Ein Kerem

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Coordinates: 31°46′5″N 35°9′44″E / 31.76806°N 35.16222°E / 31.76806; 35.16222

Ein Kerem / 'Ayn Karim
Hebrew: עין כרם
Arabic: عين كارم
'Ayn Karim, pre-1948
'Ayn Karim, pre-1948
Etymology: Ein Kerem (Hebrew): Spring of the Vineyard, (Arabic: generous spring),[1] spring of the dresser of the soil.[2] Ein Karem (Hebrew): spring of the vineyard.[1]
Palestine grid165/130
Geopolitical entityJerusalem, Israel
Date of depopulation10 and 21 April 1948, 16 July 1948[3]
 • Total15,029 dunams (15.029 km2 or 5.803 sq mi)
Elevation650 m (2,130 ft)
 • Total3,689
Cause(s) of depopulationInfluence of nearby town's fall
Secondary causeArab - Israeli War
Current LocalitiesEin Karem[7] Beit Zayit,[8] Even Sapir[8]
Ein Kerem in the Jerusalem hills

Ein Kerem (Hebrew: עֵין כֶּרֶם‎, ʿEin Kerem lit. "Spring of the Vineyard"; in Arabic ʿAyn Kārim;[9] also Ain Karem, Ein Karem) is an ancient village southwest of historical Jerusalem, and now a neighborhood of the modern city, within Jerusalem District, Israel. It is the site of the Hadassah Medical Center. It was a Palestinian village in Mandatory Palestine's Jerusalem Subdistrict, depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War on July 16, 1948.[10][11]

Christian tradition holds that Saint John the Baptist was born in Ein Kerem, following the biblical verse in Luke saying John's family lived in a "town in the hill country of Judea". Probably because of its location between Bethlehem and old Jerusalem, this location was a very comfortable one for a pilgrimage, and this led to the establishment of many churches and monasteries in the area. In 2010, the neighborhood had a population of 2,000.[12] It attracts three million visitors a year, one-third of them pilgrims from around the world.[12]


The name Ein Kerem can be literally translated from Hebrew as "Spring of the Vineyard" or "Spring of Kerem", probably derived from an ancient Iron Age Israelite city called Kerem, mentioned as a city in the dominion of the tribe of Judah according to Joshua 15 (Septuagint version of Joshua). In Arabic, it could be understood as well as "Spring of the Vineyard", but also as "the Generous Spring".[1]


A spring that provides water to the village of Ein Kerem stimulated settlement there from an early time.[13]

Bronze Age[edit]

Pottery has been found near the spring dating to the Middle Bronze Age.[13]

Iron Age/Israelite period[edit]

During the Iron Age, or Israelite period, it could be identified as the location of Beth HaKerem[14] (Jeremiah 6:1; Nehemiah 3:14), where the name comes from.

Second Temple period[edit]

A well-preserved mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) indicates there was a Jewish settlement in the Second Temple period along with some other discoveries such as handful of graves, bits of a wall, and an olive press.[15][16] A reservoir here was mentioned in the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.[17][18]

Roman and Byzantine periods[edit]

During excavations in the Church of Saint John the Baptist, 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.[19] Excavations in front of the same church, which has at its core the cave which Christian tradition identifies as the birthplace of John the Baptist, have unearthed remains of two Byzantine chapels, one containing an inscription mentioning Christian "martyrs", but without any mention of John.[citation needed] Ceramics from the Byzantine period have also been found in Ein Kerem.[20]

Sources from the Byzantine period are associating Ein Kerem with the place where Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, had lived,[citation needed] which is not properly named by the New Testament. In around 530 CE, the Christian pilgrim Theodosius places Elizabeth's town at a distance of five miles from Jerusalem,[21] which suits Ein Kerem.[citation needed]

Early Islamic period[edit]

Ein Kerem was recorded after the Islamic conquest. Al-Tamimi, the physician (d. 990), mentions a church in Ein Kerem that was venerated by the Christians, also mentioning an old custom of the Jews of Ein Kerem to make wreaths from the boughs (branches) of a wild plant belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae) during the Jewish holiday of Shavu'ot.[22]

Crusader period[edit]

It is mentioned under the name St. Jehan de Bois, "Saint John in the Mountains",[9] during the Crusades. The Crusaders were the first to build here a church dedicated to St John, rebuilt in the 17th century by the Franciscans and still active today, and Moshe Sharon considers it as "almost sure" that the Crusaders are the ones who started the tradition of identifying that particular site as St John's birthplace.[23]

