« Carlyle, Thomas Carmel Carmelites »


CARMEL: The mountain in the west of Palestine which separates the Plain of Acre front the Plain of Sharon. I Kings xviii. 40–46 locates it near the Kishon and between the Mediterranean and Jezreel; Joshua xix. 26 and Jer. xlvi. 18 locate it as the southern boundary of Asher and as abutting on the sea. Jabal Karmal is the name it still bears, and it is also called "Mount of the Holy Elijah." In the Hebrew the name has the article, and means "wooded garden," setting forth the contrast between the greenness of Carmel and the bareness of the hills of central Palestine.. This fact is often referred to in Scripture, the wooded Bashan, Lebanon, and Carmel being named together, though the bushy rather than forest growth of the last is sometimes noted.

The mountain is wedge-shaped, with the edge toward the sea; the western extension turning toward the south runs approximately parallel to the coast, while the northern cliffs curve gently along the plain of the Kishon. Its stone is a gray limestone, and caves are numerous. It is about thirteen miles in length and eight and a half broad at its eastern end. It is marked off by the Wadi-al-Milh, emptying into the Kishon, and the Wadi-al-Matabin, which flows to the coast plain.

The northern point is occupied by the convent of the Carmelites and a shelter provided for pilgrims. The situation affords an unobstructed view both of the coast to the south and of that to the north as far as Acre. There are at present only two villages on the mountain, both in the southern part and inhabited by Druses. In earlier times the mountain was more densely populated, as is shown by the remains of cisterns and oil- and wine-presses. In 1820 the Druses made seventeen settlements there, but in the Turco-Egyptian war all were destroyed but two.

From its striking characteristics of position, form, and abundance of tree-growth, it is hardly to be wondered at that Carmel was a sacred place. I Kings xviii. connects this fact with the memory of Elijah. The site of the episode related there is given by tradition as El-Mahraka, "the Place of Burning," a terrace, 1,600 feet above the sea, where are a [Druse] chapel and some ruins. Beneath this on the bank of the Kishon is a little mound to which the name "Hill of the Priests" is given, pointed out as the place where the priests of Baal were slain. Tradition locates also the place where Elijah dwelt, in a valley, in which there is a spring known as Ain-al-Sih, about two miles south of the convent. The Mohammedans regard the place as sacred, and point out the site of Elijah's garden, where appear numbers of "Elijah's melons," geodes which characterize the Carmel formation. Near it the first monastery was built about 1200, replaced by a new one somewhat later, which was destroyed by Abdallah Pasha in 1821 that it might not be used as a fort by his enemies. It was reconstructed about 1828, and the church is built over 418an "Elijah-grotto"; that is, a cave in which Elijah is said to have lived.

The Old Testament does not determine to which of the tribes Carmel belonged, whether to Asher, Zebulun, or Manasseh. At various times it was counted to Galilee and to Phenicia. Tacitus, asserts that "Carmel" was the name of a mountain and a deity, and Vespasian had the oracle there consulted.

The coast at the foot of the mountain is about 100 yards wide, broadening north and south. At the foot of the bay of Akko there was an old city called Sycaminum by Greeks and Romans and Haifa in the Talmud, coins of which are known. The place was destroyed and the material used to build the present Haifa at the mouth of the Mahon, 1780, the growth of which in recent years has been quite rapid.

(H. Guthe.)

Bibliography: C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener, Survey of Western Palestine, Memoirs, i. 264 sqq., London. 1881; G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 337–340, 7th ed., London, 1897; E. Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, iii. 189, Boston, 1841; A. Reland, Palæstina, 2 vols., Utrecht 1714; J. de S. Thérèse, Le Sanctuaire du Mont Carmel depuis son origine jusqu’à nos jours, Marseilles, 1876; T. Saunders, Introduction to the Survey of Western Palestine. London, 1881; PEF, Quarterly Statements, particularly for the years 1882–86; G Ebers and H. Guthe, Palästina in Bild und Wort, ii. 106 sqq., 1884; C. R. Conder, Tent-work in Palestine, new ed., London, 1889.

« Carlyle, Thomas Carmel Carmelites »
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