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Palestine FlagNablus

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Nablus is located in the heart of the West Bank, 63 km north of Jerusalem. The city is at the southern tip of the Great Triangle, with Tulkarm to the northwest and Jenin to the north. The town is surrounded by olive orchards which have always provided the foundation of the regional economy.

The Israeli affectation of referring to Nablus by the Biblical name of Shekhem is presumably in an attempt to justify the creation of the many illegal (under international law) settlements in the area. These illegal settlements, walled Israeli towns built on stolen Palestinian territory, effectively cut the town off from the agricultural land surrounding and historically part of the it. Referring to Nablus as "Shekhem" is a bit silly given that the town which developed into the present-day Palestinian city was not founded until 72 AD, well after Old Testament times. The site of ancient Shekhem actually lies a few km to the north.

The population of Nablus is approximately 150,000, predominantly Muslim. It also includes a small community of Samaritans (see the Wikipedia entry about this Jewish religious sect, best known from the Biblical references to The "Parable of the Good Samaritan (John 4:4-42)", and the story of "Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well (Luke 10:25-37)". As at July 18, 2007, there are 705 Samaritans in the world (according to their tally), living almost exclusively in Kiryat Luza on the holy Mount Gerizim near the city of Nablus (Shekhem) in the West Bank, and in the city of Holon in Israel."

In 1927 the city suffered heavy damage in an earthquake. Thus, most of what one sees today is relatively modern although traditional in style.

Since 1967 the economy has been going downhill. Its exports, under the Israeli occupation, have been unofficially restricted, causing many of its factories and businesses to close. One of the last, the Nablus Soap Factory, which made high quality olive oil soap, was destroyed by the Israelis in 2002.

Israeli damage

Damage done during Israeli attacks and incursions.

Israeli damage

Destruction done during Israeli attacks and incursions.

Israeli damage

Destruction done during Israeli attacks and incursions.

It is difficult to get into and out of Nablus these days. To supposedly protect it's illegal settlements in the area, the Israelis have created a cordon around the town. Palestinians who have business in other towns in the West Bank are forced to wait in line, on foot, unprotected from the vagaries of the weather, for hours, to get through the numerous checkpoints. We spoke to a man who was having an ice cream with his young son. The man works in Ramallah, a less than 45 minute drive before the Israelis cut all the roads. Now, thanks to Israel, it can take 8 hours for him to get from Nablus to Ramallah. Now he must stay in Ramallah during the week and can only come home to his family on weekends. Unfortunately, because of the high rate of unemployment due to the occupation, he cannot afford to give up his job in Ramallah.


Two young mothers with their babies at the checkpoint


Struggling with suitcases through the checkpoint


Waiting in line at the checkpoint

For a more detailed history of Nablus, please visit the "about Nablus" section of the municpal website.

Israelis will probably warn against going to Nabuls because of its reputation for militancy against and resentment of the Occupation. Al-Najah National University, largest university in the Occupied Territories, situated overlooking the city, is considered to be a hotbed of rebellion. It was closed by the Israelis for most of the first Intifada, and has been closed on and off since the start of the second Intifada.

Every time we visited Nablus the shopkeepers, university students and people on the street were friendly, helpful and polite. If the town has a reputation for hostility, it is only against the oppressive policies of the occupying power, not against foreigners and tourists.

Copied from the Nablus website Nablus Municipality is currently considered one of the largest organizations in Palestine in terms of volume of services it provides, the projects it carries out, and the number of local staff it employs. Nablus Municipality is one of the major employers in Palestine and it is the main driving force behind development process of the Nablus city. Among its major accomplishments are the establishment of Child Cultural Centers, public parks, the preservation of Nablus cultural and historic heritage project namely; remodeling of old city, and the commercial center which is considered one of the economic and architectural land marks in Palestine. During this period, the city was suffering the lack of water resources crisis especially in the summer time. The municipal council was determined to take the challenge through digging water wells to meet not only the need of Nablus citizens, but it also provides water to the neighboring towns and villages.

Here are some more photos of Nablus taken in 2004.
outskirts of Nablus

View of the outskirts of Nablus

shopping mall

A small but modern shopping mall in downtown Nablus


Monument of the hill overlooking Nablus

the market

The produce market, everyone was friendly and the fruits and vegetables were wonderful.

chatting to a group of boys

chatting to a group of boys near a bombed out factory

downtown traffic

Downtown traffic on Saturday afternoon

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This page was updated on 26 November 2007.

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