Wednesday 4 September 2013

Drinking from the well

I had very little to do with the planning of our trip to Israel. I was not really fussy about where we went and what we saw. I guess, in many ways, I was overwhelmed just with the thought of being in these places of which I had only dreamed. I did, however, make one request. If it was at all possible, I would like to visit Jacob's Well. 

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will understand the importance of this place to me. (See this link for a reminder and this one too.) It is the inspiration for the name of this blog and a lot of what I am passionate about in ministry. When making this request I had no idea where the well was or even if it would be close to the roads we would be travelling. Jacob's Well is in Nablus, a town in the West Bank. I was told that we would try to visit, but it may not be possible for us to enter the town. I was, therefore, very careful not to build up my hopes.

We left the Dead Sea, visited Jericho and began our journey towards Nablus. We had no troubles entering Nablus and the kangaroo signs on our car (along with our looking very lost) possibly helped the Palestinian people not to be too suspicious of our arrival in an Israeli car. The challenge was finding the well in the town. It was not signposted particularly well. Eventually we arrived at the church that now houses the well. 

Jacob's Well is perhaps the most authentic ancient site in all of Israel. As the guide book put it, "it is very difficult to move a 40 feet deep well to another place". I could hardly believe that I was going to stand in the place where Jacob and Rachel met and where Jesus told the Samaritan woman about living water. We entered the church and descended the steps down below the altar. There it was! It was much smaller than I thought it would be. The man demonstrated how deep it was by dropping a cup of water into the hole. 1 and 2 and 3 - splash. No wonder the woman asked Jesus where his bucket was. 

I took out my camera to take a photo and was told that no photos were allowed. This was okay - the memory would be enough. Neville began to explain to the man that this was the only site that I had requested to visit and it was very special to me. Hearing this, the man quickly changed his tune and invited me to drink from the water and have my photo taken at the well. There was absolutely no hesitation in drinking the water. I didn't even consider whether it was clean. The water tasted wonderful, cool and fresh. 

The visit was brief, but pivotal. Drinking from the well was the central point of our trip. It was the turning point between the hustle of Jerusalem and the peaceful setting of Galilee. Looking back now it was probably a turning point for me personally as well. In the last few years I have described my faith journey as diving deep into the well into the living waters below. There is something about this delving that has left the well itself behind. Visiting Jacob's Well was a timely reminder of the well through which I had travelled, my own faith tradition. But from the depths of the water the well looks a whole lot different. The challenge for me now is to reflect on what it means to look up a well rather than down. 

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