Mount Carmel is a seaward extension of the Samara range. It stretches along fourteen miles and is 3-4 miles wide, jutting across the coastal plain to meet the sea at Haifa. Carmel was extolled by the prophets for its beauty and fertility (Songs 7:5, Isa. 35:2, Amos 1:2) and as a place of worship and retreat (I Kings 18:19, II Kings 2:25, Amos 9:3). Today, the mountain is covered with oak and carob groves with several settlements scattered on its broad rolling plateau. In biblical times, this plateau was heavily cultivated. A few villages here, Daliyat al-Karmel and Isifiya, were inhabited by a non-Muslim Arab people called the Druze. This sect was founded by Muhammad ibn Ismail and broke away from formal Islam in the 11th century. The Druze live primarily in the Galilee, the Carmel, the Golan Heights, Lebanon and Syria.
Situated on Mount Carmel overlooking the Jezreel Valley. The Canaanite inhabitants worshipped Baal and his consort Ishtar who were adopted by the Israelites. Here, Elijah the prophet challenged the priests of Baal to prove whose god was more powerful and when he won, the Israelites abandoned the Canaanite deities and the false prophets were slaughtered (1 Kings 18). Mukhraka, the traditional site of the contest, is today marked by a Carmelite monastery built in 1886.
Haifa - The Baha'i Shrine
Haifa is the world center of the Baha'i faith. The neo-classical archives and gold-domed shrine are situated in one of Israel's most beautiful garden estates. In 1844, a Persian, Mirza Mohammed Ali Mohammad, declared himself the forerunner or "El Bab" and proclaimed the imminent coming of the awaited Mahdi. In 1866, a follower, Baha Ulla, announced that he was the awaited one. The Turks banished Baha Ulla to Acre, where he is buried. The Baha'i faith preaches continual revelation and respects all previous enlightened teachings. The sect now numbers over two million. The gold-domed shrine contains the remains of both el Bab and the Baha Ulla's successor, Abdul Basha.
Acre is first mentioned in the Egyptian excretion texts in the 19th century B.C. From the 25th to the 13th centuries B.C, it was a large important Canaanite city. Though part of the inheritance of Asher, it never seems to have been conquered by the Israelites (Judges 1:31). In the 7th and 8th centuries B.C, it was an important Phoenician city. It flourished as a Hellenistic city under the name Ptolemais. Here Paul disembarked (Acts 21:7). The city is mentioned once in the New Testament. Acre entered its most glorious period with the coming of the Crusaders; it was taken by Baldwin I in 104 A.D., and became a chief stronghold of the Crusaders Kingdom. After the disastrous Christian defeat at Hattin in 1187, the city surrendered to Saladin without resistance but was soon reinforced by knights from all over Europe, only to fall in 1191. During following century, St. John de Acre became capital of the Latin Kingdom. Rivalry between the principal chivalrous orders and corruption within the merchant population weakened the city's strength and hastened its fall to Muslims in 1291. Many Crusader buildings and fortifications remain intact to this day. The Acre Mosque was built by the notorious 18th century Muslim ruler; Jezzar Pasha is among the most important mosques in Israel.
The view from Megiddo is magnificent. Its strategic location at the crossing of two military and trade routes gave the city an importance far beyond its size. The Tel itself consists of twenty superimposed cities, the oldest going back to 4000 B.C. The Tel was finally abandoned in 400 B.C. A Canaanite city stood here around 2,000 B.C., but was succeeded to by the Hyksos invaders in the 18th century B.C. The Hyksos were finally subdued and Megiddo taken by the Pharaoh Thutmose in 1478 B.C. King Solomon fortified Megiddo and made it one of his chariot cities and supply centers (I Kings 4:12; 9:15; 10:26). Two Judean kings died in battle here: Ahaziah was killed by Jehu in 847 B.C, (II Kings 9:27) and Josiah by Pharaoh Necco in 610 B.C. (II Kings 23:26). In World War I, the decisive battle in the conquest of northern Palestine by the British was fought here. General Allenby's victory earned him the title Viscount of Megiddo. Megiddo is identified with Armageddon of Revelations 16:16.
Located on the coast, Caesarea was initially a small Phoenician trading post called Straton's tower. In 25 B.C., Herod the Great built an artificial harbor and a "king size" city. This port city of Caesarea, named in honor of Augustus, was designed to link the pagan Decapolis with Rome and serve as a counterweight to Jerusalem's port of Jaffa. After Herod's death, Caesarea became the seat of the Roman government in Judea; Pontius Pilate resided here during his terms as procurator. A bitter dispute between the local pagan and Jewish populations led to heightened Jewish resentment of Rome. With the outbreak of the Jewish revolt, Vespasian was proclaimed emperor here. Phillip the Deacon was evangelized here (Acts 8:40) and Paul was imprisoned here (Acts 23:23). The seat of government during Byzantine times, Caesarea had a population of 200,000. One famous inhabitant was Eusebeus, the first historian of the church. Caesarea fell in 640 to the Arabs, but was retaken and fortified by the Crusaders and finally destroyed by Baybars in 1921. It is now a very popular tourist site with a fine beach, restaurant, art galleries and excavations.
From time immemorial, Jaffa (Hebrew for "beautiful") has been important as a port and station in the ancient trade route of "Via Maris" which connected Egypt with Mesopotamia and the north. Legend holds that the founder of Jaffa was Japhet, son of Noah. Documentary evidence goes back 3,500 years to the time when, as described in the Amarna letters, the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III conquered the town in 1468 B.C., by bringing in with him hundreds of soldiers in innocent-looking hampers. II Chronicles 2:16 relates how Solomon discussed his building projects with Hiram, King of Tyre, who offered: "We will cut wood out of Lebanon... and bring it in floats by sea to Joppa", for this was the Holy Land's outlet to the wide world. Jonah 1:3 tells how he "went down to Joppa. And he found a ship going to Tarshish". Christians associate Jaffa with Peter, who resorted Tabitha to life and "tarried many days with one Simon, a tanner" (Acts 9:43). Here, he had his vision which led to the first preaching of the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. The House of Simon the tanner and St. Peter's Church recall these events. Another legend associated with Jaffa is that of Perseus and Andromeda, daughter of the King of Jaffa. The beautiful princess was chained to a rock in the harbor to be sacrificed to the sea monster to appease its wrath. Perseus saw her in her terrible plight and rescued her by slaying the monster. "Andromeda's rock" can be seen in the harbor not far from the light-house. Today, one of Jaffa's main attractions is the Artists' quarter with its quaint streets and workshops.