Joe's Blog

Showdown on Mount Carmel

One of the outstanding features of this coming Shabbat’s Torah reading (known as Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11-34:35), is the story of the Golden Calf. The Sages chose as the corresponding Haftarah – the reading from the Prophets – the story of the Prophet Elijah having a “face-off” with King Ahab and the prophets of the god Baal (I Kings 18:1-39). The connection? Both are highly dramatic stories of Israelites worshiping foreign gods and its consequences “of Biblical proportions!”

But it in most years a special haftarah, having to do with the season, is read instead of the Elijah story. This being a Jewish leap year (come to think of it, so is the secular year!) we get to read the very exciting story of Elijah which takes place at the highest point of the Carmel mountain range.

Today, on that location, known as Keren HaCarmel in Hebrew, there is a Carmelite monastery commemorating the Biblical event. In Arabic the site is known as Mukhraka: the place of the burning (figure out why!). From the roof of the monastery one is treated to one of the best panoramic views in the country, which includes the Jezreel Valley and a whole range of hills and mountains associated with Biblical stories. One can also see a bit of the Kishon stream – and even the Mediterranean Sea – which are mentioned in the Elijah story (no clues! you’ll have to read it on your own).

On one of the many tours that I’ve led, ascending to the Mukhraka rooftop, on a relatively clear day I managed to take a video, which I present here (about 1 minute). I added some place names for the reader’s convenience. The background music is from the song Shir HaEmek – the Song of the Jezreel Valley.