||The landscape of En-Kerem, in the western part of Jerusalem, is one of
the most beautiful and romantic that the
city has to offer. The churches with their bell towers soar upwards from a fertile and green valley. Stone houses, whose appearance has only improved with
time, stand among the trees and alongside the stairways. The quarter has successfully preserved its unique pastoral atmosphere, despite the new apartment blocks that have sprung up all around and the modern roads passing in the vicinity and through the neighborhood itself. As we ramble along its lanes and alleys, we will come face to face with its diverse inhabitants: from East and West, veterans and newcomers, artists and students, peddlers and merchants. They all share one thing: their love for the neighborhood and their concern for its special character. En-Kerem's natural conditions - the spring, the valley which lent itself to cultivation, and the hilly slopes with their natural terraces - constituted a desirable basis for settlement already in antiquity; in fact, the earliest settlement in this area, a Canaanite one, dates from the Middle Bronze Age. According to one opinion, En-Kerem is to be identified with the Bet-Hakerem mentioned a few times in the Bible (Jeremiah 6:1; Nehemiah 3:14). The Mishnah relates that in the Second Temple period the stones for the Temple altar were brought from Bet-Hakerem (Middot 3:4.) The Copper Scroll (discovered in 1952 in a cave near
Qumran) describes the locations where the treasures of the Temple were buried after its destruction in 70 CE. One of
these hiding places was in Bet-Hakerem: "In the reservoir
which is in Beth Kerem, ten cubits on its left as you enter:
sixty-two talents of silver" (Copper Scroll, item 47 [trans. J. M.
Allegro]). As you roam through the streets of this village, perhaps you will be the one to find the treasures concealed in its earth...
Over the years En-Kerem became sanctified in Christian tradition, which identified it as the dwelling place of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist, who was the harbinger of Jesus. We will visit the sites connected with these figures in the course of the tour. On July 14, 1948, En-Kerem was conquered by the Israel Defense Forces and annexed to Jerusalem. After the War of Independence it was settled mainly by new immigrants, and became the western municipal boundary of the city.
Between 1948 and 1967 the cease-fire line with Jordan restricted the city's development to the east, north, and
south, so Jerusalem expanded westward. The neighborhoods of Kiryat Ha-yovel, Kiryat Menahem, and Ir Ganim were established between the city and En-Kerem, and on the surrounding hills public and national sites were built,
such as Mount Herzl, Yad Vashem, and the Hadassah Hospital, where our tour will end.