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This week the audio version of my blog is not in sync with this written text -the audio was recorded and uploaded on Wed. morning – and since then – so much has happened… the rumbles of war took on the full severity of crisis. I reach out today to a single word, an ancient symbol, for perspective, for comfort – and for hope. The word is WELL. so much in one word – in so many ways.
I woke up on Tuesday morning to the whispers of a war, again, now raging in the South on the Gaza Border and in the North with the Syrian Civil War spilling over to the Golan Heights. Thousands were in shelters in Israel and in Gaza and for the first time in almost 40 years the IDF opened fire on Syria. This is serious, everybody said. And then it got worse.
The radio morning news bulletins ( and we’re back to hourly check in, the familiar beep of the news heard on buses, in shops, on the streets, nonstop) describe destruction and death and UN declarations and political speeches but – at the end of the depressing news bulletin on Tuesday evening – before the full alert – I caught this surprising little story: One of the world’s oldest wells was discovered in the Yizrael Valley just last week – an ancient stone-age well -8,500 years old. Inside were discovered many interesting tools – and two skeletons – a young woman and an older man. Skeletons in the well – a type of closet – are intriguing – a mystery, and a distraction. Were they killed? Punished? buried there? Why? Death, even ancient fascinated us so much. The archaeologists and the journalists are full of theories, but for me this ancient portal gapes open into the depths of myth. What’s the role of wells in our traditions and in world culture? What can we learn from this?
Well – Wells are symbols of the earliest human process of cultivation, the thirst for life – and with it – the violence of competition over resources, the wells create our wars. Always. Water, Oil, Resources – Competition.
Why is this well opening up from the past – here and now?
I think it’s winking, somber, not just at the current crisis in the South but also at the wells of contention that feature prominently in this week’s Torah text – Toldot, full of wells and wars. Isaac, the second patriarch, digs up his father’s wells, which were sealed shut by the local people, and then digs four more wells and suffers contention and dispute with the indigenous folk. The wells are named ‘hatred’ and ‘toil’ and finally the last one is named Beer Sheva – the Seventh Well – perhaps as an icon of hope for peace and co-existence with the dwellers of the land. Now Beer Sheva is under attack. The war of the wells continues. Must it be so?
Maybe this old stone age well, open again, soon a tourist site, will remind us of what Isaac’s men tell him when they find water in the wild: we have dug up the well of the waters of life, they tell him in Genesis 26-19.
The mystical tradition reads this ‘well of the water of life’ as a symbol for Divine Plenty – the presence of the deepest layers of Presence, and this well offers us a peek into Mother Earth’s deep and endless compassion and infinite generosity, beyond competition and hatred. Call me naive, I don’t care, I’ll take whatever surfaces if it eases the pain and suffering of one more mortal on this land. This ancient well now opens for us the treasures of sooul nourishment — reminding us all to live more, kill less, and find more noble ways to drink together from the shared wells of hope, or die of thirst, alone.
On this new day of the new moon, I pray for the wellsprings of compassion and kindness to rise like the rivers and oceans and drown us in peace.
Amichai Lau-Lavie is the Founder and Executive Director of Storahtelling, Inc. creating sustainable solutions for life-long Jewish Learning since 1999. storahtelling.org