At the end of the play, we learn that the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park was inspired by another Bethesda Fountain, in Jerusalem. According to legend, the angel Bethesda blessed the fountain, so that all sick people could bathe there and cure their afflictions. After the Romans sacked Jerusalem, the fountain stopped working—but some people believe that when God comes to Earth, the fountain will flow again. By ending his play with this “prophecy,” Kushner establishes a tone of uncertainty and yet optimism. The notion of “curing the sick” has obvious relevance to the AIDS victims in the play—and in this sense, the characters’ prayer that the Bethesda Fountain will one day flow again symbolizes their hope that they’ll one day be cured of AIDS, or be able to live with AIDS, unafraid.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bethesda Fountain appears in Angels in America. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Perestroika: Act 4, Scene 3
...fountain turned dry forever. Louis then “taps in” Belize to explain the history of the fountain of Bethesda : before the Romans sacked Jerusalem, suffering people could bathe in the fountain of Bethesda... (full context)
...tell the audience about the Millennium. When the “true” Millennium comes—not just the year 2000—the fountain of Bethesda will run again in Jerusalem. When this happens, Hannah will take her friends to bathe... (full context)