Tourist Tip #302 / Philip’s Spring Near Jerusalem

This little known site within a new metropolitan park circling Jerusalem is where a famous evangelist is said to have baptized an Ethiopian eunuch.

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Philip’s Spring is a little-known site that is sacred to Christians in Jerusalem Park, a new metropolitan park that extends over some 3,700 acres, and surrounds the city to the north, west, and south. The park features dozens of kilometers of hiking and cycling trails, planted forests and woodlands – but this wouldn’t be Jerusalem if it did not offer a selection of heritage sites, including Philip’s Spring, named after the evangelist.

The spring is located about one mile southwest of the entrance to the Rephaim Valley portion of Jerusalem Park, just past the entrance to the Ein Yael Living Museum. The Rephaim Valley is mentioned frequently in the Bible, as one of the borders of the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:5) and the scene of a battle between David and the Philistines (2 Sam. 5:17–22). The New Testament site of Philip’s Spring, known in Arabic as Ein El-Haniyeh is here as well, in this southern portion of the park. It is located at the foot of the Palestinian village of Walajeh, whose people have been tilling the ancient terraces in this area for generations.

Christian pilgrims have been coming here for centuries to recall the story in Acts 8:26–39 of Philip’s baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip, one of the best-known of the seven deacons chosen to minister to the poor in the early Christian community, found the Ethiopian queen’s servant sitting in his chariot after visiting Jerusalem; reading from Isaiah, Philip engaged the pilgrim in a discussion of the passage and subsequently baptized the eunuch. According to tradition, it was this eunuch who later brought Christianity to Ethiopia. There are at least two elements of the site that fit its description as the scene of this story. It’s on the ancient Jerusalem-Gaza road (Acts 8:26), and features a sparkling stream flowing into a pool large enough for Philip to immerse the Ethiopian before sending him on his way (Acts 8:38).

Up a small hill from the main road through the park you’ll find remains of a Byzantine (fourth to seventh centuries CE) church. It surrounds a Roman-era fountain and pool fed by a spring that emerges from two caves. You’ll also find water channels hewn by ancient farmers into the mountainside – a moving illustration of the “spring enclosed” in the love poem of the Song of Songs 4:12.

Philip's Spring near Jerusalem.Credit: Miriam Feinberg Vamosh
A view of Philip's Spring.Credit: Miriam Feinberg Vamosh
An ancient apse at Philip's Spring bearing Jewish graffiti.Credit: Miriam Feinberg Vamosh

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