Between mountains and orchards – picturesque Ein Karem

For many decades, Ein Karem was a small, colorful village, not even a neighborhood, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. After the war of 1948, destitute new immigrants, Jerusalem residents whose homes were leveled during the war and various nomads who found shelter in the ruins of the Arab village that was abandoned by its inhabitants, converged on Ein Karem. They joined the nuns that continued to reside in the area, in the Convent of the Sisters of Zion, the Gorny Convent ה and the Church of St. John the Baptist, all three of which are inspirational, must visit sites. Yet, the neighborhood that, in the past, was a highlight of any pilgrim's path to Jerusalem, found itself distanced from the center of the city - still colorful, but isolated.


In the 60s and 70s, Ein Karem attracted well-known Israeli reporters, painters and authors, but the monasteries continued to operate with remarkable coexistence between Jews and Christians, Arabs and Jews, religious and secular. Everyone lived together in almost perfect harmony.


The primary reason for the location becoming a holy site is the belief that an exceptional event took place at the spring that pours forth in the middle of the village, as described in the chronicles of the beginnings of Christianity in Israel. This is the site where, over 2000 years ago, Mary, mother of Jesus, met her cousin Elisheva. Both were pregnant at the time. Mary, in her third month of pregnancy, was on her way to Bethlehem. They drink fresh water from the spring that still bubbles in the village center. Elisheva, the host, lived in Ein Karem and carried in her belly the baby that would later on become known as John the Baptist, herald of the gospel.


You can easily spend a full day exploring Ein Karem, strolling amongst the beautifully developed gardens and orchards scattered around the spring, visiting the churches and monasteries, dining at one of the neighborhood’s excellent restaurants and coffee shops, perusing the art galleries and, of course, having your picture taken besides Mary’s well. Nearby to Ein Karem is Yad Vahsem, which can easily be incorporated into your itinerary and Jerusalem’s light rail provides ready access to the village from the city center, and vice-versa.