Ein Karem (Hebrew: עַיִן כרֶם, lit. “Spring of the Vineyard”, and Arabic: عين كارم - ‘Ein Kārem or ′Ayn Karim) (also Ein Kerem) is an ancient village of the Jerusalem District and now a neighbourhood in southwest Jerusalem. According to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born in Ein Karem, leading to the establishment of many churches and monasteries. In 2010 the neighborhood had a population of 2,000. It attracts three million visitors a year, one-third of them pilgrims from around the world.
A spring that provides water to the village of Ein Karem stimulated settlement there from an early time. Pottery has been found nearby dating to the Middle Bronze Age. In the Israelite age it was the location of Beth HaKerem (Jeremiah 6:1; Nehemiah 3:14), where the traditional name comes from. A reservoir here was mentioned in the copper scroll. It was recorded 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 29 Muslim families.
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.
According to the Bible, Mary went "into the hill country, to a city of Judah" when she visited the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. According to Catholic tradition and dogma, this Mary brought forth the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Theodosius (530) says that the distance is five miles from Jerusalem to the place where Elizabeth lived, the mother of John the Baptist. 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. 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. 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.
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. The 1947 UN Partition Plan placed Ein Kerem in the Jerusalem enclave intended for international control. In February 1948 the village's 300 guerilla fighters were reinforced by a well-armed Arab Liberation Army force of mainly Syrian fighters, and on March 10 a substantial Iraqi detachment arrived in the village, followed within days by some 160 Egyptian fighters. On March 19, the villagers joined their foreign guests in attacking a Jewish convoy on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road. Immediately 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 campaign of July 1948. The remaining civilian inhabitants fled on July 10–11. The Arab Liberation Army 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.
Israel later incorporated the village into the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Ein Kerem was one of the few depopulated Arab localities which survived the war with most of the buildings intact. The abandoned homes were resettled with new immigrants. 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
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. Additionally some remnants below the infrastructure of the building suggests the presence of Mikve a Jewish baptism bath that is dated to the 2nd temple period. 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.The other is an Eastern Orthodox church built in 1894, also on the remnants of an ancient church.
Church of the Visitation
The Church of the Visitation 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.
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-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.
According to Christian tradition, this village fresh-water spring is the location where Mary and Elizabeth met. The spring waters are considered holy by some Catholic and Orthodox Christian pilgrims who visit the site and fill bottles with its waters. The spring was repaired and renovated by Baron Edmond de Rothschild. Arab inhabitants also built a mosque on the site, of which the maqam (shrine) still remains.
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- Ein Kerem Agricultural School
- 1948 Palestine War
- List of Arab towns and villages depopulated during the 1948 Palestinian exodus
- Ein Karem under threat
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