An-Najah National University
| 72 CE|
Nablus (Arabic: ? Nablus , Hebrew: ? S?kem, Biblical Shechem Skem, Greek: ?eapolis ????????) is a city in the northern West Bank, approximately 49 kilometers (30 mi) north of Jerusalem, (approximately 63 kilometers (39 mi) by road), with a population of 126,132. Located in a strategic position between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, it is the capital of the Nablus Governorate and a Palestinian commercial and cultural center, containing one of the largest Palestinian institutions of higher learning, Al-Najah university, and the Palestinian stock-exchange.
Founded by the Roman Emperor Vespasian in 72 CE as Flavia Neapolis, Nablus has been ruled by many empires over the course of its almost 2,000-year-long history. In the 5th and 6th centuries, conflict between the citys Christian and Samaritan inhabitants climaxed in a series of Samaritan revolts against Byzantine rule, before their violent quelling in 529 CE drastically dwindled that communitys numbers in the city. In 636, Neapolis, along with most of Palestine, came under the rule of the Islamic Arab Caliphate of Umar ibn al-Khattab; its name Arabicized to Nablus. In 1099, the Crusaders took control of the city for less than a century, leaving its mixed Muslim, Christian and Samaritan population relatively undisturbed. After Saladins Ayyubid forces took control of the interior of Palestine in 1187, Islamic rule was reestablished, and continued under the Mamluk and Ottoman empires to follow.
Following its incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1517, Nablus was designated capital of the Jabal Nablus ("Mount Nablus") district. In 1657, after a series of upheavals, a number of Arab clans from the northern and eastern Levant were dispatched to the city to reassert Ottoman authority, and loyalty from among these clans staved off challenges to the empires authority by rival regional leaders, like Daher el-Omar in the 18th century, and Muhammad Ali—who briefly ruled Nablus—in the 19th century. When Ottoman rule was firmly reestablished in 1841, Nablus prospered as a center of trade.
After the loss of the city to British forces during World War I, Nablus was incorporated into the British Mandate of Palestine in 1922, and later designated to form part of the Arab state of Palestine under the 1947 UN partition plan. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the city was captured and occupied by Transjordan, which subsequently unilaterally annexed it, until its occupation by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.
Today, the population is predominantly Muslim, with small Christian and Samaritan minorities. Since 1995, the city has been governed by the Palestinian National Authority. In the Old City, there are a number of sites of archaeological significance, spanning the 1st to 15th centuries. The city is known for its kanafeh, a popular sweet throughout the Middle East, and soap industry.
Flavia Neapolis ("new city of the emperor Flavius") was founded in 72 CE by the Roman emperor Vespasian over an older Samaritan village, Mabartha ("the passage"). Located between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, the new city lay 2 kilometers (1.2 mi) west of the Biblical city of Shechem which was destroyed by the Romans that same year during the First Jewish-Roman War. Holy places at the site of the citys founding include Josephs Tomb and Jacobs Well. Due to the citys strategic geographic position and the abundance of water from nearby springs, Neapolis prospered, accumulating extensive territory, including the former Judean toparchy of Acraba.
Insofar as the hilly topography of the site would allow, the city was built on a Roman grid plan and settled with veterans who fought in the victorious legions and other foreign colonists. In the 2nd century CE, Emperor Hadrian built a grand theater in Neapolis that could seat up to 7,000 people. Coins found in Nablus dating to this period depict Roman military emblems and gods and goddesses of the Greek pantheon such as Zeus, Artemis, Serapis, and Asklepios. Neapolis was entirely pagan at this time. Justin Martyr who was born in the city c. 100 CE, came into contact with Platonism, but not with Christians there. The city flourished until the civil war between Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger in 198–9 CE. Having sided with Niger, who was defeated, the city was temporarily stripped of its legal privileges by Severus, who designated these to Sebastia instead.
In 244 CE, Philip the Arab transformed Flavius Neapolis into a Roman colony named Julia Neapolis. It retained this status until the rule of Trebonianus Gallus in 251 CE. The Encyclopaedia Judaica speculates that Christianity was dominant in the 2nd or 3rd century, with some sources positing a later date of 480 CE. It is known for certain that a bishop from Nablus participated in the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. The presence of Samaritans in the city is attested to in literary and epigraphic evidence dating to the 4th century CE. As yet, there is no evidence attesting to a Jewish presence in ancient Neapolis.
