Ein Karem in Hebrew translates to Spring (Ein) of the Vineyard (Karem) and I have never come across a more befittingly named place than this. The picture perfect village sits in a valley southwest of Jerusalem surrounded by rolling hills and spectacular views. Getting here from the city centre takes just 20-30 minutes by car.
What Makes it so Special?
Church of St. John the Baptist
So, it’s believed that John the Baptist was born in this village. A Franciscan church has sat at the holy Christian site of the Church of John the Baptist since 1674. Inside there are mosaic floors and a cave believed to be the exact place of birth of the saint. The church sits atop a small hill surrounded by pine trees.
Ein Karem does indeed have a very important spring that gives the village its name. It is believed that Mary (mother of Jesus) stopped here to quench her thirst before she climbed up the hill to visit her cousin Elisabeth (mother of John the Baptist).
Why is it so Pretty?
Walk around the narrow winding slopes and it’s all dainty limestone houses, magical gardens and brightly painted doors. Houses have a typically Middle Eastern aesthetic and are low buildings with flat roofs which, in the past, were used as another room for sleeping, drying fruit and clothes.
Pretty decorated gates lead to small entrances through whimsical gardens. The houses are a few hundred years old and were first built by Arabs. During the War of Independence in 1948 most of the Arab community abandoned their homes and the village.
New immigrants from Morocco, Iraq and Yemen were settled in the abandoned village because others thought it to be too old fashioned. They craved for a more modern way of life in the city. The immigrants however, started to build what is today an enchanting little community.
As well as its old-world charm Ein Karem also boasts art studios, cafes, shops and a boutique hotel and is home to a community of artists. The village attracts millions of visitors every year from all over the world including Israel itself.
Is There Anything Else?
Sisters of Zion Abbey
Any walkabout around Ein Karem will bring you to the Sisters of Sion Abbey also known as Notre Dame de Sion. It was once an orphanage and is now a retreat which accommodates visitors in two houses set within its breathtaking garden. You can book yourself a very serene stay here if you wish.
The convent sits on a hill top. So it offers spectacular views over slopes carpeted with wild flowers, wide open lush green spaces, native pomegranate groves and a luscious green valley.
Ein Kerem is a mystical, alluring place away from the noisy, modern metropolis that will simply take your breath away. No visit to Jerusalem can be complete without a visit here to this captivating place.
- In collaboration with Jerusalem Development Authority. For more information on Ein Karem and Jerusalem visit: https://www.itraveljerusalem.com/
- WIZZ Air flies to Tel Aviv from London Luton on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Fares start from £102.99pp one way. For further information visit www.wizzair.com.
- Yehuda Hotel – Double rooms with breakfast start from £112pp. For more information visit: http://www.byh.co.il/?lang=2