The town of Ein Karem (Kerem) is the traditional location for the birthplace of John the Baptist. Ein Karem is Hebrew for “Spring of the Vineyard;” it is about 4.6 miles (7.5 km) southwest of Jerusalem in the peaceful Judean Hills. There are multiple churches and monasteries around the village; we will look at two that commemorate traditional locations of biblical events.
Today, Ein Karem is known for its art galleries, concerts, and classy restaurants—some of the most culinarily advanced in Jerusalem. It’s a great place for a relaxing date night or a get-together with friends.
John the Baptist
Following the foretelling of the births of John the Baptist and Yeshua, Mary goes to visit her relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s parents). Luke 1:39-41 says, “Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.” Ein Karem is the traditional location for the aforementioned Judean town.
There are two churches in Ein Karem dedicated to John the Baptist, one Catholic and the other Eastern Orthodox. The Catholic church is the better-known; it is built on Byzantine and Crusader chapels and has a cave inside which is the traditional birthplace of John the Baptist and part of his parents’ home.
Church of the Visitation
Mary’s visit with Zechariah and Elizabeth is commemorated by a two-tiered church on the hill slope south of Ein Karem. The church is built over what is believed to be Zechariah’s and Elizabeth’s summer home where Mary would have visited. It was designed by Antonio Barluzzi, and is said to be one of the most beautiful churches in Israel; it depicts Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), in about 50 different languages.
Just down the hill from the Church of Visitation is a spring called Mary’s Spring or the Fountain of the Virgin. Tradition holds that Mary drank from this spring before ascending the hill to her relatives’ home. An abandoned mosque is built over the spring, and the water is no longer safe to drink. It is a fun place to splash and explore back through the tunnel where the spring originates.
Originally posted at Sar-El Tours.