A month ago I returned from a two week visit to Israel. I had a wonderful time there; I got to spend time with my family and tour the country while enjoying beautiful warm weather. I would like to share with you three places I visited while there: Ein Karem in Jerusalem, old Jaffa, and the City of Ramla. This post is dedicated to Ein Karem, which I visited with my youngest sister Sapir. Sapir has been living in Jerusalem for a decade and Ein Karem is her favorite neighborhood. In the future I will dedicate one post to each of the other places mentioned. I hope you will enjoy touring the country with me.
Ein Karem is an ancient village southwest of Jerusalem that is now one of the city neighborhoods. Due to the Christian belief that John the Baptist was born there, the neighborhood is filled with churches and monasteries and attracts many pilgrims from around the world each year.
We started our day with a delicious Israeli breakfast in a restaurant called Pundak Ein Karem in HaMa’ayan (the spring) St. We were sitting outside, enjoying the morning sun and our delicious Israeli breakfast of a chopped salad, assortment of cheeses, spreads, olives, bread, and eggs. On the street behind the restaurant wall there were numerous pilgrim groups, speaking different languages and wearing different traditional outfits, walking up the hill.
Soon I learned where everyone was heading to – Mary’s Spring. According to Christian tradition this is the spring where Mary quenched her thirst from before ascending the hill to meet her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. Today the water is contaminated, but despite that pilgrims still wash their hands and faces with this water – the power of belief.
Church of Visitation
Going up the hill from Mary’s Spring we reached The Church of Visitation. The church was designed by Italian monk and architect Antonio Barluzzi. The building was completed in 1955. The place is believed to be the summer house of Elizabeth and her husband Zacharia, and where Elizabeth told Mary that she will bear Jesus. The church has lovely Spanish arches in the courtyard, colorful mosaic work on the outside walls as well as the inside floor, and a beautiful and fragrant garden with many hidden corners.
Because Jerusalem has so much history, before starting any construction project in the city, the local law requires that the state archeologists examine the site. Preservation of the past is something that the Israeli government feels very strongly about. In the photo below you can see an ancient Mikveh (ritual Jewish bath) in the front yard of an old house that functions today as an art studio.
The neighborhood has beautiful old stone houses. The municipal law of the city of Jerusalem requires that all building will be made of Jerusalem stone exterior, to keep the unity of the architecture of the city. Walking in the neighborhood and seeing the different beautiful houses and the lush gardens is a joyful experience for people who enjoy architecture. I couldn’t help not taking photos. Maybe one day some will turn into paintings.
Next on Visiting Israel 2017 - old Jaffa.