Panorama of Ein Karem from the Church of the Visitation
The village of Ein Karem in Judaea not far from Jerusalem was mentioned several times in the Bible (Jeremiah 6:1; Nehemiah 3:14). However this sleepy village is best know around the world because Mary went “into the hill country, to a city of Judah” (Luke 1:39) when she visited her cousin Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah.
The official pronunciation of the village is Ein Kerem, but the popular name is Ein Karem – after the Arabic.
The panorama below is photographed from the Church of the Visitation which is high above the village of Ein Karem. The Church of St. John Ba Harim (the birthplace of St. John) is below in the valley. You can also see Les Sœurs de Notre-Dame de Sion and the Church of John the Baptist Ba Harim.
Ein Karem Skyline
This panorama shows modern Mevaseret Zion, Bait Zayit Reservoir after heavy rains, and the Kastel Fortress.
Miriam’s Well Ein Karem
Between the church of St. John Ba Harim and the Church of the Visitation, there is a spring called the “Fountain of the Virgin”. According to Christian tradition, it was here that Mary drank water from this village spring and also met her cousin Elizabeth and sang a hymn of praise (the Magnificat). Some Catholic and Orthodox Christian pilgrims who visit the site and fill their bottles with water from the Virgin’s Spring.
The 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 no longer. 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.
Sisters of Zion
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. I have personally met Holocaust survivors who were hidden in a monastery in Belgium during WWII who, after the war, joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Zion. The Sisters established an orphanage here. Alphonse himself lived in the monastery and is buried in its garden.
Church of the Visitation
The Church of the Visitation is located across the village to the southwest from St. John BaHarim. The modern church was built over the ancient sanctuary in the grotto. The grotto is venerated as the pietra del nascondimento (stone in which John was concealed). According to Christian tradition this is the site of John the Baptist’s parental summer house, where Mary visited them. The modern church was built in 1955. It was designed byAntonio Barluzzi, an Italian architect, who designed many other churches in the Holy Land during the 20th century.
Moskubia Monastery – Russian Orthodox Gorney Convent
The Gorney Convent was established by the Jerusalem mission of the Russian Orthodox Church at the end of the 19th century. Gorny means “mountainous” in Russian and refers to the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin St. Elizabeth in the hill country. In Arabic is was called “Muskobiya” (Moscow). The Compound includes the nunnery, a pilgrims hostel, three churches, all 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, consecrated in 1873. The Cathedral of All Russian Saints, with its famous gilded domes, was started before the Russian Revolution but could only be completed in 2007. This is a real photo-op. Like the Church of the Visitation, the Mosskubia also has a cave church of St. John the Baptist which was consecrated in 1987.
You can visit the monastery (entrance through Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital) during prayer times daily 6-9.00 and 15-19.00. Closed on Sunday. Tel: 02-6412887