Ein Kerem, a paradise on the slopes
Identified by many scholars as the biblical village of Beit Hakerem, these lush, staggered hills boast splendid churches, a stone-encased spring, quaint little alleys filled with art studios and cafés — and a plethora of Old World charm
As soon as the State of Israel was declared in May of 1948, a harried government began seeking housing for the multitude of immigrants pouring into the country. One December day at the end of that year, two trucks pulled into the deserted village of Ein Kerem on Jerusalem’s southwestern border. Many of the passengers were men, women and children who had only recently moved to the brand-new State of Israel from Morocco and Iraq. The government had decided to settle these new arrivals in Ein Kerem.
But when they saw the sewage in the streets, realized that there was no water or electricity in the village, and got a look at the state of Ein Kerem’s rundown houses, the immigrants balked — and with vigor. Loudly protesting the situation, they refused to descend from their vehicles.
Veteran settlers relate that the ensuing ruckus reached the ears of Elizabeth, a senior nun at the Russian convent located on a nearby slope. Dashing down to the corner, she is said to have shouted at the newcomers in Russian: “This is paradise, you ungrateful fools, you don’t deserve this wonderful place. Get down! Get down! “ Someone must have understood, because at least one of the trucks emptied its riders into the streets and families began moving into the unoccupied dwellings.