Excavations in the Carmel region indicate that human settlement in the area dates back over 150,000 years.
The village was one of the "Al-Hija" villages founded by relatives of Emir Hussam al-Din Abu al-Hija. Abu al-Hija ("the Daring") was an Iraqi Kurd and commander of the Kurdish forces that took part in Sultan Saladin's conquest of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 1180s. He was renowned for his bravery, and commanded the garrison of Acre at the time of the Siege of Acre (1189–1192).
Abu al-Hija apparently returned to Iraq, but several members of his family remained in the country under orders from Saladin, and these family members settled on spacious tracts of land that they were granted in the Carmel region, in the Lower, Eastern and Western Galilee, and in the Hebron Highlands. One of these land grants became the village of Ein Hawd. Other al-Hija villages were Hadatha and Sirin in the Lower Galilee, Ruweis and Kawkab in the Western Galilee. By tradition the remaining residents today still claim to be blood relations of al-Hija.
In 1596, the village of Ayn Hawd was part of the Ottoman nahiya (subdistrict) of Shafa under the liwa' (district) of Lajjun with a population of 44. The villagers paid taxes on crops such as wheat and barley, as well as on goats and beehives.
In 1851 the Dutch traveler van der Velde visited "Ain Haud" and "spent a pleasant evening in Shech Soleiman's house". Van der Velde describes how the villagers, all Muslim, were in great alarm over conscription to the Ottoman army. According to Shech Soleiman a former Sultan had given them a firman, exempting the villagers from conscription.
In 1870, the French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village. He found it had 120 inhabitants, with houses built of rammed earth or different construction aggregates. The village was surrounded by a small wall.
In 1881, "Ain Haud" was described as a small village situated on the end of a spur, inhabited by fifty people who cultivated 3 faddans of land. The village elementary school for boys was founded in 1888, and in the early twentieth century the number of inhabitants was given as 283.
In the 1922 census of Palestine, conducted by the British Mandate authorities, ‘Ain Hud had a population of 350; 347 Muslims and 3 Christians, where the Christians were all Maronites. At the time of the 1931 census, the population of Ein Haud had increased to 459, all Muslims, in a total of 81 occupied houses.
In 1945 the population was 650, all Muslims, and it had a total of 12,605 dunams of land according to an official land and population survey. 1,503 dunams were for plantations and irrigable land, 4,422 for cereals, while 50 dunams were built-up (urban) land.
Most of the 700–900 Arab villagers of Ein Hod from before the 1948 Arab–Israeli War resettled in the West Bank, many in the refugee camp in Jenin. A group of 35 original inhabitants, many of them members of the Abu al-Hija family, took shelter in a nearby wadi. Attempts to dispossess them by legal means did not succeed. This new village was named Ein Hawd. Initially, the Israeli authorities did not recognize the village. In 1988, residents helped to form the association of the Arab Unrecognized Villages in Israel. In 1992, the state finally officially recognized the village, but it was only granted full recognition in 2005, when it was connected to Israel's electric grid.
In July 1949 the Moshavim Movement settled immigrants from Tunisia and Algeria in the depopulated village, renaming the village Ein Hod. The movement allocated instructors to the new settlers as the agricultural endeavour. The short lived re-use of the village as an agricultural concern was abandoned and the village remained deserted for a further year and a half.
Ein Hod became an artists' colony in 1953. The driving spirit behind the project was Marcel Janco, an acclaimed Dada artist, who kept the village from being demolished by the security forces and convinced the government to let him build an artists' colony there.
Ein Hod is now a communal settlement run by an elected administrative committee. Many Israeli painters, sculptors and musicians live there, and maintain studios and galleries that are open to the public. Efforts have been made to preserve some of the old houses. The village mosque was converted into a restaurant-bar modeled after Cafe Voltaire in Zurich.
During the Carmel forest fire in 2010 Ein Hod was evacuated and the village suffered considerable property damage.
Ein Hod has 22 galleries, 14 art workshops, 2 museums and 14 rooms for rent to tourists. Workshops include printing, sculpture, photography, silk screening, music (vocal), ceramics, mosaics, design, stained glass, lithography and blacksmithing. The Gertrud Kraus House sponsors biweekly chamber music concerts and guest lectures. During the summer months, performances of popular music and light entertainment take place in an outdoor amphitheatre. Throughout the year, free outdoor jazz concerts are held on Saturdays near the village's central square.
Ein Hod's main gallery has five exhibition halls, each devoted to a different artistic sector. Hall 1 exhibits art by immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia; Hall 2 is exclusively for Ein Hod artists, past and present; Halls 3 and 4 are for changing exhibitions, solo and group shows of residents and outsiders; and Hall 5 is for theme shows.
The Nisco Museum of Mechanical Music in Ein Hod is the first museum in Israel dedicated to antique musical instruments. The collection, accumulated over 40 years by Nisan Cohen, contains music boxes, hurdy-gurdies, an automatic organ, a reproducing player piano, a collection of 100-year-old manivelles, gramophones, hand-operated automatic pianos and other instruments.
In 1992 an original part from the Berlin Wall was placed in the village, and it has since been welcoming the visitors to the main museum.
The Düsseldorf-Ein Hod exchange program has brought Düsseldorf artists to Ein Hod and vice versa over the past two decades. A similar program has been inaugurated for artists from New Hampshire.
An early resident was the American children's writer and amateur archaeologist Nora Benjamin Kubie. One of Ein Hod's veteran artists is Ursula Malbin, whose bronze sculptures have been on display since 1978 in Haifa's Vista of Peace Garden, the first public sculpture garden in Israel dedicated solely to the works of a woman sculptor. Others include Avraham Eilat, a multimedia artist whose latest video art installation "Psychophysical Time" is shown in several leading art events in Europe, and Dina Merhav creates sculptures from old metal utensils and industrial machine parts. One of her works, Totem, was exhibited at the Olympic Sculpture Garden in Beijing, China, when the Olympic Games were held there. Yigal Tumarkin, Israeli painter and sculptor, also studied at Ein Hod.
Dan Chamizer, creator of the "Chamizer riddle," is a resident of Ein Hod. Based on an original coding system, the Chamizer riddle is widely used to teach problem-solving in schools, government agencies and high-tech companies.
Ten Ein Hod residents have won the Israel Prize, awarded annually on Israel Independence Day. According to Robert Nechin, who lives in the village, the artists working there today "are fully aware of the illustrious example of these great artists and scholars, who lived and are still living among them. Ein Hod residents who have won the prize are:Zahara Schatz, for painting and sculpture (1955)
Marcel Janco, for painting (1967)
Gertrud Kraus, for dance (1968)
Simon Halkin, for literature (1975)
Haim Hefer, for Hebrew songwriting (1983)
Natan Zach, for poetry (1995)
Michael Gross, for painting and sculpture (2000)
Gila Almagor, for acting (2004)