Mt. Carmel in Israel

Jezreel Valley, Galilee, Israel (Lori Erickson photo)

Southeast of Haifa lies Mt. Carmel, a promontory rich in Biblical history. As you stand on its peak, below you can see the fertile plains of the Jezreel Valley, which during the course of 7,000 years has seen countless battles (so many that the Book of Revelation identifies this spot as the place where the final battle of Armageddon will be fought).

According to Biblical tradition, it was on this spot that Elijah the Prophet confronted the priests of Baal with a proposition to see whose god was stronger. Hundreds of Baal’s priests were summoned to the top of Mt. Carmel and two altars were built, one for the pagan gods and one for Yahweh. Two oxens were sacrificed and laid on the altars, and Elijah challenged the priests of Baal to pray for a fire to light the pyre. They prayed and prayed from morning until evening without success. Then Elijah drenched the other altar with water, making sure it was good and wet, and prayed to Yahweh. Fire fell from the sky, consuming the sacrifice and even the stones of the altar. Convinced by the pyrotechnics, the Israelites abandoned the pagan deities and turned to Elijah’s God.

Statue of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, Israel (Lori Erickson photo)

Today the site is known as Muhraka (“the Scorching”) and is marked by a dramatic statue of Elijah with raised sword. It’s also home to a monastery of the Discalced Carmelite Order. You can admire the view from the monastery’s rooftop and then go inside its small modern chapel, which stands on the remains of a fourth-century church.

On the drive back down the mountain you’ll pass forests of oak, pistachio, pine and cypress trees in Carmel National Park as well as a Druze community, Daliyat El Carmel. The Druze, who practice a religion that blends Islamic monotheism with Greek philosophy and Hindu influences, number about 100,000 in Israel. Many live in the northern part of Israel.

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