Tradition has it that John the Baptist was born in En Karem (or Ain Karim) in the hill country of Judea. According to Shimon Gibson, the earliest document linking John to En Karem is a legendary account dated to A.D. 385-395 (The Cave of John the Baptist, 30). In that account En Karem is said to be “in the mountain” and with a “spring of water” (31). From the sixth to the eighth centuries the traditions multiply.
En Karem is about 5 miles west of Jerusalem. This photo shows a general view of the hill country of Judea. En Karem is in the valley below.
Luke provides the account of the announcement of the birth of John, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth the mother of John, and the birth of John (Luke 1). It is interesting that Luke prefaces the announcement of the birth to Zacharias by saying that it was “in the days of Herod, king of Judea” (Luke 1:5).
No specific town is mentioned, but Luke says that Mary visited Elizabeth in the hill country of Judah.
Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. (Luk 1:39-40 NAU)
The biblical text says that after the birth of John,
Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. (Luke 1:65 NAU)
In the next view we see several churches. The one right of center with the single tower is known as the Church of St. John the Baptist. A church was built at this site as early as the 5th century A.D.