In the world you will have
tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome
the world. John 16:33
There are some things that are about the same here
in the Holy Land as they were two thousand years ago.
It is sad that Christians in the Middle East continue
to be persecuted pretty much just like it was happening
in the early centuries. Actually, I am just speechless
and stunned that such uncivilized and brutal behaviors
take place especially these days in Syria and Egypt.
People all around me are losing their humanity. The
love and peace of Christ are so desperately needed more
than ever but Christians are being squeezed out of the
In Palestine, besides violence and occupation, our
running water is constantly shut off. So if we are part
of the lucky ones, we can draw water from our well just
like the Samaritan woman in the gospels. However, to
have a well these days is actually very costly and only
a few people can afford this luxury to pump water from
cisterns when Israel controls all of the natural resources,
boarders and roads.
The Israeli settlements all around my village of Taybeh
have running water twenty-four hours a day, seven days
a week. However, for me, it has been the worst month
I have ever experienced with over twenty days of no
running water. At least no one can scream and yell about
the dirty laundry. At the end, it is also just a monopoly
because rich people can always buy water but it is the
poorest of the poor who simply wait for the water to
come from the local Ein Samia natural spring. And, obviously,
you cannot even wash an apple without water; never mind
all the many ways we take water for granted because
it is such a basic necessity.
As I was watching my sister-in-law carry large plastic
gallons of water to the house, I could not help but
be reminded of “the woman at the well,”
who eventually was baptized by the apostles and became
St. Photini. We remember and celebrate this brave saint
on February 26th especially since her name literally
means “the enlightened one.” She gave up
a sinful life and became enlightened with the truth.
She personally encourages me to keep the faith because
it is so evident that we are in deep need of the eternal
spring; the water that gives eternal life.
In John 4:13, Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at
Jacob’s Well: “Everyone who drinks this
water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the
water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water
I give them will become in them a spring of water welling
up to everlasting life.”
We desperately need to hear the words of Christ in
order to face our daily challenges with faith so there
can be hope for the world and in people sharing life
under harsh conditions. It is this water that is available
to all because of God’s great love for humanity.
We pray for peace and stability so people can still
come to Samaria and see Jacob’s Well in the modern
city of Nablus. A beautiful church has been built (the
original dates 5th century) in honor of St. Photini
and it is amazing that part of the original jug is on
display. Fr. Justinian, the current abbot who has written
most of the icons under curfew in the early 2000’s
and completed this current church building will be a
saint for many reasons. He lobbied and got the Samaritan
woman’s jug back from the Vatican museum a few
years ago because the crusaders had taken it to Italy.
In this very spot, we currently venerate the relics
(the body) of St. Philoumenos the new martyr for Christ
who was brutally killed with an ax by fanatic settlers
in 1979 while serving at Jacob’s Well. The Patriarchate
of Jerusalem officially glorified the new saint in 2009.
The life of St. Philoumenos is another example that
martyrdom for Christ is not something that happened
only in the first centuries but is the reality in the
Middle East today.
Thus, while people around the world might focus on
supporting World Water Day and fair distribution of
freshwater resources, did you ever imagine to spiritually
turn your eyes to Jacob’s well and seek the eternal
water spring that our Lord Jesus was promoting?