The picturesque village of Ein Kerem (Karem), is nestled 7.5 km south west side of Jerusalem in the mountains. This village goes back to the Canaanite period (the Late Bronze Age, 1550-1200 B.C.), which evolved around the spring that gave its name (Ein Kerem – “the spring of the vineyard”).

According to tradition it is the birthplace of John the Baptist. Five churches and monasteries are located around the village in this Judean town.  Two of them are of great significance in the New Testament; St. John’s (birthplace of John) and the Church of the Visitation (named after Virgin Mary’s visited to the house of John  the Baptist.

People often ask why are there two sites linked to John the Baptist? It is believed that Zechariah and Elizabeth had two houses in Ein Karem. This is not to be understood as some fancy mansion but rather modest dwellings. Their usual residence was in the valley but  apparently they also had a cooler ‘summer house’, high on a hillside which allowed them to escape the heat and humidity.

The summer house is believed to be where the pregnant Elizabeth “remained in seclusion for five months” (Luke 1:24) and where Mary visited her. The house in the valley is where John the Baptist was born. It is here that Zechariah finally regained his power of speech after his son was born, when he obediently wrote on a writing tablet that the baby’s name was to be John.

The village is also famous for it is linked to another tradition. This was the village that was the source of stones used to build The Second Jewish Temple, and according to archaeological finds existed already prior to the Roman period. The site is also identified as “Beit Hakerem” from the Israelite period (Jeremiah 6,1): “O ye children of Benjamin, gather yourselves to flee out of the midst of Jerusalem, and blow the trumpet in Tekoa, and set up a sign of fire in Bethhaccerem”.

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