safavid dynasty, whose shahs (kings) erected here some of the most beautiful mosques and palaces to be found anywhere in the Moslem world. These graceful buildings with their big domes of brightly colored tiles, reflected in the garden pools beside them, could well share in some of the fame that is lavished on the better-known Taj-Mahal of India. The center of Isfahan, now a public park, was originally planned as a polo grounds (but not for the N.Y. Giants); at the middle of one side in the Ali-Qapu Palace, from whose balconies the shahs and the ladies of their harems could watch the polo games, formerly the national sport of horse-loving Persia. Like true tourists, we spent a whole day on a guided tour of Isfahan and surroundings. Among other places, we were taken to some little "home factories" where Persian rugs are hand-loomed by women and girls. The little girls learn the art at a surprisingly early age, apparently when they are about six or seven. It was a marvel to see how fast their little fingers could slip the colored wool between the threads of the warp, tie a simple knot, and snip off the rest of the wool--all in one quick motion. The girls seemed to be very happy as they chatted away at their work, perhaps at the thought that they would never have to go to school or at the prospect of the half-dollar a day they earn for their work. I got to learn quite a bit about Persian rugs on this trip, even to being able to distinguish the special type made in each city. I liked the Isfahans best of all. My companions, who had houses to furnish in America, went shopping for rugs in every city we were in. They said they were getting wonderful bargains, at one third the price they would have to pay for genuine Persian rugs in the States. I was more intrigued by the shops of the metal workers in the "bazaars," which is the Persian equivalent of the Arabic "souqs." I couldn't resist buying some hand-hammered copper ashtrays, real works of art, at about 25 cents apiece.

Our next midday flight on Air-Iran, again some 200 miles further north, was from Isfahan to Tehran. Only slightly bumpy this time. Tehran, the present capital of Persia, is a big modern city of a million and a half inhabitants. Like all big cities, it is suffering from building pains, with new structures going up all over, and from traffics jams at the morning and evening "rush hours," when the unbelievably heavy auto traffic fill the streets and avenues of this city, though they are mostly very wide. Like Washington, Tehran has certain busy "circles," called "Meidans" here, where the pedestrian takes his life in his hands if he tries to cross the street between the madly driven cars. Apart from its Archaeological Museum, with its wonderful ancient treasures from all over Persia, and its Gulistan ("Rose Garden") Palace, with its gorgeous "Peacock Throne" and other dazzling adornments, this bustling metropolis did not have much of great interest for us. It lies just south of the towering Elburz Mountains that separate it from the Caspian Sea. With the north wind blowing down from this snow-covered range, we found this city much colder than the more southern parts of Persia, where we had been. Here the trees did not yet have their fresh green leaves of spring, as they did in Shiraz and Isfahan.

After learning at the Iraqi consulate in Tehran that naturally our visa to pass through Iraq on our way back home had not yet been given and might never be given, we first investigated the possibility of going by bus northwest to Tabriz in the Azerbaiyan region of Persia, and from there by other busses to Erzurum, the ancient capital of Armenia but now in Turkey, and then from Erzurum by train to Aleppo and Damascus in Syria. But on hearing that this round-about way would take us at least a week to travel, we gave up this plan as hopeless. However, we thought we would still like to go as far as we could on the road from Tehran to Baghdad, the well-known invasion route of the barbarians of ancient times into Mesopotamia, via the cities of Hamadan (ancient Ecbatana) and Kermanshah. On this road we would see the famous tri-lingual inscription of Darius on the Rock at Bisitun, that made possible the decipherment of cuneiform writing. In fact, we even engaged a car and driver and made a deposit on this three-day round-trip to Kermanshah and back to Tehran. But then we got cold feet on this plan too. It would cost us just a little too much, and the money we had brought with us was running quite low. Our hired driver, however, refused to refund our deposit. So for one day we had him as our private chauffeur in Tehran. Besides taking us to various sights in the city, he also drove us to the suburb of Rayy, ancient Raghes, where the young Tobias had been sent by his father to collect the money that the old man had lent to Gabelus. We likewise went in this hired car to the town of Demavend, at the foot of the enormously high snow-covered peak of the same name. Mount Demavend is almost 19,000 feet hight, much higher than anything in the Alps. I enjoyed the climb a short way up the gorge along the dashing mountain stream that comes down from the melting snow above.

