Shchem (Nablus) today is the second largest Palestinian city (after Ramallah) with approximately 170,000 residents, but of course Shchem has strong Jewish roots.
The city is located in one of the most strategic locations in Israel, at the national watershed, and at a crossroad that connects the coastal plain to the Jordan Valley and to Transjordan and the mountain road connecting the Galilee to Judea. In other words it sits at the north-south and east-west crossroads of Eretz Israel.
Shchem was a major city already before the arrival of Abraham to Israel, and this is was the first city reached by him. Yaakov sent his son Yosef to Shchem to search for his brothers and eventually bequeathed it to Yosef in addition to his double inheritance in the land. It is also near Shchem that he was buried.
Even before entering The Land, Am Israel was commanded to go to the area of Shchem, between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal and enact the blessings and curses ceremony as a way to reinforce the bond between Hashem and His people.
Since the rise of Sennacherib and the destruction of the kingdom of Israel and until today only very small Jewish communities lived, sporadically, in Shchem. Since the beginning of the 20th century no Jews were living in the city. During the British Mandate the city grew substantially and after the establishment of the State, due to the construction of refugee camps in the city area it has become one of the most central for the Palestinians.
According to the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, signed in 1995, the city was given total autonomy (“Area A”), with self-government for virtually all civil matters. For many years, and especially during the Second Intifada, Shchem was a key supplier for suicide bombers. This trend has definitively waned during the last years.
The root of the Arab name of the city – Nablus – stems from the Greek name Neo-polis meaning “the new city”.