Built over what is thought to have been the home of John the Baptist's parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, this church sits high up the hillside in Ein Kerem, with a wonderful view of the valley and the surrounding wooded hills. It is a short but stiff walk up from the spring at the center of the village. When Mary, pregnant with Jesus, came to visit her cousin, the aging Elizabeth, who was also with child, "the babe leaped in [Elizabeth's] womb" with joy at recognizing
the unborn Jesus. Mary thereupon pronounced the paean to God known as the Magnificat ("My soul doth magnify the Lord" [Luke 1]). One wall of the church courtyard is covered with ceramic tiles quoting the Magnificat in 41 languages. The upper church is adorned with large wall paintings depicting the mantles with which Mary has been endowed—Mother of God, Refuge of Sinners, Dispenser of All Grace, Help of Christians—as well as the Immaculate Conception. Other frescoes depict Hebrew women of the Bible also known for their "hymns and canticles," as the Franciscan guide puts it.
Madreigot Habikur, at end of Hama'ayan St., Jerusalem, 96502, Israel