Ein Karem

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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 in the Jerusalem hills

Ein Karem (Hebrew: עֵין כֶּרֶם‬, lit. "Spring of the Vineyard", and Arabic: عين كارم‎ - ʿEin Kārem or ʿAyn Kārim; also Ain Karem, Ein Kerem) is an ancient village of the Jerusalem District and now a neighbourhood in southwest Jerusalem and the site of the Hadassah Medical Center. It was a Palestinian Arab town in the Mandatory Palestine's Jerusalem Subdistrict, then depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War on July 16, 1948.[1][2]

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.[3] It attracts three million visitors a year, one-third of them pilgrims from around the world.[3]


Ain Karim in the 1870s

A spring that provides water to the village of Ein Karem stimulated settlement there from an early time.[4]

Bronze Age[edit]

Pottery has been found near the spring dating to the Middle Bronze Age.[4]

Iron Age[edit]

For the Iron Age, or Israelite period, it could be identified as the location of Beth HaKerem[5] (Jeremiah 6:1; Nehemiah 3:14), where the traditional name comes from. A reservoir here was mentioned in the Copper Scroll, one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.[6]

Second Temple period[edit]

A well-preserved mikveh, or 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, an olive press and another suspected mikveh under the Church of St. John the Baptist.[7]

Roman and Byzantine periods[edit]

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.[8]

Early Islamic period[edit]

It was recorded during the Islamic conquest.[9]

Crusader period[edit]

It is mentioned under the name St. Jeehan de Bois during the Crusades.[9]

Ottoman period[edit]

Ottoman tax registers from 1596 showed a population of 29 Muslim families.[9]

Modern history[edit]

'Ayn Karim
Postcard from 'Ayn Karim, pre-1948
'Ayn Karim is located in Mandatory Palestine
'Ayn Karim
'Ayn Karim
Arabic عين كارم
Subdistrict Jerusalem
Palestine grid 165/130
Population 3,689 (1948[10])
Area 15,029[11] dunams
Date of depopulation 10 and 21 April 1948, 16 July 1948[12]
Cause(s) of depopulation Influence of nearby town's fall
Secondary cause Military assault by Yishuv forces
Current localities Ein Karem[13]
Ein Kerem 1948
Ein Kerem, 1954

The population of 'Ain Karim in 1922 was 1,735, consisting of 1,282 Muslims and 453 Christians;[14] in 1931 it was 2,637, in 555 houses[15] and in 1944/45 it was 3,180, in each case including the smaller localities of Ayn al-Rawwas and Ayn al-Khandaq.[16]

The 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine placed 'Ayn Karim in the Jerusalem enclave intended for international control.[17] 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.[18] 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 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.[19]

Israel later incorporated the village into the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem.[19] 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 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.

Christian traditions[edit]

Traditional site of Mary's Spring

According to the Bible, 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) says that the distance is five miles from Jerusalem to the place where Elizabeth lived, the mother of John the Baptist.

The Jerusalem Calendar (Kalendarium Hyerosolimitanum) or 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.[20]

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."[21]

The site of the Crusader church was purchased by Father Thomas of Novara 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.[20] In 1693 the monastery was renovated and walls added.[22]


Church of St. John the Baptist[edit]

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 a mikve 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."

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

Church of the Visitation[edit]

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[edit]

The monastery of Les Sœurs 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.[24] 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 at the end of the 19th century (see 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,"[25] gorny meaning mountainous in Russian. It was nicknamed "Muskobiya" (Arabic for Moscow) 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.

St. Vincent[edit]

Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne's tomb, Ein Karem

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.[26]

Mary's Spring[edit]

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 are filling here their bottles. What looks like a spring is actually the end of an ancient aqueduct, the spring itself was always known as one of the best and strongest in the Judaean Mountains, but today its water is not potable due to pollution. The former Arab inhabitants have built a mosque and school on the site, of which a Maqam (shrine) and minaret still remain, the spring was repaired and renovated by Baron Edmond de Rothschild.[27]

Related sites in the area[edit]

Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness[edit]

The Monastery of St. John in the Wilderness, with 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 Karem.

Notable residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p.xx, village #360. Benny Morris, 2004. Also gives cause of depopulation.
  2. ^ Welcome To 'Ayn Karim
  3. ^ a b Ein Karem under threat
  4. ^ a b G. Ernest Wright, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 71 [Oct. 1938], pp. 28f
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ Yoram Tsafrir, Leah Di Segni and Judith Green (1994). Tabula Imperii Romani: Judaea, Palaestina. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. p. 82. ; "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-14. Retrieved 2017-09-09.  (line 46)
  7. ^ http://www.timesofisrael.com/jerusalem-family-finds-2000-year-old-ritual-bath-under-living-room/
  8. ^ "Ein Kerem". My Holy Land. Archived from the original on 2011-07-14. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  9. ^ a b c Wolf-Dieter Hütteroth and Kamal Abdulfattah (1977). Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft. p. 118. 
  10. ^ Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics Depopulated Jerusalem Localities of the year 1948 by Selected Variables
  11. ^ Welcome To 'Ayn Karim, Palestine Remembered
  12. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xx, village #360. Also gives the cause for depopulation
  13. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xxii, settlement #107. 1949
  14. ^ https://archive.org/details/PalestineCensus1922 PALESTINE: REPORT AND GENERAL ABSTRACTS Of THE CENSUS Of 1922. TAKEN ON THE 23rd OF OCTOBER, 1922. COMPILED BY J.B. BARRON. Table VII: District of Jerusalem-Jaffa
  15. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 39
  16. ^ W. Khalidi, All that Remains (1992) p269-270.
  17. ^ UN map of Jerusalem Corpus Separatum Archived 2006-12-11 at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ Efraim Karsh, Palestine Betrayed (2010) p182.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ a b Moshe Sharon (1997) "Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, BRILL, ISBN 90-04-13197-3 p 157
  21. ^ Moshe Sharon (1997) "Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae", BRILL, ISBN 90-04-13197-3 p 156
  22. ^ Moshe Sharon (1997) "Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum Palaestinae, BRILL, ISBN 90-04-13197-3 p 157
  23. ^ Abel, Geographie II, pp. 295f
  24. ^ New Advent organization
  25. ^ http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1:39-56
  26. ^ Sisters of mercy Haaretz, 8 November 2007
  27. ^ A trip to Ein Kerem


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]