MOUNT CARMEL is the site of one of the most famous showdowns in biblical history, and it also boasts one of the most breathtaking views in Israel.
Although relatively small compared to other mountains in Israel, Mount Carmel’s peak is high enough to afford a panoramic view of the coastal plain, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Jezreel Valley.
Just south and east of the city of Haifa, Mount Carmel is where Elijah the Prophet stood toe-to-toe with the priests of Baal over whose god was stronger (1 Kings 18:20-40). Elijah put forth a challenge to build two altars and see which god would consume the sacrifice with fire. First the prophets of Baal sacrificed an ox and placed it on their altar. They called on Baal all day with no response. Then, Elijah built his altar and laid out the sacrifice. He poured water over the sacrifice three times. Elijah called out to God and fire fell from the sky and consumed the offering, the water, and the altar itself. The people declared, “The Lord, He is God!”
A site known as Mukhraka (“the Scorching”) is located at the summit of Mount Carmel to commemorate this significant event in the history of Israel and its people. There, a statue of Elijah stands with a raised sword. There is also a Carmelite monastery on the grounds. From its rooftop you can take in the view of the Jezreel Valley and the surrounding area.
On the western edge of Mount Carmel, you will find the Stella Maris Monastery, known as the headquarters of the Carmelites. Under the monastery is a cave believed to be the place where Elijah resided periodically. There is also another location closer to the Mediterranean that claims to be the cave of Elijah. It is a grotto where the prophet is said to have rested and meditated before his contest with the priests of Baal.
Mount Carmel’s higher elevation ensures it receives greater rainfall than the plains below, resulting in lush plant life and dense forests. Carmel National Park beckons visitors to experience its abundance of pine trees, trails, and scenic routes. In spring, the park comes into full bloom with over 650 species of plants and flowers. There is also a wildlife reserve, known as “Hai-Bar,” which features a variety of birds and other animals native to the area.
While you are in the area, you may want to stop at the artist colony of Ein Hod, located in the foothills of Mount Carmel. Walk through the streets and stop by the artists’ homes, which are largely open to the public, or enjoy the communal gallery at the village center.