Ancient Handicrafts Flourish In Jerusalem’s Mystical Ein Kerem
Enchanting, historic village, filled with picturesque streets and alleyways, is the stuff of which legends are made.
During the War of Independence in 1948, when it appeared that Israeli forces might capture the village of Ein Kerem, most of the Arabs living there abandoned their homes. Five months later the fledgling Israeli government started settling new immigrants from Iraq, Morocco and Yemen in the deserted houses; soon afterwards bulldozers began widening the village’s main road.
Legend has it that when a bulldozer knocked down one of the houses, two containers filled with gold – stashed away before its previous occupants departed – were discovered in the ruins. And, goes the story, the phantom gold quickly disappeared, never to be seen again.
Anyone who has ever walked the picturesque lanes of Ein Kerem will understand why this enchanting little community is the stuff of which legends are made. Eventually incorporated into Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, Ein Kerem is a mystical anachronism within a noisy, modern metropolis. Blessed with captivating old-fashioned homes, wildflower-covered slopes, open spaces and a luscious green valley it is a throwback to quieter times.
Aside from its position as one corner of a Jerusalem-Bethlehem triangle, its pastoral aura may be the reason why many scholars identify Ein Kerem as the biblical village of Beit Hakerem: “Flee for safety, people of Benjamin! Flee from Jerusalem! Sound the trumpet in Tekoa! Raise the signal over Beth Hakerem!. . .” [2 Jeremiah 6:1].
Although that identification is sometimes disputed, Jews certainly lived in this ancient village during the Second Temple period: not long ago, a couple doing repairs in their home discovered a Second Temple era mikve (ritual bath) in the basement. Christian tradition names Ein Kerem as the birthplace of John the Baptist, and the site of a meeting between Mary and John’s mother Elizabeth.