That night, or rather early the next morning, at 2 a.m. we flew from Tehran direct to Damascus. The 900 mile flight took us four hours; our Pan-Am plane was a DC-6, not a jet, but there was something good about getting American service from Americans even here, above the Syrian Desert. The next morning we got our car out of the garage at Damascus and had a pleasant drive back home to Jerusalem. But before leaving Persia in this lettei would still like to say a few words about that land and its people.

Like the rest of this part of the world, Persia is plagued by a lack of sufficient rainfall. Practically the only place in this country where it ever rains or snows is on the high Zagros Mountains along its western border and on its tremendously high Elburz Mountains along its northern border. Almost all the agriculture in this land depends on irrigation with water from the streams that come down from these mountains. The whole center of Persia is an utterly barren desert of immense salt flats, drier, they say, than even the Sahara and the Gobi Deserts. All the cities which we visited are really nothing but large oases at the foot of the mountains. With the help of the mountain water in these parts, the desert is turned into a veritable paradise (a Persian word, by the way) of farmlands and gardens which were already in full bloom at our early March visit. The Persians must love flowers; they plant them all over the land, and in the bazaar at Tehran the "flower street" was doing good business selling even artificial flowers to the poor city folk. One of the strange results of the copious streams of water in these Persian cities is the presence of ditches instead of gutters along the sides of the streets. These ditches apparently serve as the only means of carrying off the sewerage; at certain hours the sluices are opened and the water rushes through the ditches. In the smaller cities, as Shiraz and Isfahan, the ditches are merely of dirt and are lined with trees, which are thus well watered. But in the big city of Tehran the ditches are made of concrete, with straight sides and flat bottoms. When you come to a corner, you must cross on the stone that serves as a little bridge. If you walk without looking where you are going, you can easily slip into one of these concrete sluiceways along the sidewalk and break your leg. And, of course, they are quite a hazard to parking a car along the side of the street; there's no rim or gutter to back into. I saw more than one car with a rear wheel hopelessly dangling over, down into one of these concrete ditches in Tehran.

Although none of us knew more than a dozen words in Persian, we got along marvelously well with the people of this land. All we had to do was to put it across that we were Americans, and then we were treated most kindly. As a Persian soldier said to me in halting English, "America, Iran, friends." This is not exactly the same in Arab countries. As a next-door neighbor of threatening Russia, Persia really seems to be grateful for the aid it receives from the U.S.A. Even apart from this, I found the Persians a very likable people, gentler and less excitable than the Arabs. Merely because they are Moslems, Westerners often wrongly lump them with the Arabs, a mistake that the Persians resent. The idea of a Pan-Moslem unity seems to be to be nothing but a myth. The Persians are Shi-ite Moslems, a sect which the Arab Sunnite Moslems consider heretical. There seems to be less love among the Shi-ites for the Sunnites than there is for the Christians and the Jews. Although there are many Arabic words in Persian, this language itself is not a Semitic, but an Indo-European language, related to the languages of Europe. A young man who acted as our guide in Isfahan and spoke fluent English told me that English and French are much better known than Arabic in Persia; only theological students, he said, study Arabic. I was surprised to find that the medieval synagogues in the old Persian cities still have their Jewish communities. In Tehran there was an office of the El Al, the Israeli airline. And on our plane from Shiraz to Isfahan there were some Jews with a long-bearded rabbi, all speaking Israeli Hebrew!

Although Syrian Christians had made good progress in spreading the faith of Christ in Persia during the early Christian centuries and one of the Popes of Rome, St. Hormisdas was named after the Persian St. Hormisdas (the name itself being a later form of the name of the old Persian god of light, Ahura-Mazda), the Church was practically wiped out in the persecutions of the later centuries. Apart from the Armenians, there are almost no other Christians (Catholics or Protestants) in modern Persia except the Westerners who live there for business or other reasons. The Armenians, mostly Orthodox, though in small part also Catholic, have large communities in some Persian cities. At Isfahan a whole suburb is entirely Christian-Armenian. I was able to find a Latin Catholic church in every city I was in except Shiraz. There may be one there too, but I could not find it. At Abadan the Italian Salesian Fathers have a rather large congregation of English-speaking Catholics--all foreigners, of course. At Isfahan I said Mass on my two days there in the chapel of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, who run a school or orphan asylum for boys and girls. At Tehran I said Mass again on two days at the "Italian Catholic Church," likewise in charge of the Salesians, quite a handsome structure attached to the Italian Embassy.