Conflict among the Christian population of Neapolis emerged in 451. By this time, Neapolis was within the Palaestina Prima province under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. The tension was a result of Monophysite Christian attempts to prevent the return of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Juvenal, to his episcopal see. However, the conflict did not grow into civil strife.
As tensions among the Christians of Neapolis decreased, tensions between the Christian community and the Samaritans grew dramatically. In 484, the city became the site of a deadly encounter between the two groups, provoked by rumors that the Christians intended to transfer the remains of Aarons sons and grandsons Eleazar, Ithamar and Phinehas. Samaritans reacted by entering the cathedral of Neapolis, killing the Christians inside and severing the fingers of the bishop Terebinthus. Terebinthus then fled to Constantinople, requesting an army garrison to prevent further attacks. As a result of the revolt, the Byzantine emperor Zeno erected a church dedicated to Mary on Mount Gerizim. He also forbade the Samaritans to travel to the mountain to celebrate their religious ceremonies, and confiscated their synagogue there. These actions by the emperor fueled Samaritan anger towards the Christians further.
Thus, the Samaritans rebelled again under the rule of emperor Anastasius I, reoccupying Mount Gerizim, which was subsequently reconquered by the Byzantine governor of Edessa, Procopius. A third Samartian revolt which took place under the leadership of Julianus ben Sabar in 529 was perhaps the most violent. Neapolis bishop Ammonas was murdered and the citys priests were hacked into pieces and then burned together with the relics of saints. The forces of Emperor Justinian I were sent in to quell the revolt, which ended with the slaughter of the majority of the Samaritan population in the city.
Nablus lies in a strategic position at a junction between two ancient commercial roads; one linking the Sharon coastal plain to the Jordan valley, the other linking Nablus to the Galilee in the north, and the biblical Judea to the south through the mountains. The city stands at an elevation of around 550 meters (1,800 ft) above sea level, in a narrow valley running roughly east-west between two mountains: Mount Ebal, the northern mountain, is the taller peak at 940 meters (3,080 ft), while Mount Gerizim, the southern mountain, is 881 meters (2,890 ft) high.
Nablus is located 49 kilometers (30 mi) north of Al Quds, Jerusalem, Palestine, 110 kilometers (68 mi) west of Amman, Jordan and 63 kilometers (39 mi) north of Jerusalem. Nearby cities and towns include Huwara and Aqraba to the south, Beit Furik to the southeast, Tammun to the northeast, Asira ash-Shamaliya to the north and Kafr Qaddum and Tell to the west.
Beginning in the early 16th century, trade networks connecting Nablus to Damascus and Cairo were supplemented by the establishment of trading posts in the Hejaz and Gulf regions to the south and east, as well as in the Anatolian Peninsula and the Mediterranean islands of Crete and Cyprus. Nablus also developed trade relations with Aleppo, Mosul, and Baghdad.
Nablus and its culture enjoy a certain renown throughout the Palestinian Territories and the Arab world with significant and unique contributions to Palestinian culture, cuisine and costume. Nabulsi, meaning "from Nablus", is used to describe items such as handicrafts (e.g. Nabulsi soap) and food products (e.g. Nabulsi cheese) that are made in Nablus or in the traditional Nablus style.
Nablus is one of the Palestinian cities that sustained elite classes, fostering the development of a culture of "high cuisine", such as that of Damascus or Baghdad. The city is home to a number of food products well known throughout the Levant, the Arab world and the former provinces of the Ottoman Empire.
Kanafeh is the most famed Nabulsi sweet. Originating in Nablus during the 15th century, by 1575, its recipe was exported throughout the Ottoman Empire — which controlled Palestine at the time. Kanafeh is made of several fine shreds of pastry noodles with honey-sweetened cheese in the center. The top layer of the pastry is usually dyed orange with food coloring and sprinkled with crushed pistachios. Though it is now made throughout the Middle East, to the present day, kanafeh Nabulsi enjoys continued fame, partly due to its use of a white-brine cheese called jibneh Nabulsi. Boiled sugar is used as a syrup for kanafeh.
Other sweets made in Nablus include baklawa, "Tamriya", mabrumeh and ghuraybeh, a plain pastry made of butter, flour and sugar in an "S"-shape, or shaped as fingers or bracelets.