Since time immemorial, Mount Carmel has been crowned by lush, green forests and broad, beautiful landscapes. It is beloved for its panoramic views of the Jezreel Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Hidden among the natural springs coming from its limestone outcroppings are a series of volcanic cave entrances—ideal hideaways for criminals on the run—or in this case, idol worshippers, as told in the important story of the biblical prophet and sage Elijah.
Elijah is perhaps best known for his showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18), reestablishing the rule of singular worship of God among the people of Israel. According to the biblical text, Elijah retreated to a cave to rest before and after. It is this cave which inspired the formation of the Carmelites, a Catholic order dedicated to preserving the biblical account.
Formed in the 12th century, the Carmelite order established the Stella Maris Monastery, located on the western edge of Mount Carmel. It is known as the headquarters of the Carmelites. Under the monastery is a large natural opening in the limestone, believed to be the cavern where Elijah resided periodically while journeying through the wilderness. It is believed that from the Byzantine period forward, this cave became a frequent stopping place for pilgrims and travelers.
Today, visitors can see the cave—which is now a grotto in the monastery—and the ancient inscriptions carved into its walls. The entrance to the cave is marked with signs directing men and women to separate sections. The cave opening is behind a velvet curtain. Modest dress is strongly recommended.
See the sacred place where Elijah the Prophet took refuge on your next trip to Israel!
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