Mamluk period[edit]

A coin from the reign of As-Salih Hajji (1389 CE.) was found here, together with pottery, glassware and other coins from the Mamluk era.[24]

Ottoman period[edit]

Ain Karim in 1681 by Cornelis de Bruijn
Ain Karim area in the 1870s

Most of the village - some 15,000 dunams - was waqf land set aside charitably to benefit the Moroccan Muslim community in Jerusalem, belonging to the endowment established by Abu Madyan in the 14th century.[25]

In 1517, the village was included in the Ottoman empire with the rest of Palestine and in the 1596 tax-records it appeared as 'Ain Karim, located in the Nahiya of Jabal Quds of the Liwa of Al-Quds. The village had at this time 29 households, all Muslim. The villagers paid a fixed tax rate of 33.3% on agricultural products, which included wheat, barley, summer crops, vineyards, grape syrup/molasse, goats and beehives in addition to "occasional revenues"; a total of 5,300 akçe. All of the revenue went to a waqf.[26][27]

In the course 17th century, the Franciscans manage to recover the ruins of the church raised by the Crusaders over the traditional birth cave of St. John and, in spite of local Muslim opposition, to rebuild and fortify it as the Monastery of St. John in the Mountains.

James Silk Buckingham visited in the early 1800s, and found he was "more pleased with this village [...] than with any other place I had yet visited in Palestine."[28]

In 1838, Ain Karim was noted as a Muslim and Latin Christian village in the Beni Hasan district.[29][30]

In 1863 Victor Guérin noted a thousand inhabitants "of whom there are barely two hundred and fifty who are Catholics; the others are Muslim."[31] The ancestors of the latter were held to descend from Maghrabins, that is to say, originating from the Maghreb (North Africa).[32] Guérin describes them as rowdy and fanatical, until a few years before his visit having very often attacked the Catholic monks at the Monastery of St John in order to extort from them food and money, a habit that had subsided only lately.[32][9]

An official Ottoman village list from about 1870 showed that Ain Karim had 178 houses and a population of 533, though the population count included only men. The population consisted of 412 Muslims in 138 houses, 66 Latin Christians in 18 houses, and 55 Greek Christians in 12 houses.[33][34]

In 1883, the PEF's Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) described Ain Karim as: "A flourishing village of about 600 inhabitants, 100 being Latin Christians. It stands on a sort of natural terrace projecting from the higher hills on the east of it, with a broad flat valley below on the west. On the south below the village is a fine spring ('Ain Sitti Miriam), with a vaulted place for prayer over it. The water issues from a spout into a trough."[35]

In 1896 the population of 'Ain karim was estimated to be about 1,290 persons.[36]

British Mandate period[edit]

Ein Karim and the surrounding area in the 1944 Survey of Palestine

In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, the population of 'Ain Karim was 1,735; consisting of 1,282 Muslims and 453 Christians,[37] increasing in the 1931 census to 2,637, in 555 houses.[38]

In the 1945 statistics, Ein Karim had a population of 3,180; 2,510 Muslims and 670 Christians,[39] The total land area was 15,029 dunams,[4] of this, a total of 7,960 dunums of land were irrigated or used for plantations, 1,199 were used for cereals;[40] while a total of 1,704 dunams were classified as built-up (urban) areas.[41]

The 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine placed 'Ayn Karim in the Jerusalem enclave intended for international control.[42] 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.[43] 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.[44]

State of Israel[edit]

Ein Kerem 1948
Ein Kerem, 1954

The village was captured by Israeli forces during the ten-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, 'Ayn Karim suffered from severe food shortages.[44]

Israel later incorporated the village into the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.[44] 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, many of whom Jews who fled from the Arab countries who fought the Arab-Israeli war during the war and after it, i.e. Jews from Iraq and Egypt but also from Yemen. Over the years, the bucolic atmosphere attracted a population of artisans and craftsmen. Today it is a vibrant bohemian neighborhood of Jerusalem, attracting many artist, young people and tourists.

In 1961, Hadassah built 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.[45]

Biblical connections[edit]

Old Testament[edit]

Only the Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible, the base for the Christian Old Testament, names a place in the hills of Judah as "Carem" (Joshua 15:30).[9][46]

New Testament[edit]

According to the New Testament, Mary went "into the hill country, to a city of Judah" (Luke 1:39) when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah.

