- ABSTRACTThe Variscan orogenesis in Europe peaked during the Late Devonian–Early Carboniferous times when Gondwanan terranes collided with Laurasia. Hitherto it has been thought that Carboniferous tectonics in northern Arabia and the adjacent parts of NE Africa were broad swells (‘arches’) and depressions (‘basins’) that formed as a far-field contractional effect of the Variscan compression. The discovery of a 351 ± 3 Ma (U–Pb in zircon) within-plate felsic volcanism in the Helez borehole, southern coastal Israel, suggests that the Levant Arch is, instead, extensional in origin. Felsic volcanism was associated with gabbro underplating of the crust, an extreme (~50°C/km) crustal thermal gradient, major uplift, and truncation of the ≥2.5 km section. Taken together with the recent discovery of the ~340 Ma oceanic crust in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Levant Arch is interpreted as an uplifted shoulder of a rift, preceding ocean spreading.