Today we drove about an hour to the north up to Nablus. This is the biblical city of Shechem. When God told Abraham in Genesis 12 to leave his home and country, Shechem is a place Abraham went. The well of the city is called Jacob’s Well (Jacob being Abraham’s grandson and one of the patriarchs of Israel). This means that this particular well is several thousand years old.
This matters to Christian pilgrims because it is in the middle of Samaria. As the gospel of John helpfully points out, Jews did not share things in common with Samaritans. The two peoples hated each other for various theological reasons- which makes Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman in John 4 that much more remarkable. The place we were today is the place where this encounter took place. As Rodney our course director reminded us, we know this because wells don ‘t move!
After hearing the story from a very gifted biblical storyteller who joined us for the day, we went into the Orthodox church /monastery. This was quite a wonderful sensory experience of incense, huge icons everywhere, and chanting, as there was a service going on. We were led down to the underneath space where the well is. The well itself is 70 feet deep and there is a several second gap between the pouring of water into the well and it hitting the water on the bottom. Then we got to take turns cranking a turnstile to bring up a bucket of water, which we drank from.
It was an amazing experience. Jesus stood where I stood today . Jesus drank from the same water I drank from today. This is what I came to the Holy Land for, to feel this connection with Jesus.
To finish our time there we did some small group reflection about experiencing the other, both in looking at the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman as well as what we are observing and experiencing for ourselves. It was a really great day.