Ein Karem (Ein Kerem) is a village-like neighborhood in Jerusalem. And you can find many churches and other points of interest within walking distance.
Table Of Contents
- 1 Map
- 2 What Does Ein Kerem Mean?
- 3 Ein Kerem – General Info
- 4 Mary’s Spring
- 5 Church of the Visitation
- 6 Church of Saint John Ba Harim
- 7 Chocolate House
- 8 Notre Dame de Sion
- 9 Shai Seltzer Cheese & Goats
- 10 Where to stay in Ein Kerem?
- 11 Summary
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Ein Kerem was an ancient village in the Jerusalem district. And now, it is one of the neighborhoods in southwest Jerusalem.
Map of the area:
And here is the map of Ein Kerem attractions:
- You can click on the map to enlarge it.
- The map also lists restaurants (blue), artists (green), and B&B (red).
If you are using public transport, then you will probably take bus #28. Here is a preset link to Moovit. In this link, the destination is already set, and to get the updated directions, set the starting point.
The bus stop of line #28 is located on Ein Kerem street near POI #2 (see the map above). On the other side of the road, you can find public parking. It is a free parking lot located close to all attractions. The only downside is that this is not a big parking lot and can fill up quickly. Thus, if you are driving there, I would suggest arriving early.
What Does Ein Kerem Mean?
The literal translation of Ein Kerem from Hebrew means: “Spring of the Vineyard”.
Ein Kerem – General Info
Ein-Kerem, the village, and its surrounding geographical basin have been continually occupied since ancient times. The village boasts a freshwater spring and a unique mixture of vernacular and monumental architecture.
Built-in traditional Arab village building style, narrow alleys, massive stone walls, and thick-walled houses have remained mostly intact. The dramatic biblical landscape surrounding the village, complete with ancient terraces, olive presses, and other agricultural systems, is well preserved and home to a fantastic diversity of flora and fauna. Ein-Kerem is surrounded by ancient olive groves, some of which are 1,200 years old.
Ein-Kerem is considered the birthplace of Saint John the Baptist and the site of Saint Mary’s Visitation. As such, it has become a major Christian pilgrimage site. The first churches, Saint John Ba’Harim and the Visitation, were built in 4th-century Byzantine times, then rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th century.
Today’s churches and bell towers were constructed in the 19th century on the Crusader foundations. There are seven active churches and monasteries of different denominations in the village today. In some village houses’ basements, ancient Jewish ritual baths from Second Temple times have been found.
After establishing the State of Israel in 1948, new immigrants from North Africa, Yemen, and Turkey settled in the village. They would draw water from the spring or buy it from water sellers. Kerosene was used to heat their homes. Those were years of austerity, but the fertile land and surrounding orchards gave the villagers plenty of fruit and vegetables.
During the 1920s, many famous artists came to paint Ein Kerem. Among them were Ruben Rubin, Israel Paldi, Ziona Tager, Anna Ticho, and Nahum Guttman. Teddy Kollek, the renowned Mayor of Jerusalem, had intended to turn the village into an artists’ center, but this dream was never fulfilled. Nevertheless, many painters, musicians, writers, and sculptors live and work in Ein-Kerem today. UNESCO considers the village of Ein-Kerem and its surrounding cultural landscape as a World Heritage Site.
Source: sign on site.
As you can see, the Ein Kerem neighborhood has historical importance, but in recent years the neighborhood had a turnover, and people visit not only for historical reasons. Today many artists live in this neighborhood, and you can find many galleries. Moreover, many Israelis like to see this picturesque neighborhood because everything is open on Saturdays (despite significant parts of Jerusalem). But in this post, I will cover several of the most popular tourist attractions.
From the parking lot mentioned above, you can follow Ha-Maayan street till Mary’s Spring.
Note: Mary’s Spring is located near number #1 on the map of Ein Kerem.
According to a Christian tradition that started in the 14th century, the Virgin Mary drank water from this village spring, and there 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 their bottles here. What looks like spring is 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 remain.
Note: according to a sign on-site, drinking water from Mary’s Spring is forbidden.
From Mary’s Spring, we will take the stairs towards the Church of the Visitation.
You can find more information about this place at the dedicated guide to the Church of the Visitation.
From the Church of the Visitation, we will return to Mary’s Spring. And at this point, I want to mention a public restroom near Mary’s Spring. The toilet is located under the viewpoint, which is about ten meters from Mary’s Spring.
Then from Mary’s Spring, we will take Ha-Maayan street (and pass near the parking on the way) to the Church of Saint John Ba Harim.
Church of Saint John Ba Harim
Note: Church of Saint John Ba Harim is also called the Church of Saint John the Baptist.
The Church of Saint John the Baptist is a Catholic church in Ein Karem, Jerusalem, that belongs to the Franciscan order. It was built at the site where Saint John the Baptist was believed to have been born.
In 1941–42, the Franciscans excavated the area west of the church and monastery. Here they discovered graves, rock-cut chambers, wine presses, and small chapels with mosaic tiling. The southern rock-cut chamber contained ceramic datable to a period stretching from approximately the first century BC till 70 AD, an interval that includes the presumed lifetime of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John. The community living here has been dated by the archaeological findings back to the Roman, Byzantine, and Early Muslim periods.
