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Coordinates: 31°45′55″N 35°8′58″E / 31.76528°N 35.14944°E / 31.76528; 35.14944

Ein Karem nestled in the Jerusalem hills

Ein Kerem (Hebrew: עין כרם‎; Arabic: عين كارم‎, lit. Spring of the Vineyard), also commonly known as Ein Karem, is a neighborhood in southwest Jerusalem. According to Christian tradition, this is the site where John the Baptist was born, hence Ein Kerem's attraction to Christian pilgrims and the proliferation of churches and monasteries.




Early history

A spring that provides water to the village of Ein Kerem stimulated settlement there from an early time. Pottery has been found nearby dating to the Middle Bronze Age.[1] Archaeological evidence exists of settlement at the site's spring as early as the second century BCE. It was mentioned during the Islamic conquest and again, under the name St. Jeehan de Bois, during the Crusades. Ottoman tax registers from 1596 showed a population of 160.

During excavations in Ein Karem, a marble statue of Aphrodite (or Venus) was found, broken in two. It is believed to date from the Roman era and was probably toppled in Byzantine times. Today, the statue is at the Rockefeller Museum.[2]

Christian traditions

Traditional site of Mary's Spring

According to the Bible, Mary went "into the hill country, to a city of Judah"[3] when she visited the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Theodosius (530) says that the distance from Jerusalem to the place where Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, lived is five miles. The Jerusalem Calendar (dated before 638) mentions the village by name as the place of a festival in memory of Elizabeth celebrated on the twenty-eighth of August.[4] The Anglo Saxon Saewulf on pilgrimage to Palestine in 1102-1103 wrote of a monastery in the area of Ein Karim dedicated to St. Sabas where 300 monks had been "slain by Saracens.[5] The site of the crusader church was purchased by Father Thomas of Novaria in 1621. In 1672 the Franciscan order received a Firman from the Ottoman Sultan and 'large sums of mon[ies]' were expended in an extensive rebuilding programme.[4]

Modern history

The population of Ein Kerem in 1931 was 2,637 and in 1944/45 it was 3,180, in each case including the smaller localities of Ayn al-Rawwas and Ayn al-Khandaq.[6] The 1947 UN Partition Plan placed Ein Kerem in the Jerusalem enclave intended for international control.[7] After the April 1948 massacre at the nearby village of Deir Yassin (2 km to the north), most of the women and children in the village were evacuated. It was attacked by Israeli forces during the 10-day truce of July 1948. The remaining civilian inhabitants fled on July 10-11. The Arab irregular forces which had camped in the village left on July 14-16 after Jewish forces captured two dominating hilltops, Khirbet Beit Mazmil and Khirbet al Hamama, and shelled the village. During its last days, Ein Kerem suffered from severe food shortages.[8]

Israel later incorporated the village into the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.[8] Ein Kerem was one of the few depopulated Arab localities which survived the war with most of the buildings intact. Jewish immigrants mainly from Yemen moved into the vacated homes, though over the years the bucolic atmosphere attracted a population of artisans and craftsmen.

In 1961, Hadassah founded its medical center on a nearby hilltop, including the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing, and pharmacology.

Church of St. John the Baptist

The Catholic Church in Ein Kerem.

There are two churches by this name in Ein Kerem. One is a Catholic church built in the second half of the 19th century on the remnants of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches. Inside are the remains of an ancient mosaic floor and a cave where, according to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born.

The church is mentioned in the Book of the Demonstration, attributed to Eutychius of Alexandria (940): "The church of Bayt Zakariya in the district of Aelia bears witness to the visit of Mary to her kinswoman Elizabeth."

The church has been in the hands of the Franciscans since 1674. In 1941–1942 they conducted excavations in the area immediately west of the church and the adjoining monastery. Several rock-cut chambers and graves were found, as well as wine presses with mosaic floors and small chapels with mosaic tiling. The southern rock-cut chamber contained pottery of a type found elsewhere in Jerusalem, probably from the first century CE.[9]

The other is an Eastern Orthodox church built in 1894, also on the remnants of an ancient church.

Church of the Visitation

Another ancient church at Ein Kerem is located across the village to the southwest from St. John's. The ancient sanctuary there was built against a rock declivity. It is venerated as the pietra del nascondimento, the "stone in which John was concealed," in reference to the Protevangelium of James. The site is also attributed to John the Baptist's parental summer house, where Mary visited them.

The modern church was built in 1955, also on top of ancient church remnants. It was designed by Antonio Barluzzi, an Italian architect, who designed many other churches in the Holy Land during the 20th century.

Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame de Sion

The monastery of Les Soeurs de Notre-Dame de Sion (Sisters of Our Lady of Zion) was founded by two brothers from France, Theodore and Marie Alphonse Ratisbonne, who were born Jewish and converted to Christianity. They established an orphanage here. Alphonse himself lived in the monastery and is buried in its garden.

"Moscovia" Monastery

Built by the Russian Orthodox Church at the end of the 19th century, this church (originally "Gorny Monastery" — ru:Горненский монастырь (Эйн-Карем)) was nicknamed "Moskovia" (Arabic for Moscow) by the local Arab villagers, because of its tented roof similarity to other Russian churches. The monastery has two churches enclosed within a compound wall.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent-Ein Kerem is a home for physically or mentally handicapped children. Founded in 1954, St. Vincent-Ein Kerem is a non-profit enterprise under leadership of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.[10]

Mary's Spring

According to Christian tradition, this village fresh-water spring is the location where Mary and Elizabeth met. The spring waters are considered holy by the Christian pilgrims who visit the site and fill bottles with its waters. The spring water is now contaminated by the run off water from the near by Hadassah hospital. The spring was repaired and renovated by Baron Edmond de Rothschild. There is also a mosque on the site.

Notable residents

See also


  1. ^ G. Ernest Wright, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 71 [Oct. 1938], pp. 28f
  2. ^ "Ein Kerem". My Holy Land. Retrieved 2007-11-08.  
  3. ^ Luke 1:39
  4. ^ a b Moshe Sharon (1997) "Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, BRILL, ISBN 9004131973 p 157
  5. ^ Moshe Sharon (1997) "Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, BRILL, ISBN 9004131973 p 156
  6. ^ W. Khalidi, All that Remains (1992) p269-270.
  7. ^ UN map of Jerusalem Corpus Separatum
  8. ^ a b B. Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (2004) p436, quoting: Entries for 10 and 11 July 1948, General Staff∖Operations Logbook, IDFA∖922∖75∖∖1176; and Mordechai Abir, ´The local Arab Factor in the War of Independence (Jerusalem Area)`18-19, IDFA 1046∖70∖185∖∖; and Yeruham, `Arab Information (from 14.7.48)´, 15 July 1948 HA 105∖127aleph.
  9. ^ Abel, Geographie II, pp. 295f
  10. ^ Sisters of mercy Haaretz, 8 November 2007

Other sources

  • Olivier Rota, « L’exode arabe d’Eïn-Kerem en 1948. La relation des événements par les sœurs de Notre-Dame de Sion, St. Jean in Montana », in Tsafon, n°46, winter 2003, pp.179-195.

External links


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