NABLUS , city in Ereẓ Israel (in later times called *Shechem in Hebrew). Nablus was founded by Vespasian in 72/73 c.e. as Flavia Neapolis on the site of the Samaritan village Mabartha ("the passage") situated between Mts. Ebal and Gerizim near biblical Shechem (Jos., Wars 4:449). Biblical Shechem is identified with Tel Balatah, which has remains from proto-historic times down to the late Persian period. Because of its favorable geographic position and abundance of water the Roman city prospered; it was endowed with an extensive territory including the former Judean toparchy of Acraba. Neapolis was hostile to Septimius Severus, who therefore temporarily deprived it of municipal status. In 244 Philip the Arab turned it into a Roman colony called Julia Neapolis; its coinage continued until the time of Trebonianus Gallus (251–3). Its temples included an Artemision and the city also had an agora, colonnaded streets, a stepped nymphaeum, a theater and hippodrome, etc. In recent years important remains of Roman Neapolis have been unearthed by Y. Magen. Christianity took root early in Neapolis; it was the birthplace of *Justin Martyr (c. 100) and had a bishop as early as the Council of Ancyra in 314. In Byzantine times it was depicted on the Madaba Map as a walled town, Neapolis was also an important center for the *Samaritans who twice revolted and set up a "king." The city was conquered in 636 by the Arabs, who retained its name in the form Nablus. It is mentioned several times in talmudic literature as Nipolis (tj, Av. Zar. 5:4, 44d); the rabbis, as well as some early Christian authors, confused it with Shechem, and even with Samaria. Under Muslim rule Nablus contained a mixed population of Muslims, Persians, Samaritans, and Jews. The synagogue built in 362 by the high priest Akbon was turned into a mosque (al-Khaḍraʾ). From 1099 to 1187 the city was held by the crusaders, who called it Naples. It was the second capital of the royal domain and contained a palace and a citadel; the city itself was unwalled at that time. In 1522 a Jewish community is mentioned in Nablus; its fortunes varied throughout the 18th and 19th centuries until it completely abandoned the city shortly after 1900. Nablus remained a center of the Samaritans, some of whom still live there.
[Michael Avi-Yonah /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
After World War i Jews again tried to live there, but Nablus was a center of Muslim fanaticism, and the 1929 Arab riots ended these attempts. The town suffered severe damage in the 1927 earthquake and was largely destroyed. The Mandatory Government aided its reconstruction along modern lines but sought to preserve its Oriental character. The Samaritan quarter lies at the foot of Mt. Gerizim; wealthier inhabitants have built their homes, mostly in the last decades, on the slopes of Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. Under the Jordanian regime (1948–67), the economy of Nablus, then the center of the largest district of the West Bank, was based mainly on administrative services and farming. In addition to its traditional industry of soapmaking (its raw material coming from the extensive olive groves of the vicinity), the first modern manufacturing enterprises made their appearance, most of them in the Sokher Valley to the east. In the *Six-Day War, on June 7, 1967, Nablus was taken by an Israeli column coming from the east. In the census held by Israel in the fall of 1967, Nablus had 44,000 inhabitants (as against 23,300 in 1943), of whom all were Muslim, except for 370 Christians and about 250 Samaritans. When, however, the populations of villages and refugee camps next to the town were added, the total number amounted to about 70,000, making Nablus the largest urban center of Samaria.
By the early 21st century the population of the city had reached 100,000, while the Nablus district had a population of 200,000. Nablus was one of the West Bank towns from which Israeli troops withdrew in the wake of the 1995 Oslo ii agreement signed at Taba. With the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000 it became part of the terrorist infrastructure and a jump-off point for terrorists making their way to Israel. In 2002 it was targeted by Israeli forces in Operation Defensive Shield and since then has been subjected to roadblocks, searches, and security actions by Israel.
Schuerer, Gesch, 2 (19072), 41ff.; Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 396–7; idem, in: rb, 32 (1923), 120ff. add. bibliography: B. Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria (2002), 61–69; Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni, and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea – Palaestina. Maps and Gazetteer. (1994), 194–95; G.S.P. Grenville, R.L. Chapman, and J.E. Taylor, Palestine in the Fourth Century. The Onomasticon by Eusebius of Caesarea (2003), 147–48; Y. Magen, Flavia Neapolis (Judea and Samaria Publications Series, 2005).
the largest west bank city.
Nablus is 30 miles north of Jerusalem in a valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Known in the Bible as Shechem, it was the home of Jacob, Jacob's well, and the tomb of Joseph; it was the place of Jeroboam's rebellion and, as chief city of Samaria, became his capital of the kingdom of Israel. It was rebuilt and renamed Neapolis (from which the name Nablus derives) by the Roman emperor Vespasian, suffered damage in the Crusades, and became part of the Ottoman Empire. After the defeat and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, it became part of the British Mandate territory of Palestine. It became part of the Jordanian-occupied West Bank following the Arab–Israel War in 1948 and then part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank after June 1967. Israeli troops withdrew from the city in December 1995, after which it passed under the control of the Palestinian Authority. It was reoccupied by Israeli forces on several occasions since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in late 2000.
Nablus has been a major economic, political, and cultural center for Palestinians. Several leading families in Palestinian history stem from Nablus, including the Tuqan Family and the Abd al-Hadi Family. It was long an important manufacturing city, particularly for textiles, food products, and olive oil soap. It has played an important role in Palestinian political history as well, especially as a center for Palestinian nationalism outside the family rivalries of Jerusalem. Home to al-Najah University (which obtained university status in 1977), the city has produced numerous writers, poets, and academicians. The population stood at 100,034 during the last official census in 1997.
see also abd al-hadi family; arab–israel war (1948); aqsa intifada, al-; palestinian authority; tuqan family; west bank.
Doumani, Beshara. Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus 1700–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.
Fischbach, Michael R. "Nablus." In Encyclopedia of the Palestinians, edited by Philip Mattar. New York: Facts On File, 2000.
Kimmerling, Baruch, and Migdal, Joel S. The Palestinian People: A History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.
updated by michael r. fischbach
Economically important Palestinian city, forty miles north of Jerusalem in the West Bank. It was called Flavius Neapolis by the Romans, who established it in 72 C.E. near the site of the Biblical Shechem (its name in Hebrew). The 2004 population of the city, eight surrounding villages, and three refugee camps (Balata, Askar, and Camp Number 1) is about 165,000. A number of Israeli settlements and an Israeli military base surround the city on confiscated land (the first was established in 1976). Nablus has been an important center of Palestinian resistance in the 1936–1939 Revolt (it was the birthplace of the Arab Higher Committee); during the period of Jordanian control, when it was a center of guerilla activity; and under Israeli occupation. Al-Najah National University is located in Nablus, as is Jacob's Well, Joseph's Tomb, and, near Mount Gerizim outside town, a community of about half of all remaining Samaritans, 200 to 300 people. Mount Gerizim is said by the Samaritans to be the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, and where Moses received the Ten Commandments. Nablus was part of the Palestinian "autonomous" area under the Oslo Accords and was turned over to the Palestinian Authority on 11 December 1995. Like other West Bank cities, it was invaded and reoccupied by the Israelis in April 2002 with great force and destruction—much of the Old City was damaged by tanks, and the ancient casbah was destroyed—as well as with many civilian deaths and injuries, and it has been subject to curfews and violent repressive actions.