Clinging to the summit of one of Mount Carmel’s most prominent peaks, the tiny Catholic monastery of Mukhraka is worth the detour for the panoramic view alone.
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The giant quilt of the Jezreel Valley far below represents some of Israel’s richest farmland. In the distance are Nazareth, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Gilboa and Samaria – each resonating with a variety of ancient tales, from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. The valley is identified in Christian tradition as Armageddon, the legendary battleground at the end of time.
But the story of the Israelite prophet Elijah is what gives this place context. It’s the early ninth century B.C.E., and King Ahab’s Phoenician wife Jezebel has reintroduced worship of the alpha-male pagan god Baal. Elijah is livid.
“How long will you go limping with two opinions?!” he storms at his countrymen (1 Kings 18). The contest is set: Elijah and the rival prophets of Baal each set up an altar and a sacrifice. Each one calls on his god and the one that answers by fire will be declared victorious. The melodrama reaches its predictable climax: the helpless prophets of Baal meet their hapless end in the valley below; Israelite faith is restored; and the curse of a three-year drought is broken.
A fierce statue of Elijah greets the visitor at the entrance to the tranquil little chapel.
From Rte. 70, which runs between Zichron Yaakov and Yokne’am, take Rte. 972 up Mt. Carmel in the direction of Daliyat el-Karmil and Isafiya, two very large Druze villages. At a roundabout at the entrance to Daliyat, the first of the villages from this direction which itself offers a colorful souvenir market and delicious lunch options, turn right onto a well-signposted local road and follow it a few kilometers to the end.