Mount Carmel Attractions Har Karmel
SituationThe Mount Carmel range is an outlier of the hills of Samaria, extending northwest for 23km/14mi, with a breadth of up to 10km/6mi, and falling steeply down to the sea in Cape Carmel. On the northeast its precipitous slopes descend to the Jezreel plain, and on the southwest it slopes down to the plain of Sharon.HistoryFinds (now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem) in caves on Mount Carmel, for example at Bet Oren, have shown that this area was inhabited in Palaeolithic times, 130,000 years ago. At least as early as Canaanite times Baal of Carmel was worshipped in hilltop shrines as the divine ruler of the region. Around 1000 B.C. David incorporated Carmel in his kingdom, but it was only in the ninth century that the prophet Elijah led the worship of Yahweh (Jehovah) to prevail over the cult of Baal which was favored by King Ahab of Israel (1 Kings 18). In an act of great importance to the development of strict monotheism and to Jewish history Elijah confronted 450 priests of Baal and 400 priests of Astarte from Ahab's kingdom on Mount Carmel. There he and his adversaries offered up sacrifices in the sight of the people at one of the old "high places" and then waited for their respective gods to "answer by fire". From Baal there was no response, but the "fire of the Lord" fell on Elijah's altar. Thereupon Elijah took the priests of Baal and Astarte down to the brook Kishon and slew them there.This event is believed to have taken place on the rocky hill of Muhraka (in Arabic "place of burning"; 482m/1581ft), on the southeast side of the range, where in 1886 a Carmelite monastery was built on the site of an earlier church (see below). Tell el-Kassis ("Priests' Hill"), in the plain below, is supposed to be the grave of the slaughtered priests. According to another version the confrontation took place on Cape Carmel, where there is a Carmelite house near Elijah's Cave.The form of religious life introduced by Elijah came to an end only a hundred years later with the Assyrian conquest in 732 B.C. Baal of Carmel, whose worship was now restored, was identified by the Greeks under the rule of Alexander's successors with Zeus and was known to the Romans as Deus Carmelus. In the second and third centuries there was a cult here of Jupiter of Heliopolis (Baalbek - a name also associated with Baal), and a citizen of Caesarea erected a statue of this "Heliopolitan Zeus of Carmel". The Carmelite monastery has a fragment of the statue's foot, identified by an inscription. The first Christians settled on Mount Carmel in the Crusader period. The Carmelite order was founded here in 1150; the monastery was several times destroyed and rebuilt, most recently in 1828.
Carmel National Park
Mount Carmel, which has two main ridges, consists of hard limestone and dolomite. Thanks to the abundant rainfall a great variety of plants and shrubs flourish in the depressions in the hills. This area of unspoiled natural beauty is now a National Park (several camping sites).In the 20th century the rapidly developing city of Haifa has reached farther up the northwestern slopes of Mount Carmel, with the University tower a prominent landmark on its hill. The Druze villages on the wooded slopes of the range attract many visitors from the city.Carmel is the largest National Park in Israel.
Monastery of St Elias, Israel
Leave Haifa by way of the Central Carmel district, Moriah Street and Horev Street, going southeast. The road runs past the Biran Military Academy (on left), the village of Hod Karmel (on right) and the new University of Haifa (on left), and then climbs to the highest point on Mount Carmel (546m/1,791ft). From there it continues to the village of Isfiya (14km/8.5mi), which is inhabited by both Druzes and Christians, and the Druze village of Daliyat (4km/2.5mi). From here a road runs southeast to Mount Muhraka (4km/2.5mi; 482m/1581ft), with the Carmelite monastery of St Elias (Elijah). It was here, according to the tradition, that Elijah set up an altar during his conflict with the priests of Baal (1 Kings 18,32).
Bet Oren, Israel
Bet Oren ("House in the Pinewood"), a kibbutz founded in 1939, lies to the south of Haifa on Mount Carmel but is only 6km/4mi from the sea, so that holidaymakers here can enjoy a variety of scenery and of activity. There are two possible routes from Haifa to Bet Oren: either take the coast road to the south and at the turn-off for Atlit (13km/8mi) turn into a road to the left, or alternatively take the Mount Carmel road and in 19km/12mi turn right. Remains of Carmel Man, who lived in the Palaeolithic era, 130,000 years ago, were found in caves 6km/4mi west of the village. Finds from the site are now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.