We were standing on Mount Gerizim. Down below our feet, to the north and east, was the Palestinian town Nablus. To the north of us, across Nablus, was Mount Ebal. We were in the heart of the West Bank of the Jordan River. In 1947, the United Nations resolved to partition Palestine (then administered by the British) into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The West Bank was supposed to be part of the Arab State. But it was seized by Jordan in the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, when Israel declared independence. It was subsequently captured by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
Nablus was also the Biblical Shechem. Abraham built an altar to God here when he first entered Canaan. Later, Jacob’s sons massacred the city’s inhabitants to avenge the rape of their sister.
Joseph bones, which the Israelites brought up from Egypt, was buried here - Jacob’s Tomb. Before he died, Joshua assembled the Israelites here, and said to them these famous words, “... choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, ... But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” The Israeli tribes replied, “We too will serve the Lord.”
In the New Testament times, Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman by a well dug by Jacob - the famous Jacob’s Well, here. Some of our students who went with us to Cambodia may remember Jacob's Well restaurant in Phnom Penh. Well, the original Jacob's Well was down there in Shechem.
Today, the inhabitants are predominately Muslim, with small Christian and Samaritan minorities. But the Israeli continue to refer to it as Shechem. Nablus - Shechem remain a focal point of conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis. Will they find a way to live peacefully with each other?