CARMEL, the mountain promontory by which the seacoast of Palestine is interrupted south of the Bay of Acre, 32° 50' N., 35° E. It continues as a ridge of oolitic limestone, broken by ravines and honeycombed by caves, running for about 20 m. in a south-easterly direction, and finally joining the mountains of Samaria. Its maximum height is at 'Esfia, 1760 ft. It was included in the territory of the tribe of Asher. No great political event is recorded in connexion with it; it appears throughout the Old Testament "either as a symbol or as a sanctuary"; its name means "garden-land." Its fruitfulness is referred to by Isaiah and by Amos; Micah describes it as wooded, to which was no doubt due its value as a hiding-place (Amos ix. 3). It is now wild, only a few patches being cultivated; most of the mountain is covered with a thick brushwood of evergreens, oaks, myrtles, pines, etc., which is gradually being cleared away. That the cultivation was once much more extensive is indicated by the large number of rock-hewn wine and olive presses. Vines and olives are now found at 'Esfia only. The outstanding position of Carmel, its solitariness, its visibility over a wide area of country, and its fertility, marked it out as a suitable place for a sanctuary from very ancient times. It is possibly referred to in the Palestine lists of Thothmes III. as Rosh Kodsu, "the holy headland." An altar of Jehovah existed here from early times; it was destroyed when the Phoenician Baal claimed the country under Jezebel, and repaired by Elijah (1 Kings xviii. 30) before the great sacrifice which decided the claims of the contending deities. The traditional site of this sacrifice is at El-Muhraka, at the eastern end of the ridge. The Druses still visit this site, where is a dilapidated structure of stones, as a holy place for sacrifice. On the bank of the Kishon below is a mound known as Tell el-Ḳusis, "the Priest's mound," but the connexion that has been sought between this name and the slaughter of the priests of Baal is hardly justifiable. Other sites on the hill are traditionally connected with Elijah, and some melon-like fossils are explained as being fruits refused to him by its owner, who was punished by having them turned to stone. Elisha was stationed here for a time. Tacitus describes the hill as the site of an oracle, which Vespasian consulted. Iamblichus in his life of Pythagoras speaks of it as a place of great sanctity forbidden to the vulgar. A grove of trees, called the "Trees of the Forty" [Martyrs], still remains, no doubt in former times a sacred grove. So early as the 4th century Christian hermits began to settle here, and in 1207 the Carmelite order was organized. The monastery, founded at the fountain of Elijah in 1209, has had many vicissitudes: the monks were slaughtered or driven to Europe in 1238 and the building decayed; it was visited and refounded by St Louis in 1252; again despoiled in 1291; once more rebuilt in 1631, and, in 1635 (when the monks were massacred), sacked and turned into a mosque. Once more the monks established themselves, only to be murdered after Napoleon's retreat in 1799. The church and the monastery were entirely destroyed in 1821 by 'Abd Allah, pasha of Acre, on the plea that the monks would favour the revolting Greeks; but it was shortly afterwards rebuilt by order from the Porte, partly at 'Abd Allah's expense and partly by contributions raised in Europe, Asia and Africa by Brother Giovanni Battista of Frascati. The villages with which the mountain was once covered have been to a large extent depopulated by the Druses.
(R. A. S. M.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)