Sites and Insights: Mt. Carmel - gateway to the world

A new column; Dr. Wayne Stiles explores the biblical sites of Israel, the significance behind them and how to make the most of a visit.

Mt Carmel road 311 (photo credit:
Mt Carmel road 311
(photo credit:
Wayne Stiles is an author who has never recovered from his travels in Israel—and loves to write about them from his desk in Texas.
We live in an age in which traveling great distances no longer proves a challenge. Modern transportation requires little more than a basic understanding of road signs and airline gates (which somehow I still seem to miss). Consequently, we feel little need to know much about geography.
And yet, geography played a critical role in ancient Israel.
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The land of Israel sat in an amazingly strategic position as the only intercontinental land bridge between the superpowers of the ancient world. The strategic International Highway - sometimes called the Great Trunk Road or the Via Maris (“Way of the Sea”) - ran the full length of the land of Israel.
This vast artery of transport stretched from the Fertile Crescent all the way to Egypt. Israel stood at the crossroads of three continents - Asia, Africa, and Europe - and the surrounding seas and desert forced all who traveled to Egypt by land to traverse Israel. Thus, the armies of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome all invaded Israel in order to control its International Highway. Israel remained for millennia the crossroads for international imperialism, war, and trade.
Even today, Israel serves as the overland passageway for large, high-flying birds that prefer not to migrate over the seas. Literally hundreds of thousands of black and white storks, steppe and spotted eagles, black kites, steppe and honey buzzards, and Levant sparrowhawks soar over the Holy Land in their biannual migrations to and from east Africa. It’s no wonder bird watching remains a popular activity in Israel.
As the highway ran north from Egypt, the road forked three ways in order to traverse the imposing Mount Carmel range. History illustrates how each of these passes was used.
To the west, the highway followed the Yokneam Pass (modern Route 70) through Mount Carmel. When traveling through this pass today, I think of Napoleon who used this ancient road in AD 1799 on his journey north to Acre.
The central pass through Mount Carmel served as the most significant fork of the International Highway. Whenever I travel on the Megiddo Pass (modern Route 65), I try to imagine the chariots of Pharaoh Thutmose III (1504-1450 BC) as they rumbled north to battle the Canaanites at Megiddo. (Thutmose III was the Pharaoh who oppressed the enslaved Hebrews; see Exodus 2:23.)
The Dothan Pass served as the eastern fork of the International Highway through Mount Carmel. Driving through this beautiful pass today (approximately Route 585), I imagine Joseph whose brothers sold him to a caravan of Ishmaelites who were traveling the International Highway south to Egypt (see Genesis 37:17-28).
I find it fascinating that when world powers traveled through Israel during biblical days, God’s people would either influence them or be influenced by them. Because of this influence, Israel’s central position among the nations proved to be a double-edged sword.
The Prophet Ezekiel recorded how God lamented that Jerusalem’s general placement as “the center of the nations,” had borne no fruit of obedience (see Ezekiel 5:5). Ironically, God’s people had been swayed by the very nations He intended them to influence.
A brief article can hardly do justice to the significance of Israel’s ancient geography and International Highway. Today, historians, Bible students, and migrating birds tell the story.
To Get There: Experience each of the ancient passes by following Routes 70, 65, and 585 through the Mount Carmel range. While driving, imagine some of the history that occurred along those very routes.

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