I had some strange experiences going to these churches. At Abadan I was told at my hotel that there was a Catholic church in the wealthy, foreign section, about a mile from the native quarter where we stayed overnight. So after our night in this quaint hostel, I went out in the street and hailed a cab. In the very best Persian I could master, I said, "Kelisá Katholica," which my guidebook listed as meaning "Catholic Church." The cabbie bowed quite knowingly, although I had my doubts whether he understood what I said. After he had driven a few blocks, which I felt was in the wrong direction, he stopped to pick up three other passengers, who looked from their dress as if they were officers of the Persian navy. I could not hear what they told the driver, but before long our car was speeding in the northern outskirts of the native quarter and then out past large fields of oil refineries, going further and further away from Abadan. After almost a half hour we came to the next city, Khorramshahr, about 15 miles north of Abadan, another port on the Shatt al-Arab River. The Shah of Persia and his new wife were due there that day, and our car was repeatedly stopped by the soldiers who were guarding the road. My companions, however, the navy officers, would say some magic words, at which the soldiers would wave us on, though they looked rather dubiously at me sitting in the back seat with two of the naval officers. Finally we drove up to a dock at which a small warship was tied up, and the three officers got out of the car. Only then did the driver apparently remember that I was in the car. When he saw me, he said something in Persian that must have meant: "Oh, you!" I said in English, "Yes, me! Drive me back to Abadan." A half hour later we were back in front of my hotel, from which we had started out an hour earlier. With much inquiring on the way my driver then succeeded in getting me to my church in about ten minutes. Fortunately I had plenty of time to spare that morning in Abadan.

On my second day in Tehran, however, I had to say Mass quite early. At half past five in the morning I started out for the "Italian Church"; if I could not get a cab that early in the morning, I knew that it would take me almost a half hour to walk to it. I had scarcely come out of the side street on which our modest but nice "Hotel Maisan" was situated and had started to walk down the wide main street, when I heard what I thought was the whistle of a strange bird, I turned to look, but I could not see anything on the deserted and rather dark street except a man further up the street. As I walked on, the bird whistled again. Once more I turned to see where the peculiar sound cane from, but there was nothing except the man, who was now coming nearer to me, evidently in a hurry on his way to work. This was repeated two more times, till the man finally caught up with me. To my astonishment I saw that he was dressed in the long overcoat of rather light blue color that the Persian policemen wear in the wintertime. When he saw my Roman collar, he too looked rather astonished. But he pointed to the bag that I was carrying and gave me to understand, mostly by gesture, that he thought I had stolen it. I showed him that there was nothing in the bag but my religious habit, and I told him that I was on my way to the "Kelisá Katholica." Then he showed me his whistle and by gestures gave me to understand that his Persian meant: "How come you didn't stop when I whistled?" With that I whistled with my lips and waved my arms in the air as if they were the wings of a bird, while I made like a bird-watcher trying to find where the whistle came from. The policeman got the idea, but thought I looked so funny that he burst out laughing. Quite delighted at the success of my pantomine, I couldn't help laughing with him. With that, we shook hands and parted the best of friends.

On that happy note let this long Persian story come to a close. Only I must still add a word about the weather in Palestine. According to the oldtimers here, this has been one of the sunniest and driest winters in many a year. The slight showers in December and early January ("the early rains") were just about enough to get the winter crops started. But that was all. Day after day for almost two months in the middle of the so-called "rainy season" there was scarcely a cloud in the sky. The cisterns, which should have been filling up for the year's supply of water, were almost empty. Then in the last few days we finally got our first decent storm of the year: first, a day of wild wind that filled the air with dust, then a day of sudden short spurts of hail and rain, and finally a day of steady, heavy downpour. Blessed rain! Disliked by the tourists, but loved by the natives. If we can get a few more storms like this in the next couple of weeks before the rainy season is over, there will be peace and prosperity in the land for another year.

Jerusalem is filling more and more with tourists. In a few weeks there will be crowds of them here for the ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter. Last Friday afternoon, when I joined in the public Way of the Cross on the original Via Dolorosa, there were so many pious participants and so many curious spectators, that we could hardly make our way through the narrow streets of the Old City. In this holy Lenten and Easter season I will not forget you in my prayers at the holy places in this Holy City, made sacred by our Lord's last days on earth. In lieu of an Easter card from me, kindly accept the enclosed small card with its petals of Palestinian wild flowers and its cross made of olive wood from the olive trees of the Garden of Gethsemani. I myself laid it on the Tomb of our Lord, to verify its printed statement in Latin that "it touched the Holy Sepulcher of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Wishing you a blessed Easter,

Devotedly yours,
Father Louis Hartman, C.SS.R

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