EIN KEREM (Heb. עֵין כֶּרֶם), village on the western edge of Jerusalem, identified with biblical *Beth-Cherem; since 1949 part of the Jerusalem municipality. Early Christian tradition dating back to the sixth century identifies Ein Kerem as the birthplace of *John the Baptist in the house of Zacharias (domum Zachariae, Luke 1:40) and with the location of the visit paid to Elizabeth, John's mother, by her relative (συγγενίς) Mary, Jesus' mother (Luke 1:39–80). Theodosius (c. 530 c.e.) referred to the "dwelling place of Saint Elizabeth" about 5 miles from Jerusalem, and Procopius of Caesarea (550–58 c.e.) speaks of a well situated at the "Monastery of Holy Zacharias [father of John the Baptist]." In the seventh century, Epiphanius referred to Ein Kerem (garbled to "Carmel") as the family home of the forerunner (i.e., John the Baptist). References to "Encharim" also exist in the Georgian Lectionary (eighth century), in the Commemoratorium de Casis Dei (c. 808 c.e.), and in a work by Eutychius (tenth century). There are two churches associated with John the Baptist at Ein Kerem today: the Church of the Nativity of John on the northern hill and the Church of the Visitation on the southern hill. Outside the village is the Monastery of John in the Wilderness (Ein el-Habis). Numerous medieval and later travelers refer to Ein Kerem and its churches. The Franciscans established their first church in 1621, and after 1674 the Franciscan presence in the village became permanent.
The Franciscans remained the only Christians in Ein Kerem until the middle of the 19th century. In 1860 the Sisters of Our Lady of Zion settled in the village, followed by the nuns of the Russian Orthodox Church (1871), the White Fathers (1882), the Greek Orthodox Church (1894), and the Rosary Sisters (1911). A mosque (maqam 'umair) and minaret was built over the spring which gave the village its name. During the Israel War of Independence (1948) the inhabitants of the village – until then all Moslem Arabs – fled and were replaced by new immigrants mostly from Oriental countries. In 1949 Raḥel Yannait *Ben-Zvi brought the training school (after 1952 the Ein Kerem Agricultural School), of which she was director, from Talpiyyot in Jerusalem to Ein Kerem. In the 1950s and 1960s many Israeli artists (such as Yitzhak Greenfield) and academics settled in the village. Many of its residents offer guest accommodations to vacationers attracted by the rural setting.
P.F. Cangioli, Il Santuario e Il Convento di S. Giovanni in ' Ain-Karem (1947); M.T. Petrozzi, Ain Karim (1971); S. Gibson, The Cave of John the Baptist (2004), 26–43; M. Amirav, D. Harel, and B. Binnun, Ein-Kerem: Voyage to the Enchanted Village (2004).
[Walter Zanger /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]