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The Sacred Mountain

    At 2,745 meters, this is the second highest peak in Lebanon after the 3,083 meter-high Qornet El-Sawda in the North.

    The mountain was known to the Phoenicians as Sirion and the Old Testament referred to it as Hermon. This was a sacred mountain, one of the centers of the ancient tradition of worship in high places. Today it is known ass Jabal al-Shaykh.

    In Roman times, Mt. Hermon, like Mt. Carmel and Mt. Cassius, was regarded as a holy place and the residence of a god. Not surprisingly, numerous temples rose up on its slopes. Traces of a pagan cult can still be found on the second summit, Qasr Antar. This cone-shaped peak rising five to six meters high, is encircled by an oval stone barrier.

    Connected with this sacred enclosure is a small temple to the south, whose moldings indicate that it was built in the Roman period. The cone has been especially adapted to serve as a geodetic reference mark. The rock is hollowed out to form a basin wall three and a half meters in diameter. Ritual processions probably took place around the sacred  peak, a practice common among the Semites. St, Jerome relates that even in his lifetime (347-420 AD), people climbed to the summit to make their scacrifices.

    The modern traveler will have no trouble appreciating the importance of this mountain in ancient times, for even today it stands above the South Beqaa valley as a major presence. Under snow in winter and spring, Mt. Hermon lends a wonderful contrast to the verdant landscape around it.

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