Glimpses of Israel - Ancient Shechem Modern Nablus

by Joy Hunting

The city of Shechem (Arabic: Nablus) lies between the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, the mountains from which the blessings and the curses were read to the people of Israel. "Therefore it shall be when you be gone over Jordan, that you set up these stones, which I command you this day, in Mount Ebal ... and you shall write upon the stones all the words of this Law very plainly ... and Moses charged the people the same day, saying, These (tribes) shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you come over Jordan ... and these (tribes) shall stand upon Mount Ebal to curse ..." (Deuteronomy 28:4,8,11-13).

The city saw Abraham and Jacob, and later Joshua with the tribes of Israel, and it was during the time of the divided kingdom that it was the captial of the tribe of Ephraim. The Bible relates that "the king of Assyria came up through all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years ... and carried Israel away to Assyria ... and the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cutha ... and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel, and they possessed Samaria and dwelt in the cities thereof" (II Kings 17:5,6,24).

The Samaritans greatly harassed the Jewish people, especially during the time of the Second Temple. Throughout the centuries there were many communities of them both in the Land and in the surrounding countries, but now they are reduced to two small groups only: one in Nablus and the other near Tel Aviv. The ancient Samaritan MS (Manuscript) of the Pentateuch (five books of Moses) is kept in their synagogue at Shechem.

Today Nablus is a mainly Arabic city with a small Samaritan community, and it is the centre for industry and exports.