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Ein Karem: One village, three religions

Jews, Christians and Muslims have all made Jerusalem's Ein Karem neighborhood their home over the centuries.

In early July, an ancient mikveh, a ritual bath in which observant Jews dip to purify themselves, was discovered in the pastoral Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Karem. The 2,000-year-old mikveh, which would have been filled with rainwater, was found during renovation work on a home in the neighborhood. It was well preserved, down to some stone and clay tools on the pool floor, and probably served its owners at the time of the Second Temple. The unearthing of the mikveh strengthens the evidence of a Jewish link to ancient Ein Karem, the Arab-Palestinian and Christian links having already been established.

“There’s no other village like it in the whole world, the history of which pertains to the heart of Christianity, Judaism and Islam,” Moshe Amirav told Al-Monitor. A professor and resident of the neighborhood for some 40 years, Amirav has written two books on the village and is considered an international expert on its history. “The Jewish story is the habitations of Jews in the village for 1,000 years — a place where, according to various sources, the stones of the temple altar were built. The Christian story recounts how Elisheva, the mother of John the Baptist, met her cousin Miriam, the mother of Jesus, at the lip of the village well when both were carrying their sons in their wombs. The Muslim story is that of Omar bin al-Khattab, the conqueror of Jerusalem, who rested in Ein Karem and drank the water from its well that gave him the strength to capture the city.”

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