Ein Kerem ("the spring of the vineyard" in Hebrew) evolved around an ancient spring called Mary's spring today. Ein Kerem is identified as the Biblical Beit HaKerem. Its closeness to Jerusalem is implied in Bible, since a fire lit on the top of the Kerem hill was sufficient to signal the approach of an enemy in Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 6:1). Beth Hakerem was a regional center, which administrated the villages around it during the Persian conquest (5th cent BC, Nehemiah 3:14). In later Jewish traditions, the stones for the altar of the Second Jerusalem Temple were taken from Ein Kerem and later when the Temple was destroyed by Romans in 70 AD, some of the Temple treasures were buried here.
However, Christian traditions transformed Ein Kerem into a world famous destination. It is the traditional birth place of John the Baptist, forerunner of Jesus Christ. For Christians, Ein Kerem was the dwelling place (summer house) of John's parents Zacharias and Elizabeth, and the "city of Judah" where Virgin Mary went to meet Elizabeth (Luke 1:39). Today, there are at least five churches and monasteries located around the village: St. John (birthplace of John), Visitation church (named after virgin Mary's visited to the summer house of John), Russian Orthodox Gorney Church and Monastery (AlMoskovia), Greek Orthodox convent of St. John, and the monastery of Notre Dame De Sion. The other Christian site is the Mary's spring (named after Virgin Mary who stopped to drink from its waters). In modern history, Ein Kerem was a Palestinian Arab village until July 14, 1948, when the Israeli Defense Force conquered and annexed it to Jerusalem. In 1961, Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital was established here. The hospital provides one of the best medical facilities in the entire Middle East.
For all those who don't know John the Baptist: He was the precursor of Jesus Christ. The son of Jewish priest Zechariah, and his wife Elizabeth (a cousin of the Virgin Mary), John's miraculous birth is described in Gospel (Luke 1:68-79). According to the New Testament, John announced the coming of Jesus: He was "the voice of one crying out in the wilderness" (John 1:23) and who 'Made the way of the Lord " (Matthew 3:4). He wore clothing made of camel's hair and ate locusts and wild honey, and baptized people in the river Jordan. It was John who baptized Jesus Christ. John had a tragic death. King Herod Antipas beheaded John (AD 30) at the request of his daughter Salome (see Mathew 14: 1-12 and Mark 6:14-29). John designated Jesus "the Lamb of God," and his disciples Andrew and John (the apostle) were Jesus' first disciples. Jesus said in Luke 7:28, that John the Baptist was the greatest man to have ever lived: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John". John is also a prophet for Muslims and in Quran he is Yahya. He is also mentioned by the first century (AD 37-100) Jewish historian Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities (book 18, chapter 5, 2). see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_the_Baptist
The weather was really damp and cold when I decided to visit Ein Kerem. Although Jerusalem was cloudy, windy and almost ready to rain, I was lucky in Ein Kerem with a pleasant atmosphere. The routine schedule…took Metropolin 60 from Sede Boker (5.30 am) to Beer Sheva; From Beer Sheva, Egged 446 to Jerusalem (7.00 am) and from Jerusalem Central, Egged 17A to Ein Kerem (9.15 am). Got down at Ein Kerem at 9.35 am and went directly to St. John Catholic Church, the epicenter of the village. After visiting the remaining sites (see photographs), I took Egged 17 (12.15 pm) to Jerusalem Central Bus Station. Took Egged 446 from Jerusalem (12.50 pm) to Beer Sheva and from there Metropolin 60 (3.00 pm) to Sede Boker. Back home by 4 pm.
Here is an excellent article on Ein Kerem's Christian sites with beautiful pictures. http://www.biblewalks.com/Sites/EinKarem.html .