When you’re in Jerusalem take some time to enjoy walking around and exploring the village of Ein Karem (Hebrew of Spring of the Vineyard), today a neighborhood of Jerusalem and when you get hungry check out one of the restaurants (see below). The spring made it possible for settlement there dating from the Middle Bronze Age. According to Christian tradition, Mary, pregnant with Jesus, met Elizabeth, pregnant with John at the spring.
There are two churches named St. John the Baptist, one a Franciscan church built in the second half of the 19th century on the remnants of earlier Byzantine and Crusader churches and an Eastern Orthodox church built in 1894 (restored in 1975), also on the remnants of an ancient church. Inside the Franciscan church are the remains of a Byzantine mosaic floor and a cave where, according to Christian tradition, John the Baptist was born. Below the building a mikve or Jewish ritual bath was found dated to the Second Temple period.
The Franciscan Church of the Visitation is located across the village from St. John. The ancient sanctuary there was built against a rock slope, the site where Zechariah and Elizabeth lived and where Mary visited them. An ancient cistern from which, according to tradition, Zechariah and Elizabeth drank, can also be found in the church; the stone next to it is said to have hidden the two from Herod’s soldiers. Tradition attributes its construction to Helena, Emperor Constantine’s mother.
On the wall of the courtyard are ceramic tiles bearing verses from the Magnificat (the Canticle of Mary from Luke 1:46-55) in forty-two different languages. On the church’s façade is a striking mosaic commemorating the Visitation.
The lower level of the church was built in 1862, the upper level was begun in 1938 and completed by Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi in 1955. The upper hall is dedicated to Mary, and its walls are decorated with many paintings in her honor. The interior has Italianate frescoes depicting the Visitation, Elizabeth hiding her son John the Baptist, and Zechariah next to the altar in the Temple and beautiful mosaic floors. In one of the frescoes, there is an image of none other than Barluzzi himself.
Located up the hill is the Russian Orthodox Church, part of the Gorny monastery, nicknamed Moscovia by the locals, begun in 1905 and only completed in 2005, with its classic gold onions.
Take the opportunity to walk or meditate in the tranquil garden of Notre Dame De Sion monastery.
Pundak Ein Karem “with a garden blooming in and around its stone courtyard specializes in pan-European fusion cuisine of the decidedly unkosher variety; free WiFi.”
Karma “will have you eating like a Buddhist monk fallen off the wagon, a genre-defying culinary quality, with a traditional Middle Eastern taboon stone oven at its spiritual center.”
Café Inbal “small bake shop has a nice selection of classic light Israeli fare, kosher.”
Charlotte for those with a passion for a variety of grilled meats and delicious side dishes, kosher.
Esti and Perla “run by and in the home of two ladies by the names of Esti and Perla, who have resided in Ein Karem for over 50 years serves high-quality dairy food, specializing in Moroccan fare, kosher.”