As a Holy Land, Israel has numerous sites that are typically visited by pilgrims. Jerusalem has a wealth of those religious sites for people of different faiths and denominations. But you have to look beyond Jerusalem, for there are so many more religious sites to explore in this country that will help you strengthen and re-affirm your faith.
Go north of the country and visit Haifa, Israel’s “working city” that has lots of gems to discover for both casual tourists and pilgrims. Being strategically situated on the slopes of Mount Carmel and on the shores of Mediterranean Sea Haifa is a busy port city with lots of tourist attractions, including of course the holy sites.
If you plan to make a pilgrimage to Haifa, it’s recommended (or rather customary) to start at the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, located at the northwestern slopes of Mount Carmel. It is the world center of the Carmelite Order of the Roman Catholic Church. Not far from the monastery lies a grotto called the Cave of Elijah or Elijah’s Cave.
Biblical account of Elijah’s stay in the cave and encounter with the priests of Baal
The cave was well known to the prophet Elijah. He took shelter there during his journey into the wilderness. As depicted in 1 Kings 19:8-10 of the Old Testament:
“Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing, Elijah?’ He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.”
Please note, though, that the exact location of the caves is still unknown. The grotto in Haifa is only traditionally believed to be the site where Elijah took shelter before his fateful encounter with the priests of Baal.
In this encounter, also told further in 1 Kings 19:11-40, Elijah issued a challenge to 450 pagan priests. Before the assembly on Mount Carmel’s summit, Elijah called on the priests to seek fire from their god Baal to light a sacrifice. When Baal failed to respond to their pleads, Elijah rebuilt the ruined altar of the Lord and offered his own sacrifice. Immediately, fire came down from heaven and consumed the offering, even though it had been soaked in water.
How to go to the Cave of Elijah
The Cave of Elijah can be accessed by stairs on Allenby Road, not far from Haifa’s cable car. It can also be accessed down a steep path from the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery on Stella Maris Road.
The cave itself measures 14 meters long. It is located in a residential dwelling, but is otherwise open to the public. Male and female visitors go to their separate areas. The adjacent buildings served as a hostel during the late 1800s’s.
Elijah – venerated by four faiths
Elijah is a revered figure among Jews, Christians, Muslims and Druze, and for many centuries people of all of these four faiths visit the cave as pilgrims. The cave is also called el-Khader in Arabic. Writings left by the pilgrims in the past centuries can also be viewed on the cave walls.
The cave has also been associated with curing of mental illnesses, as it is believed to have curative properties over the years.
The site is currently administered by the Israel Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Derech Allenby 230, Haifa
Sunday to Thursday – 08:00 to 17:00
Friday – 08:00 to 13:00
Saturday – closed
How to reach the Cave of Elijah
- Buses 110, 111, 112, 245 to stop: Cave of Elijah/Allenby
- Buses 1, 3, 5, 17, 24, 31, 43, 792 to stop: Allenby
Entrance fee and parking
Both are free of charge