Carmel Mountain and Cave of Elijah the Prophet
In the days of the First Commonwealth, Elijah the Prophet staged a dramatic showdown with pagan prophets on Carmel Mountain, making it an important site for pilgrims on a Holy Land tour. Ancient cultures revered high places, and this Galilean peak is 1,810 ft high, making it a natural location for worship. Elijah chose it as the place to confront 450 prophets of Baal, demonstrating that their power is worthless in the presence of God.
The showdown resulted in Elijah being persecuted by the idolatrous Israelite monarch, Ahab, so the prophet hid for some time in an area cave. Catholic tradition places this cave at the highest point of the mountain, where a Carmelite monastery currently resides. The cave, called Elijah's Grotto, is located in a crypt of the monastic church. Don't miss the statue depicting Elijah slaughtering the false prophets in bloody triumph after God's victory.
The Carmel Mountain is lush with vegetation, and the Bible refers to it as a symbol of beauty and fertility. Hikers will enjoy the many nature trails, ranging from easy to difficult. Israel's Nature and Parks Authority has created a nature reserve on the mountain, to safeguard Mediterranean natural life and terrain. The Hai Bar Carmel visitors' center tells the story of these conservation efforts and houses a collection of animals reintroduced to the area: Armenian wild sheep, falcons, Persian fallow deer, roe deer, vultures and other raptors.
Also worth a visit on Mount Carmel are the city of Haifa's beautifully landscaped Bahai Gardens and the campus of Haifa University. Two Druze villages are situated on the mountain as well, and the residents here often welcome visitors who want to learn about the Druze culture and handicrafts.