Ein Kerem is the only village within the Green Line that still is built around a spring at whose feet the remains of the traditional agricultural terraces that the spring once watered can be seen.
The fine valley at the foot of the village of Ein Kerem and the prolific spring within the village are what attracted humans to settle at the site from the beginning. By the time of the First Temple, agricultural facilities already had been developed around the spring to grow vegetables to sell in the markets of Jerusalem. During the days of the Second Temple and the Byzantine Period, the land under cultivation expanded and the spring’s flow was increased by quarrying a tunnel that ran along the layer of clay that caught rainwater in the mountainous basin around the village.
The waterworks built around the Ein Kerem spring are among the most sophisticated of the spring aqueduct systems in the Judean Mountains. The water flows to the spring’s outlet via a collection aqueduct that is over 30 meters long. Its upper edge splits into two aqueducts that were quarried into the mountain to the east of the spring. A nine-meter-deep shaft, which may have been added during Crusader times, leads into the tunnels from the yard of the mosque above the spring, allowing adventurous visitors to marvel at the technical abilities of the ancient engineers.
Today the spring water flows straight into the Jerusalem sewer system; in the past, it flowed in the Ein Kerem Riverbed and the amazing system of terraces built on its banks. A network of cannels and aqueducts carried the water along both sides of the riverbed to the terraces. A large collection pool was built at the edge of each of the aqueducts along the riverbed in order to collect surplus water. Work also was done on the channel of the river to enable rainwater to flow through it so that it could be channeled to irrigate the agricultural terraces and orchards but not cause destructive erosion. Fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, and vineyards grew on the terraces, inspiring the name of the valley, spring, and village, which is Hebrew for spring of the vineyard.