Ein Karem, a village and its cultural landscape

Date of Submission: 05/02/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(v)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Israel to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Jerusalem region
Coordinates: 215346/630293
Ref.: 6062

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Ein Karem, or ancient Bet Hakerem, is a historic mountain village, of several thousands of years, nowadays within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. It is traditionally known as the source of stones used to build The Second Jewish Temple, and according to archaeological finds existed already prior to the Roman period. It became important to Christianity, known in the New Testament as the place where both pregnant mothers, of Jesus and John the Baptist, met next to its spring. In following years, monasteries and churches have been built and a rich village developed. It included a large area with intact environment, with active mountain agriculture. The wealthy, usually Arab Christians, have built their houses in the village, still inhabited and preserved.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Ein Karem is a rich Christian Palestinian village; with ancient remains from the Iron age period, through Roman, Byzantine, Crusader, Ottoman and later. It retains a large natural environment, rich with water installations, agricultural terraces, intact nature, spring, historic paths and roads etc. In spite of infrastructure modernization and continuous life in the village, it keeps its high cultural values.

Criterion (ii): Ein Karem exhibits high human values and their interchange – from ancient Canaanite village, to important Jewish village of the Roma and pre Roma periods, Sacred Christian place through Byzantine and Crusader periods, Arab-Palestinian village and again a Jewish Israeli one – it represents and keeps the traces of all these cultures,whether in the village pattern, its houses, agriculture, religious buildings or natural environment and landscape.

Criterion (iii): Ein Karem is an exceptional testimony of traditional East Mediterranean wealthy Arab village, combined with rich structures and facilities belonging to its holy Christian traditions, and to fast disappearing mountain agricultural traditions.

Criterion (v): Ein Karem is an outstanding example of traditional village and traditional agricultural practices and built elements of different historic periods. It represents a rare example of human interaction with nature and environment, certainly threatened by abandonment of traditional ways of life, of the agricultural activities and city encroachment, including some mega infrastructure and housing projects.

Criterion (vi): Being traditionally the site where Mary, pregnant with Jesus met her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist (Luke), had and still has a big impact on the village, since two millennia.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Ein Karem kept a very high level of authenticity, of the village pattern and tissue, of the individual houses, the monumental public buildings, environment and landscape. The impact of some late additions to houses and modernization of streets and infrastructure, as well as abandonment of the agricultural life – have very minor effect on the authenticity of the site. Traditional land uses are still the main ones in the village: housing, monasteries, churches, pilgrim services and hostels. The integrity of the site is extremely high. It retained almost all its old houses, including their heights, building techniques and materials, gardens, terraces, streets patterns.

Comparison with other similar properties

The place, including its cultural landscape is almost incomparable with other villages. Its religious significance to the Christian world makes it comparable only with Nazareth, Beth Lechem (Bethlehem) and Jerusalem, but these were or evolved to become towns, while Ein Karem remained a village and kept its agricultural activities and village houses. Its thousands of years of agricultural activities left traces and remains of elements which do exist in other places as well, but not in such high quality, abundance and variety (in types and periods). The development of religious institutions, by the different Christian denominations, including monasteries, churches and pilgrim services can be compared only with some western European villages – but those are of later periods and different cultural region.