Glimpses of Israel - Mt Carmel

by Joseph Hunting

None of Israel's mountains with the exception of Mt.Hermon are more than several hundred metres high. But what they lack in grandeur they more than compensate with in places of interest. Mount Carmel is no exception.

Carmel means Vineyard of God and comes from two Hebrew words, kerem (vineyard) and El (God). In Bible times the mountain was famous for its vineyards.

One of the surprises I was shown on the summit of Mt. Carmel was a perfectly formed fossil of a sea-shell found in a nearby disused quarry several miles from the coast. On another occasion when driving with friends we came upon quarries that had been worked by the Romans who shipped the stone from nearby Ptolemais (Acre) to the new coastal town of Caesarea which was to become the Roman capital of Palestine.

The views from the summit of Mt. Carmel are breathtaking in their beauty. At the foot of the range the ancient river Kishon winds its way to the Mediterranean Sea on the outskirts of Haifa. This river saw the defeat of Sisera's army under Deborah and Barak. The slopes of Mt. Carmel have witnessed some of the greatest battles ever fought in the Holy Land. Perhaps the most famous victory was that of Gideon and his army of a mere three hundred when "the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seaside for multitude" (Judges 7:12).

And it was on Mt. Carmel that Elijah called down fire from heaven in his contest with the priests of Baal. It was from this spot Elijah also ended a three-year drought.

In Bible times the coastal region in the area was allocated to the tribe of Zebulun. From the summit of Mt.Carmel near the coast one has a magnificent panorama of the coast line stretching as far north as Acre, and on a clear day to the coast of Lebanon. Is Haifa's busy port the fulfilment of Jacob's prophecy to his son Zebulun? "Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he shall be for an haven for ships; and his border shall be unto Zidon" (Genesis 49:13).