Daily Israel Report

Miriam's Well, Transplanted to Kinneret - Found!

Archaeologist Yossi Stepansky, based on centuries-old texts and legwork around the Kinneret Sea, says he's found the lost site of Miriam's Well.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/9/2007, 11:48 AM

Archaeologist Yossi Stepansky, based on centuries-old texts and legwork around the Kinneret Sea, says he's found the long-lost site of Miriam's Well, as identified by the Kabbalist sage Rabbi Yitzchak Luria.

Yosef Idan, writing for the Hebrew NFC news site, reports in detail on the most recent discovery of the found-again, lost-again holy site.  Archaeologist Stepansky has discovered the pillars of ancient synagogues alongside the Kinneret Sea, which have long been considered the landmarks for Miriam's Well, near the Tiberias Municipal Beach, in the southern part of the city.
The Arizal told Rabbi Chaim: 'Now you will attain with this that wisdom, for this water that you have drank is from Miriam's well.'

The famous preeminent Kabbalist master known as the Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of 16th-century Jerusalem, Egypt and Tzfat, was the first to note the location of Miriam's Well - somewhere in the Kinneret.  It is on his authority, in fact, that many of the burial sites of famous Talmudic sages and others in the Land of Israel are known. 

A work by one of the Arizal's students, called "Shaar HaGilgulim," states that the Arizal identified an area of the Kinneret as the site of Miriam's Well.  However, the book did not specify the precise location. In another work, however, entitled Nagid U'Mtzaveh by Rabbi Yaakov Tzemach, written 60 years after the Arizal's death, the following is cited:

"When I, Chaim [Rabbi Chaim Vital, possibly the Arizal's top student], came to my teacher of blessed memory [the Arizal] to study this [Kabbalistic] wisdom, my teacher of blessed memory went to Tiberias and took me with him... and when we were on a boat in the water, opposite the pillars of the old synagogue, my teacher of blessed memory then took a cup and filled it with water from between the pillars, and gave me that water to drink, and said to me: Now you will attain with this that wisdom, for this water that you have drank is from Miriam's well.  And from then on, I began entering the depths of this wisdom."
A 19th-century source - Rabbi Chaim HaLevy Horowitz, in his work Hibat Yerushalayim - states, "When one goes from within the city to the Tiberias Hot Springs, somewhere in the middle of the way, where are found ruins of 13 syngagogues, there are rocks jutting out of the Kinneret, and one walks on them for a few strides... and there is the well."

Based on these descriptions, archaeologist Stepansky searched the shores of the Kinneret in and around Tiberias, and found what appears to be the remains of the pillars.  They are located south of the municipal beach, near the shoreline of the Holiday Inn Hotel (formerly the Ganei Hamat Hotel).  Four hundred years ago, the site was underwater, as the level of the Kinneret was some two meters higher than it is today.

Two photos on the NFC site - one found by Stepansky in the National Archives and a more recent one taken by Stepansky - show the site as it appeared 100 years ago and as it appears today. 

The well in question is actually more like a "rock full of holes" from which water used to trickle, and which "ascended mountains with [the Israelites in the desert] and descended to the valleys with them" (Tosefta Sotah 11:1).  After it completed its purpose in the wilderness, it was taken into the Land of Israel.  The Talmud and Midrash say it can be seen from the top of a mountain as a type of sieve in the sea (though the mountain is identified differently in the various sources).  One ancient Midrash tells of a person who "suffered from boils and went down to immerse in the waters in Tiberias, and it was an opportune time, and he saw Miriam’s Well and washed in it and was healed... The well was opposite the main entrance to the ancient synagogue of Tiberias..."

Though it now appears that the site of the well, as identified by the Arizal, has been found once again, the Tourism Office of the Tiberias Municipality informed Arutz-7 that there are no current plans to develop the area as a tourist attraction.