Most of the current church structure probably dates back to the 11th century, with the lower courses possibly dating to the Byzantine period (4th-7th century).
Church of Saint John Ba Harim is located near point #25 on the Ein Kerem map.
Church of Saint John the Baptist – Opening Hours
Summer: 08:00 – 12:00 and 14:30 – 17:45
Winter: 08:00 – 12:00 and 14:30 – 16:45
On Mevo Ha-Shaar street (the street that leads to the Church of Saint John Ba Harim), you can find the Chocolate House. It is a small shop with boutique chocolate and ice cream. And since I saw many positive recommendations, we made a short stop there.
We tried several different kinds, and indeed it was tasty.
And now, let’s head to the next point of interest.
And to reach it we will take Ha-Ahayot road.
While walking, you will see many lovely gardens and buildings. Like this one:
Notre Dame de Sion
At Ha-Oren 23 street (not far from point #10 on the Ein Kerem map), you can find the Notre Dame de Sion entrance.
The convent Notre Dame de Sion is at the heart of the Judean Hills, in the village of Ein Karem, the traditional place of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and the birth of John the Baptist.
Ein Karem, while being very much sought after by the local population and pilgrims, has kept its village character and draws many artists by its beauty. Above the village to the west is the Hadassah Hospital, and to the east Mount Herzl and the Yad Vashem Memorial.
Its geographical location, its pleasant and silent surroundings offer a different and varied kind of hospitality.
Source: official website
Notre Dame de Sion – Opening Hours
Monday – Friday: 9 – 12 and 14 – 17 (17:30 in summer).
Saturday: 9 – 17 (17:30 in summer).
We will start by visiting the Chapel, which is to the right of the entrance.
Notre Dame de Sion – The Chapel
A chapel is a place of silence and prayer, where the welcoming community meets in the evening for prayer in common. The chapel is striking because of its simplicity and beauty, which help one to gather one’s thoughts.
The Way of the Cross, which is the work of a Jewish artist, and the stained glass windows showing Moses and Elijah speak of the vocation of Our Lady of Sion, a congregation that is especially attentive to the biblical and Jewish roots of Christian faith.
Source: official website
From the Chapel, we will head to the gardens.
Notre Dame de Sion – The Gardens
The garden with its flowers and shade draws many visitors because of its silence and beauty and its unrestricted view of the Judean Hills.
The visit of the garden includes a small cemetery, where Father Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne is buried, as well as sisters who died in Ein Karem and a few Christian friends.
Source: official website
And here is the view of the Church of the Visitation from the other side of the valley (western hill of Ein Kerem).
In the following closeup, you can see Gorny or “Moscovia” Convent (top) and The Church of the Visitation (below it).
From Notre Dame de Sion, we followed Ha-Oren street towards the parking. You can also find the Greek Church on the same street, but it looks like it is closed for visitors.
The mentioned Ein Kerem route took us about three and a half hours. And since it was already lunchtime, we returned to our cars.
We ate at Ein Kerem in our previous visits, but I wanted to try something special this time.
Shai Seltzer Cheese & Goats
Note: unfortunately, Shai Seltzer Cheese & Goats was closed.
I heard about Shai Seltzer goat cheese from different people, and many swear by this place. And since it is located near Sataf springs, not far from Ein Kerem, we decided to visit it.
West of Jerusalem, down the eastern slope of Mount Eitan by the Sataf Springs, lies an area that has known agriculture for the last six thousand years.
Here is where Shai and his family founded the farm in 1974. There is an organic vegetable garden based on the ancient technique of terras farming, a goat herd of 170 heads, and an award-winning goat cheese dairy.
Source: official website
The official site does not mention opening hours. But from what I know, the farm is open from 11:00 till 17:00 on Saturdays (and maybe on Fridays). Sometimes they are also open on holidays. If you are planning on driving there, then contact them.
You can buy their homemade cheese (about half a dozen types) and either eat there with a bottle of wine (some bread, olives, and cherry tomatoes) or use the takeaway option.
There is a scenic view, and this can be a lovely experience for a date. But we used the takeaway.
I was left with mixed feelings after visiting this place. Nobody mentions it, but the road to the farm is awful. Or, more precisely, the lack of the road. Thus the drive instead of ten minutes can take twenty-five. Of course, if you have an off-road car, the dirt road will be a piece of cake. But I did not enjoy the ride with a usual family car.
The cheeses were tasty, but since they are handmade, they will be expensive.
And lastly, the reason we used the takeaway is the smell. I was not raised on a farm, and thus I am not used to the scent. Though it was not too strong, it can affect the appetite (after all, there are goats around you).
Where to stay in Ein Kerem?
There is a guest house in Notre Dame de Sion. But there are also many other hotels, apartments, and guest houses. You can find additional information, like availability and prices, on booking.com or check in the widget below.
There are additional churches and small gems in Ein Kerem, and in this post, we covered the most popular ones. You would probably need about half a day for a visit. Moreover, since many churches are closed for lunch, I would suggest coming early. This way, you will find parking quickly and walk during the colder hours of the day.
Have you been to the Ein Kerem (Ein Karem)? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional points of interest nearby, check out Jerusalem.
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.