Where is Miriam’s well? …everyone who goes up on Mount Jesimon sees something like a small sieve in the Sea of Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee); this is the well of Miriam. (Midrash Rabbah Kohelet 5:10)
And where is its place in the Sea of Galilee?
The Sages said,“It is located opposite the middle gate of the ancient synagogue of Sarongin [Sarangaia, a town near the Sea of Galilee]… which is located opposite the middle gate of the ancient synagogue of Tiberias.”
Five hundred years ago, the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria, lived in Israel. He located the burial place of many of our Sages. His leading disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, testifies that his mentor revealed to him that Miriam’s Well is located on the southern coast of Tiberias:
When you walk along the Sea of Tiberias to the Tiberias springs, exactly halfway along the way, in a place where there are many palm trees on the beach that face a tower at the top of the mountain—there is the Well of Miriam.
Rabbi Chaim Vital tells how his teacher took him to the place of the well and gave him a drink of its water:
My teacher of blessed memory went to Tiberias and took me with him… when we were going on a boat in the water opposite the pillars of the old synagogue, my teacher of blessed memory then took one cup and filled it with water from between the columns, and gave me to drink from the water. He told me… the water you drank came from the Well of Miriam.
Closer to our time, in 1844, Rabbi Chaim Halevi Horowitz gave very similar testimony about the place of the spring, based on a tradition known to people living in the Galilee:
When you go about halfway from Tiberias to the hot springs, there are ruins of thirteen synagogues. You will find there stones that enter into the Sea of Galilee, and after you go in a few yards, they say there is a distinct sign that [Miriam’s] Well is there.
What is common to all the sources we have cited is that they identify the Well of Miriam as being not far from the Tiberias beach, near the ancient stone pillars which belonged to one or more of the city’s old synagogues.
In 2009, an Israeli archaeologist claimed to have discovered an ancient site on the coast of Tiberias, similar to the place of the spring described by Rabbi Chaim Vital and Rabbi Horowitz as the place of Miriam’s Well:
A historical and archaeological study, conducted by archaeologist and former Israel Antiquities Authority employee Yossi Stefanski, apparently discovered on the Sea of Galilee’s shore the place identified by [Isaac Luria] as Miriam’s Well. The discovery is part of a new study of the tombs of holy men and other holy places conducted in partnership with the Jerusalemite researcher of holy tombs, Israel Herzberg.
Equipped with descriptions from the holy Scriptures, Stefanski surveyed Tiberias and found that the pillars described in the sources about Miriam’s Well are still on the Tiberias shore.
The place is south of the municipal beach, between it and the Holiday Inn Hotel (the former Hamei Tiberias) beach. He also found an old photograph of the place in the Israel Antiquities Authority archives in Jerusalem showing the columns. This indicates that at this place stood an ancient structure which was previously identified as the “Old Synagogue” of Tiberias, in the Talmudic and Mishnaic period.
During the period of the holy Ari (Isaac Luria, sixteenth century C.E.), this section of the beach was covered with sea-water. The sea level was two meters higher than its level today and the columns were covered with water. It is possible that the holy Ari gave his disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital, water to drink from this water. Today following the drop in the water level, the columns have become exposed for all to see.
We are also promised that the wondrous well that helped the Jewish people so much in their journey in the desert will return to us:
“And on that day, living waters will come out of Jerusalem”—this is referring to the Well of Miriam, which will flow in Jerusalem and will irrigate the surrounding areas…