KERAK, a town in eastern Palestine, 10 m. E. of the southern angle of the Lisan promontory of the Dead Sea, on the top of a rocky hill about 3000 ft. above sea-level. It stands on a platform forming an irregular triangle with sides about 3000 ft. in length, and separated by deep ravines from the ranges around on all sides but one. The population is estimated at 6000 Moslems and 1800 Orthodox Greek Christians. Kerak is identified with the Moabite town of Kir-Hareseth (destroyed by the HebrewEdomite coalition, 2 Kings iii. 25), and denounced by Isaiah under the name Kir of Moab (xv. i), Kir-Hareseth (xvi. 7) or Kir-Heres (xvi. n): Jeremiah also refers to it by the last name (xxxix. 31, 36). The modern name, in the form Xdpa, appears in 2 Mace. xii. 17. Later, Kerak was the seat of the archbishop of Petra. The Latin kings of Jerusalem, recognizing its importance as the key of the E. Jordan region, fortified it in 1142: from 1183 it was attacked desperately by Saladin, to whom at last it yielded in 1188. The Arabian Ayyubite princes fortified the town, as did the Egyptian Mameluke sultans. The fortifications were repaired by Bibars in the 13th century. For a long time after the Turkish occupation of Palestine and Egypt it enjoyed a semiindependence, but in 1893 a Turkish governor with a strong garrison was established there, which has greatly contributed to secure the safety of travellers and the general quiet of the district. The town is an irregular congeries of flat mud-roofed houses. In the Christian quarter is the church of Sf George; the mosque also is a building of Christian origin. The town is surrounded by a wall with five towers; entrance now is obtained through breaches in the wall, but formerly it was accessible only by means of tunnels cut in the rocky substratum. The castle, now used as the headquarters of the garrison and closed to visitors, is a remarkably fine example of a crusaders' fortress.
(R. A. S. M.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)