Philip Evangelist at Ein Henya Spring

Today I bicycled about 6 km each way, from the German Colony (where I live) along the old train tracks to Ein Henya, a spring in the valley of Nahal Refaim, south of Jerusalem. Ein Henya is being developed as part of the new Jerusalem Park, 4 parks that form a greenbelt that extends over some 1,500 hectares (3700 acres), surrounding the city to the north, west, and south. They are still working on parking, landscaping, etc. at Ein Henya but you can visit.

DSC_0271I spoke to the supervisor and he said it would be about another 6 months before they’re finished and they are still discussing whether to fill the two pools when they are done (currently the water is flowing but rerouted and the pools are empty). So for the time being you will have to find other springs and pools in the area to enjoy.

DSC_0269The spring is typical of those found in the Jerusalem area, consisting of a dugout chamber on the side of the hill where the water flows through the water porous limestone layer and comes out when it reaches a layer of marl and clay that is more impervious to water.

DSC_0268A 39 meter underground tunnel channels the water to the ruins of a building, the apse of a 6th C Byzantine church, where it cascades down into a small pool in front of the apse framed by two pilasters. The apse gave the spring its Arabic name because henya is a round niche carved out of stone.


One tradition is that the church is named after Philip the Evangelist according to the story in Acts 8:26-40.

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

There he met a court official of the Queen of Ethiopia in charge of her entire treasury who was sitting in his chariot reading from the prophet Isaiah. He had come to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple and was returning home. The official/eunuch asked Philip to explain what was written and was so moved that when they came to the spring he requested that Philip baptize him there.

For another possible site where Philip could have baptized the Ethiopian see Ferrell Jenkin’s post.


5 thoughts on “Philip Evangelist at Ein Henya Spring

  1. Outremer

    Shmuel, hi– Great to see your post and pictures of the newly-excavated areas at Ein Haniye (I’ve seen it spelled a dozen different ways!). I’ve been there a few times over the years– a very interesting local swimming-hole, shared by Jewish settlers and local Palestinians, no less!

    I know that traces of a Byzantine church were found many decades ago, on a terrace north of the spring, as I recall– then covered over, and these apparently have now been re-exposed. But the small apsidal structure with the pool below I have always heard referred to as a Roman-period nymphaeum or decorative public fountain. If your future visits or research turn up further info on these structures, I’m interested.

    I’m pleased to see the ancient remains brought to light, of course, and I love that the site will receive the attention and preservation it deserves… but as with all Israeli excavation and development work in the occupied Palestinian territories, my usual ambivalence and conflicted-ness about the place have already set in. Let’s hope that Palestinian access to the place will not be cut off by relocating the checkpoint further down the road, as was being considered.

    About your bike ride: I just wondered how far the “rails-to-trails” corridor extends now for public use for walking, biking, etc.? I know the stretch in the German Colony from a few years back, but wondered about the current status.

    Great to see you online again (more by e-mail — watch your in-box!).
    All the best…

    TOM POWERS / Waynesville, NC USA

    1. Shmuel Browns Post author

      Great to hear from you – as usual Tom, great comments.
      “interesting local swimming-hole, shared by Jewish settlers and local Palestinians, no less!”
      Yes! People can get along.
      “small apsidal structure with the pool below I have always heard referred to as a Roman-period nymphaeum”
      Interesting! I’d never heard that but certainly a possibility. Doesn’t nymphaeum suggest a city? What Roman city would we be considering?
      “Palestinian access cut off by relocating the checkpoint further down the road”
      Haven’t heard anything about that. The area is going to be fenced off but I doubt that will stop young people, Israeli or Palestinian (my sons and friends used to go out there at night for a swim).
      “wondered how far the “rails-to-trails” corridor extends now”
      Past Malcha, Beit Safafa, Ein Yael, all the way to the checkpoint. Supervisor at site said there is going to be a foot bridge over highway to give access to trails that go to En Lavan, zoo and new aquarium.

  2. Outremer

    Nympheaum as a strictly urban feature?– I don’t know. It would be interesting to dig into. A nymphaeum essentially, in the classical sense, was a shrine or sanctuary dedicated to the nymphs, spirits associated with streams, springs and such. Could this have been a small/ private/ rustic shrine, maybe associated with the elaborate Roman-period villa very nearby (today’s Ein Yael), even part of the same property in antiquity? Just thought questions.

    Interesting that your sons used to go swimming out there! Also, thanks for the update on the urban trail along the old rail line. /TP

      1. Shmuel Browns Post author

        Just reading Dr Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah’s book about Aelia Capitolina and she writes the following about Ein el-Hanniya:
        Many scholars interpret the structure as a Roman nymphaeum built in connection with the nearby road. Recent excavations have yielded no clear finds to corroborate this, but its architectural style and its location beside the Roman road support the Roman-period date and the interpretation of the structure as a public fountain.”

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