Christian tradition places the birth of John the Baptist — who announced the coming of Jesus Christ, his cousin — in the picturesque village of Ein Karem 7.5km south-west of Jerusalem.
Luke’s Gospel tells of the circumstances of John’s birth (1:5-24, 39-66). The angel Gabriel appeared to the elderly priest Zechariah while he was serving in the Temple and told him that his wife Elizabeth was to bear a son. Zechariah was sceptical, so he was struck dumb and remained so until the baby John was born.
In the meantime, Gabriel appeared to the teenage Virgin Mary in Nazareth, telling her that she was to become the mother of Jesus. As proof, he revealed that Mary’s elderly cousin Elizabeth was already six months’ pregnant. Mary then “went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country” — a distance of around 120km — “where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.” (Luke 1:39-41)