The picturesque green neighborhood with stone houses, clear air, and chiming bells is perfect for an early morning stroll, before the churches and convents take their siesta. Monastery visits require modest dress.
The tour begins at the intersection of Ein Kerem and Hama’ayan Streets, at the bottom of the descent from Jerusalem. Turn right onto Hasha’ar Street and up the road to the (1) Church of Saint John the Baptist (Ein Kerem Street) where, according to tradition, John the Baptist was born at the spot marked by a small marble circle under the altar.
After exiting the church, go back down the street to the intersection and turn right, up Ein Kerem Street. Turn left to Ha’achayot Street, which winds through the roads of the Arab village inhabited until 1948. At the end of the street is the late 19th century (2) Sisters of Our Lady of Zion Convent and guesthouse (23 Haoren Street). If the gate is closed ring the bell to enter the well-tended grounds and small archaeological museum. The back (northern end) of the garden has a wonderful view of the Judaean hills.
After leaving the tranquility of the convent, turn right down Haoren Street. Stop at a clearing above the creek that runs through the village and view the mountains rising to the south. The road continues past a Greek Orthodox Church to (3) Mary’s Well (Hama’ayan Street), where it is believed that Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, drew water with Mary, mother of Jesus. Next to the well are a mosque and a minaret.
From the well, turn right and follow the signs to the (4) Church of the Visitation. After about 50 yards, leave the road and climb the steps to the church commemorating Mary’s visit. The wall art depicts scenes from the life of John’s parents and pottery plaques in the yard display the words (in about 50 languages) of the Magnificat (“Song of Mary”) found in the Gospel of Luke.
Walk down back to Mary’s Well and stop at the (5) Targ Music Center (29 Hama’ayan Street).
For an interesting detour, take the steep, narrow lane at the back of the well to the (6) Gorny Convent (Moscovia), a group of buildings that look like a centuries-old Russian village. Visits to the grounds must be arranged in advance (tel. 972 2 641 2887). After returning to the well, rest at one of the cafes in the surrounding lanes.
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