Monday, January 18, 2016


Holy Man, Church of St. Photina, Israel
Jacob's Well, Church of St. Photina, Israel
Jacob's Well Water, Church of St. Photina, Israel

As our tour bus slowly made its way into the town of Nablus in the Palestinian West Bank of Israel, we noticed many people on foot that were smiling and waving to us. Nablus is located near the biblical site of Shechem where Genesis states that Jacob bought land and “pitched his tent”. It is at the entrance to a mountain pass between Mount Gerizim and Ebal. This was the first time we had witnessed such a welcome and we wondered why we were being singled out in this place. Then as one resident gave us the one finger salute it occurred to us that we were the only bus in the area. In fact, our tour hosts had never been able to venture into this area before.

We made our way to the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Photina. Many of the pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land are “close approximations” since there weren’t many people at the time when the Son of God walked this land who recognized His true nature. But the well that folks consider was constructed by the patriarch Jacob and where Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman that church legend knows as Photina is still located below this church where it has remained for centuries. It’s one of the most authentic sites in the Holy Land, given that it’s been a functioning well that was originally forty meters deep. Multiple churches have been built over it and destroyed by invading armies and nature along with scores of pilgrims that have tossed stones into the well reducing its depth in half.

We were greeted at the entrance of the church by a bearded holy man dressed in black who led us down a flight of stairs into a crypt below the church. And then we were suddenly standing around the limestone well where the Gospel of John notes that Photina reminded Jesus that Jacob’s “sons and his flocks drank”. Jesus had paused here and asked Photina for a drink as she filled her water jar. Then he offered her spiritual “living water” that flows from within so that she would never thirst again.

Much to my surprise, we were allowed to lower a water bucket into the well which was attached to a simple winch. A green laser light was directed down to the bottom of the well revealing the glistening water below. As the bucket was drawn back up to the top of the well, a tin cup was dipped into the bucket and we were actually offered to share a drink. My recent travel experiences into Mexico and Honduras cautioned me to never drink untreated water. But then I reasoned that this was special as I abandoned all concerns. I lifted the cup to my mouth and experienced a most pleasant, cool, refreshing drink with no after effects. This drink of life sustaining water could only be compared to a unique form of communion in the very footsteps of the Holy One who also shared a similar drink at this well over two thousand years ago. And then left us with the “living water” that continues to sustain us to this day.

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