CARMEL, MOUNT (Heb. הַר הַכַּרְמֶל), mountain range on the northernmost coastal plain of Israel. The range branches off from the Samarian Mountains and runs toward the Mediterranean coast. Its eastern border is the Jezreel Valley, in the south it is bordered by the Manasseh Heights, in the west by the sea, and in the north by the Gulf of Haifa. Average annual rainfall is 600 mm. The range is covered by Mediterranean vegetation and inhabited by many species of animals. The striking shape of the Carmel promontory made it a conspicuous landmark for early seafarers who venerated it as the seat of a god, the Baal of Carmel. The first settlers were Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. Traces of them have been found in caves there. Carmel is possibly mentioned in an Egyptian document from the time of Pepi i (c. 2325–2275 b.c.e.) which describes the landing of troops at the rear of a high mountain called "the Nose of the Gazelle's Head." In inscriptions from the 15th to 12th centuries b.c.e., it appears as rosh kadesh ("sacred promontory"); references to the rosh ("promontory") also occur in the story of Elijah (i Kings 18:42), in Amos (9:3), and in the Song of Songs, where the head of the beloved is likened to Carmel (7:6). Carmel by the sea is compared with Tabor among the mountains in Jeremiah (46:18) and with Bashan in Nahum 1:4 and Jeremiah 50:19, etc. It extended as far as Jokneam and is mentioned as a point on the boundary of the tribe of Asher (Josh. 12:22; 19:26). It was located on the border of Phoenicia and a Roman inscription states that there the Phoenicians worshiped the god Hadad, the Baal of Carmel. In Ahab's time it was the scene of the famous contest between Elijah and the priests of Baal (i Kings 18:19ff.). In Assyrian inscriptions Carmel is called Bali-rasi ("Baal of the head [of Carmel]"). Tyre and Israel paid tribute to Shalmaneser iii there in 841 b.c.e. From the Persian period onward (with the exception of the time of Alexander Yannai), Carmel belonged to Acre and its altar and sanctuary were then devoted to the god Zeus of Carmel, whose oracles were consulted by Vespasian and Trajan (Pliny, Natural History, 5:75; Tacitus, Histories, 2:78). According to Josephus there was a Jewish settlement in the Carmel area from Hasmonean times (Ant., 14:334; Wars, 1:250). In Christian times Zeus was supplanted by St. Elias, the el-Khider of Muslim legend. In the Crusader period a monastery was founded on Mount Carmel by St. Brochardus, a Frenchman born in Jerusalem. In 1291 the Muslims destroyed the monastery and murdered the monks. The Cave of Elijah at the foot of the hill is sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
[Michael Avi-Yonah /
Gideon Biger (2nd ed.)]
Until the 20th century, remnants of natural forest were preserved better on Mount Carmel than in most other parts of the country. Before the expansion of the city of *Haifa, beginning in the 1920s, the mountain area was only thinly populated. There were two Druze villages, Isfiya and Dāliyat al-Karmil, in its central part, the Arab village Ijzim in a small intermontane vale in the south, and several more Arab villages along the western rim which had their farming lands in the Coastal Plain. Only one of the non-Druze villages, al-*Fureidis, was not abandoned during the *War of Independence (1948). In the initial period of modern Jewish settlement the moshavah *Zikhron Ya'akov was founded (in 1883) on Mount Carmel's southernmost tip, but the rest of the area was left outside the scope of Jewish settlement until Jewish suburbs of Haifa, particularly Hadar ha-Karmel, expanded to the mountain's northern slope. Two small Jewish outposts, Ya'arot ha-Karmel and *Bet Oren, were founded on the mountain ridge in the late 1930s and suburbs of Haifa (Har ha-Karmel, Aḥuzah) reached the hilltop further north. In the early years of Israel statehood, new moshavim were established in the Carmel Coastal Plain in the west, but only a few settlements were added on the mountain itself (e.g., *Nir Eẓyon, the artists' village *Ein Hod, Kerem Maharal) and further settlement was curtailed. However, the natural growth of the city of Haifa led to further inhabitation of the mountain as new neighborhoods were built. Still, a large part of the mountain (21,000 acres) is part of the Mount Carmel National Park, Israel's largest, with a third of the area a nature reserve protected from development and urbanization.
[Efraim Orni /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
Abel, Geog, 1 (1933), 350ff.; Aharoni, Land, index; Avi-Yonah, in: iej, 2 (1952), 118ff.; Avi-Yonah, Land, index.
Mountain range stretching from Haifa, Israel, south-eastward for about 15 miles and reaching a height of 1,800 feet above sea level. It separates the Plain of Saron (Sharon) on the south from the Plain of Aser on the north. The lofty headland of Carmel, with its church and Carmelite monastery, juts into the Mediterranean and can be seen for miles from a ship approaching the port of Haifa. Its Hebrew name karmel ordinarily means orchard, but here connotes a pleasant woodland. The range, which is still heavily wooded, but now mostly with scrub growth, was noted in antiquity for its magnificent forest (Am 1.2; Is 33.9; 35.2), symbolic of a land blessed by God (Jer 50.19).
Since antiquity Carmel has been regarded as a holy mountain. In the middle of the 2d millennium b.c. the geographical lists at Karnak called Carmel "the sacred cape"; Iamblichus (De vita Pythagorica 3.15) wrote that it was "the most holy of all mountains and forbidden of access to many," and Tacitus (Hist. 2.78) related that Vespasian, after offering sacrifice at Carmel's open–air altar, received the favorable oracle that hinted he would become emperor (see also Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars 8.5). This sacred mountain was chosen by Elijah as the site for the altar in the contest between him and the prophets of baal (1 Kgs 18.17–46). Tradition locates the place of Elijah's sacrifice on the rocky plateau of el–Muḥraqa on the southeast flank of the range. Carmel is now known in Arabic as Jebel Mâr Elyâs (Mountain of Lord Elijah).
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible 324–325. f. m. abel, Géographie de la Palestine 1:350–353. d. baly, The Geography of the Bible (New York 1957) 136–137. m. du buit, Géographie de la Terre Sainte (Paris 1958) 65–66, 107. m. avi-yonah, "Mount Carmel and the God of Baalbek," Israel Exploration Journal 2 (1952) 118–124.