During the Byzantine period, Theodosius (530 CE) gives the distance between Jerusalem and the town of Elizabeth as five miles.[21]

The Jerusalem Calendar (Kalendarium Hyerosolimitanum) or the Georgian Festival Calendar, dated by some before 638, the year of the Muslim conquest, mentions the village by name, "Enqarim," as the place of a festival in memory of Elizabeth celebrated on the twenty-eighth of August.[47]

The English writer 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", but without mentioning any tradition connected to St. John.[23]


Church of the Visitation[edit]

The Church of the Visitation, or Abbey Church of St John in the Woods, 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.[48]

Monastery of St. John in the Mountains[edit]

The Catholic Monastery of St. John ba-Harim (St. John "in the Mountains"[49] in Hebrew) is centered on a church containing the cave identified by tradition as the birthplace of Saint John the Baptist. The church is built over the remnants of a Crusader church and its porch stands over the remains of two Byzantine chapels, both containing mosaic floors. The current structure received its outlook as the result of the latest large architectural intervention, finished in 1939 under the guidance of the Italian architect, Antonio Barluzzi.[50]

In 1941–1942 the Franciscans excavated the area west of the church and monastery. The southernmost of the rock-cut chambers they found can probably be dated to the first century CE.[51][52] Some remnants below the southern part of the porch suggests the presence of a mikve (Jewish ritual bath) that is dated to the Second 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."[53]

The site of the Crusader church built above the traditional birth cave of St John, destroyed after the departure of the Crusaders, was purchased by Franciscan custos, Father Thomas of Novara in 1621.[54][23] After a decades-long struggle with the Muslim inhabitants, the Franciscans finally managed to rebuild and fortify their church and monastery by the 1690s.[55][56]

Convent of the Sisters of Zion[edit]

Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne's tomb, Ein Kerem

The monastery of Les Sœurs de Notre-Dame de Sion (Sisters of Our Lady of Zion), built in 1860,[9] was founded by two brothers from France, Theodore and Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne, who were born Jewish and converted to Christianity.[57] They established an orphanage here. Alphonse himself lived in the monastery and is buried in its garden.

Gorny or "Moscobia" Convent[edit]

The convent was established by the Jerusalem mission of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1871[23] (see also Russian Wikipedia page here). The name "Gorny Convent" refers to the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin St. Elizabeth "into the hill country, to a town in Judah,"[58] gorny meaning mountainous in Russian. It was nicknamed "Muskobiya" (Arabic for Muscovite) by the local Arab villagers, which mutated in Hebrew to "Moskovia." Apart from the structures serving the nunnery and a pilgrims hostel, it now contains three churches, enclosed within a compound wall. The Church of Our Lady of Kazan (Kazanskaya) is dedicated to the holy icon of Our Lady of Kazan and is the oldest among the three churches, being consecrated in 1873. The Cathedral of All Russian Saints, with its gilded domes, was started before the Russian Revolution and could only be completed in 2007. The cave church of St. John the Baptist was consecrated in 1987.[citation needed]

Mary's Spring[edit]

Traditional site of Mary's Spring, with the mosque from 1828 to 1829 CE

According to a Christian tradition which started in the 14th century, the Virgin Mary drank water from this village spring, and here is also the place where Mary and Elizabeth met. Therefore, since the 14th century the spring is known as the Fountain of the Virgin. The spring waters are considered holy by some Catholic and Orthodox Christian pilgrims who visit the site and fill their bottles. What looks like a spring is actually the end of an ancient aqueduct. The former Arab inhabitants built a mosque and school on the site, of which a Maqam (shrine) and minaret still remain. An inscribed panel to the courtyard of the mosque dates it to 1828-1829 CE (1244 H.)[59] The spring was repaired and renovated by Baron Edmond de Rothschild.[60]

St. Vincent[edit]

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.[61]

Other churches and religious institutions[edit]


  • The Convent of the Franciscan Sisters[23]
  • The Convent of the Rosary Sisters, built in 1910[23]
  • Casa Nova, a guesthouse for pilgrims reopened in 2014[49]

Greek Orthodox[edit]

  • The Greek Orthodox Church of St John,[49] built in 1894 on the remnants of an ancient church[citation needed]

Related sites in the area[edit]

Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness[edit]

The Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness, containing a cave associated with the saint, is located in the nearby moshav Even Sapir.

