* St John
The village of Ein Kerem (Karem), on the west side of Jerusalem, is according to tradition the birthplace of John the Baptist. Five churches and monasteries are located around the village: St. John (birthplace of John), Visitation church (named after virgin Mary's visited to the summer house of John), Russian monastery (AlMoskovia), Greek Orthodox convent of St. John, and the monastery of Notre Dame De Sion.
In earlier periods, the village was a Canaanite site which evolved around the spring that gave its name (Ein Kerem - "the spring of the vineyard"). The site is identified as "Beit Hakerem" from the Israelite period (Jeremiah 6,1): "O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem".
The Holy sites are located in the village of Ein Kerem, west of Jerusalem (8KM from the center), on the road numbered #386. Pointing and clicking on selected points in purple will automatically scroll to the relevant photo or site.
The Bronze/Iron age Canaanite site was built around the spring in the valley of Ein Kerem (called " Mary's spring").
During the Israelite period, Ein Kerem was within the region of the tribe of Judah. It may have been called Beth-Hakerem, or "house of the vineyard": the Bible implies that it is close to Jerusalem, since a fire sign was used on the top of the Kerem hill to signal the approach of an enemy: (Jeremiah 6,1): "O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem: for evil appeareth out of the north, and great destruction".
Beth Hakerem was a regional center, which administrated the villages around it during the Persian conquest (5th C BC). Nehemiah 3 14: "But the dung gate repaired Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem; he built it, and set up the doors thereof, the locks thereof, and the bars thereof".
The water channel in Mary's spring is dated to the second temple period. It was cut into the rock in order to increase the spring's capacity.
According to Christian tradition, the village was a summer house for Zacharias and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist. The village was called "city of Juda" in the description of the visit by Luke.
Elizabeth (Elisheva) was the cousin of Mary, mother of Jesus. As per Luke, Mary visited Elizabeth when both were pregnant (hence the name - Church of visitation). During the visit, the baby leapt with joy in Elizabeth's womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, knowing Mary that she is about to give birth to the son of God. Mary then stayed with her cousin for 3 months until John was born, and left to Bethlehem.
John is an important figure in Christianity , and regarded as the "forerunner" - since John Baptized Jesus, and proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah.
The village and the spring is Holy for Christians, and several churches and monasteries were built during the Byzantine period. The visitation Crusaders church, on its "upper" floor, was built over one of them. St John was also built over ruins of Byzantine period.
The Crusaders rebuilt some of the ruined Byzantine churches. The upper floor of the visitation church shows remains of the Crusaders church, especially on the south wing.
The Franciscan monks started to settled here in 1674. They purchased lands and houses. After the village expanded, more Christian orders established presence in the popular pilgrimage site. The churches and monasteries were reconstructed in the late Ottoman period and Modern times -
The Arab village of Ain Karim was evacuated during the Independence war. After 1948 the village was rebuilt and new immigrants built the new Ein Kerem, which is part of the municipality of Jerusalem. Many artists and academics moved into the village.
Today, Ein Kerem is a remarkable and picturesque village, with old Arabic style houses and lovely gardens. Many pilgrims visit the holy sites of Ein Kerem while staying in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and the village attracts tourists and families who come to enjoy the special atmosphere, or stay at its guest houses.
A view of the southern hill is seen below. The "visitation" path, from Mary's spring to the Visitation church , is seen on the bottom. On the hillside is the Visitation church (on the right) and the Moskubiya Russian church (in the center).
Click on the photos to view in higher resolution...
A view from the visitation church towards the north is seen below, showing the western side of the hill of Ein Kerem. The ancient terraces on the foothills were used for agriculture. Among the residential houses, on the left side, is the walled rear side of the monastery of Notre Dam De Sion.
The facade of the visitation church is seen below. This is a Franciscan church, built in 1955 and designed by the Italian famous church architect, Antonio Barluzzi, who also designed other churches such as the Mount of Beatitudes, Dominus Flevit and Basilica of Agony.
For more information and photos on the Visitation church, click here.
The spring was the nucleus of the Canaanite city in the Bronze period, and its waters were used as the main source of water for thousands of years since then. Ein Kerem is actually named after the spring (Hebrew: Ein = spring, Kerem = vineyard).
A mosque, whose tower is seen below rising above the structure of the spring, was built over Mary's spring in the 2nd half of the 19th C.
For more information and photos on Mary's spring, click here.
On the western side of the top of the hill is the monastery of Notre Dame De Sion, built in 1860/1.
A view from the eastern side of the monastery. The place started as an orphanage and as the private house of its owner. It is operated by the order of nuns of the Zion sisters, and was converted to function as a guest house.
A view of the church of St. John is seen from the north-west. Its tall bell tower dominates the center of the village.
For more information and photos on St. John - click here.
On the south side of Ein Kerem hill, close to Notre Dame de Sion, is the St. John Greek Orthodox convent. This small structure was built at the end of the 19th C, and was reconstructed in 1975.
For more information and photos on the Greek Orthodox church - click here.
The Russian church, seen below, is located above the Visitation church, on the south side of Ein Kerem. The church is located inside the area of the Russian monastery called Moskkubia (Al Moskovoia). The 5-onion-dome structure started construction in 1905 and completed only in 2005, and later its domes were painted in gold. (Thanks for S. Browns for his corrections).
The visit of Mary to the house of Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, in Ein Kerem ("city of Juda").
"And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house".
Mother of John the Baptist. There are other Elisheva in the Bible - a wife of Aaron (Exodus 6 23: "And Aaron took him Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab, sister of Naashon, to wife; and she bare him Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar").
On Ein Karem:
* Jerusalem archaeological survey (pdf, Hebrew):
* BibleWalks sites in Ein Kerem: