Glimpses of Israel - Ein Karem

by Joseph H Hunting

Ein Karem (Spring of the Vineyard) is traditionally the birthplace of John the Baptist. It is only about 4 kilometres from Jerusalem and is set in the beautiful hill country that surrounds Jerusalem. Whilst Ein Karem isn't mentioned by name in the Bible, the New Testament tells the story of a priest named Zachariah whose wife was named Elisabeth. They were elderly, but had no children as Elisabeth was barren. As Zachariah was burning incense in the Temple an angel appeared to him with the good news that Elisabeth would bear a son who was to be called Johanan (John). The angel also announced that their son "shall go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah ... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).

Meanwhile in Nazareth the angel Gabriel appeared to Miriam (Mary) with the amazing announcement that she would "bring forth a son, and shall call his name Yeshua (Jesus). He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of David for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:31-33).

The story continues that when Elisabeth was six months pregnant Miriam journeyed to the hill country of Judah to visit Elisabeth. From earliest times it is believed that Zachariah and Elisabeth lived at Ein Karem which was within easy walking distance for Zachariah to perform his priestly duties in the Temple.

Today, Ein Karem is a picturesque spot. Nearby is the famous Hadassah Medical Centre and Mount Herzl. Ein Karem itself is located in a valley that is terraced with olive groves and vineyards. Apart from the churches built by Fanciscan monks the beautiful countryside would have changed little over the centuries. Ein Karem itself (the Spring of the Vineyard) still yields crystal clear water as it did to supply the needs of Zachariah, Elisabeth and their son, immortalized in the New Testament as John the Baptist who prepared the way for the Lord, and who was later beheaded by Herod.