Cave of St John the Baptist[edit]

A cave believed by some to have been used for the worship of St John the Baptist, if not by the saint himself, is located close to kibbutz Tsuba, not far from Ein Kerem.[citation needed]

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Guérin, 1868, pp. 84-85
  2. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 280
  3. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #360. Also gives the cause for depopulation
  4. ^ a b Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 57
  5. ^ Ein Karem Elevation (649.83 M), on Distancesto.com
  6. ^ Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Depopulated Jerusalem Localities of the year 1948 by Selected Variables
  7. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xxii, settlement #107. 1949
  8. ^ a b Khalidi, 1992, p. 273
  9. ^ a b c d e Sharon, 2004, p. 155
  10. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #360. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  11. ^ "'Ayn Karim - عين كارم -Jerusalem - Palestine Remembered". www.palestineremembered.com. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  12. ^ a b Dvir, Noam (25 August 2010). "Ein Karem Under Threat". Haaretz. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b G. Ernest Wright, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 71 [Oct. 1938], pp. 28f
  14. ^ Carta's Official Guide to Israel and Complete Gazetteer to all Sites in the Holy Land. (3rd edition 1993) Jerusalem, Carta, p.233, ISBN 965-220-186-3 (English)
  15. ^ "Jerusalem family finds 2,000-year-old ritual bath under living room". timesofisrael.com. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  16. ^ Re'em, 2016, Jerusalem, ‘En Kerem
  17. ^ Tsafrir, Di Segni and Green, 1994, p. 82
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-14. Retrieved 2017-09-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (line 46)
  19. ^ "Ein Kerem". My Holy Land. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2007-11-08.
  20. ^ Dauphin, 1998, p. 906
  21. ^ a b Theodosius, 1893, p. 10
  22. ^ Zohar Amar and Yaron Serri, The Land of Israel and Syria as Described by al-Tamimi – Jerusalem Physician of the 10th Century, Ramat-Gan 2004, p. 26 ISBN 965-226-252-8 (Hebrew)
  23. ^ a b c d e f Sharon, 2004, p. 156
  24. ^ Landes-Nagar, 2017, Jerusalem, ʽEn Kerem
  25. ^ Kark & Oren-Nordheim 2001, p. 212.
  26. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 118
  27. ^ NB: Clerical persons, whether Muslim, Jewish or Christian, were not included
  28. ^ Buckingham, 1821, pp. 227-229
  29. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol. 3, 2nd appendix, p. 123
  30. ^ Robinson and Smith, 1841, vol. 2, pp. 141, 157
  31. ^ Guérin, 1868, pp. 83-96
  32. ^ a b Guérin, 1868, p. 84
  33. ^ Socin, 1879, p. 143. It was also noted to be in the Beni Hasan district
  34. ^ Hartmann, 1883, p. 122 noted 144 houses
  35. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1883, SWP III, pp. 19-21
  36. ^ Schick, 1896, p. 125
  37. ^ Barron, 1923, Table VII, Sub-district of Jerusalem, p. 14
  38. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 39
  39. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 24
  40. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 102
  41. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 152
  42. ^ UN map of Jerusalem Corpus Separatum Archived 2006-12-11 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed (2010) p182.
  44. ^ a b c Morris, 2004, p. 436, 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.
  45. ^ "Hadassah opens new pediatric bone marrow transplantation unit - Israel News - Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  46. ^ Guérin, 1869, pp. 2-3
  47. ^ Sharon, 2004, p. 157
  48. ^ Pringle, 1993, pp. 3846
  49. ^ a b c The Ain Karem Casa Nova is Back, Custodia Terrae Sanctae, 30 April 2014, accessed 21 May 2019
  50. ^ Ain Karem: Saint John the Baptist, at custodia.org, accessed 21 May 2019
  51. ^ Abel, 1938, pp. 295f
  52. ^ Pringle, 1993, pp. 3038
  53. ^ Jack Finegan (2014). The Archeology of the New Testament: The Life of Jesus and the Beginning of the Early Church (revised ed.). Princeton University Press. p. 4. ISBN 9781400863181. Retrieved 21 May 2019.
  54. ^ Pringle, 1993, p. 32
  55. ^ Sharon, 2004, pp. 156-157
  56. ^ Maundrell, 1703, p. 92
  57. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Maria Alphonse Ratisbonne". www.newadvent.org. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  58. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: Luke 1:39-56 - New International Version". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  59. ^ Petersen, 2001 pp. 100-103
  60. ^ טיולי, אתר. "ירושלים עין כרם - אתר טיולי". tiuli.com. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  61. ^ Sisters of mercy Haaretz, 8 November 2007


Further reading[edit]

  • 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[edit]