The Women of Magdala
By Fr. Cristobal Vilaroig
Some five years after Mark Twain, the intrepid traveler Susannah Henrietta Kent would pass through Magdala. Many think Kent was English, while others argue that she came from Ireland. The travelers left the boat on the shore to explore the Wadi Hammam and then returned to Magdala.
“Under the mud village of Mejdel, we found the boat moored to the shore, and Mrs. B. in the stern-the center of attraction to a hoard of Magdalenes who, clustering around—some in, some out of the water—were feeling her dress, examining her hands, grinning, laughing, yelling, and holding up dirty babies for her to admire; to all of which attentions I fell a fresh and eagerly-welcomed victim. Handsome, raven-haired, dark, lustrous-eyed women and little maidens with all promise of not falling short of their beauty. I made a diversion from their near neighbourhood by offering baksheesh (money) for bunches of zawân—the tares of the parable—of which quantities were soon brought me.” It is interesting to notice how the very people whom Twain observed with distaste and to whom he dedicated such fierce sarcasm made such a different impression on the mind of this fine woman.
Kent ends her story: “When all had re-embarked, we pushed off amidst the parting salutations of the Magdalenes, and, the lateen sail being set, with the bright stars and young crescent moon shining down upon us, we sped upon the waters that had once born the august form of the Saviour.”