As I mentioned last week, the contrast between the woman at the well (John 4) and Nicodemus, ruler of the Jews (John 3), is incredible. Jesus even starts the conversation! And the text clearly says that Jews do not associate with Samaritans (4:9). That word 'associate' is unique in the New Testament, and a closely related word, found nowhere in the New Testament, means to be defiled, in other words, dirty.
I can't imagine walking several miles out of my way just to avoid associating with a certain group of people, but lots of people obviously did that. And Jesus literally walks into the center of a difficult relationship.
It's helpful to remember that the Samaritans only had the first five books of the Old Testament as their bible. A mountain that is very close to the well that the woman and Jesus are at, Mount Gerizim, is quite special. It was tradition that both Abraham and Jacob had built altars in the area and that the people of Israel had been blessed from this mountain. Also, in the Samaritan scriptures, Mount Gerizim (rather than Mount Ebal) was the mountain upon which Moses had commanded an altar to be built.
One fact that shows how much tension between the two groups is that the Samaritans built a temple on Mount Gerizim in about 400 B.C., and the Jews destroyed it in about 128 B.C. That's a sad story, but that destruction may have been helpful centuries later.
If you would consider one good thing to come from this (and speaking of the word 'dirty'), there is a book by Anne Katrine de Hemmer Gudme (and if you thought that was a long name, you'll think that the name of the book is incredibly long), Before the God in This Place for Good Remembrance: A Comparative Analysis of the Aramaic Votive Inscriptions from Mount Gerizim. It's a book that I would only recommend reading if you are seriously interested in the bible or archaeology (that's where the dirt comes in). The book talks about things that people leave in a temple, things like a 'concrete prayer', if you will, things that ask God to remember a particular person.
Asking God to remember things may seem funny, but it's not a bad way of approaching the situation. God is in control, and we obviously are not. If he remembers something about us, that may be a good thing--because of what a certain man did.
The conversation between the woman and Jesus eventually focuses on Jesus, and he is that 'concrete prayer', if you will, the go-between for God and us. Jesus identifies himself to the woman (and to us) as the Messiah, the Christ. You may never read the above book, but I think you can tell where that book is headed ... supporting some very good news.