I am sometimes asked what the word “sabeel” means.
Indeed I was asked that again by a friend just today.
The primary meaning of Sabeel in both Arabic and Hebrew is simply, “Path.” As such it recalls an ancient name for the earliest Jesus community as “the Way” (cf: Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22), and may also reflect an early Christian interpretation of the prophetic text in Isaiah 40:3: “Prepare the way of the LORD.”
However, in Arabic the word also sounds the same as the term for “fountain.” It is used to describe the drinking fountains installed in cities by public benefactors. These fountains are a source of freshwater for the city population, just as wells sustain the traditional lifestyle of the villager and the herder.
Wells, fountains and springs are places of physical refreshment, but also spiritual encounter and renewal. They often feature in biblical and Qur’anic narratives when the hero encounters a messenger from God. Throughout Palestine, a local spring that flows all year is often known as Mary’s Well (Ein Miryam) due to the physical and spiritual blessings it offers the community.
The Sabeel community seeks to be people of the Way, following Jesus and working for justice. We drink from the well of liberation theology, whose living waters come from deep in the Scriptures which are sacred to Jews and Christians alike. And we seek to be a movement of encounter and transformation.