When coming from Jerusalem, the visitor discovers the city from the east, after turning off the Ramallah road upon reaching the first slopes of Mt. Guerizim. From here the mountain looks like a perfect cone, covered with pine trees at the top, some 880 meters above sea level.
It is only separated from Mt. Ebal (940 meters) by a narrow strip less than a kilometer in width. The Nablus road enters this strip leaving behind the Industrial Suburb and the Balata refugee camp.
This is where Sichem was born, 4 millennium before Christ, on the eastern end of the two mountains. A spring was at the origin of its development. The city was developed by the Canaanite who inhabited in the area at the time.
During the 19th Century B.C., Pharaoh Sesostris III conquered Sichem and one century later it was the Hykses, from Syria who occupied it. They fortified the city and kept it until the Egyptians regained control around 1550 B.C. This time the city was destroyed and remained abandoned for about a century.
Having regained the status of capital of a prosperous kingdom mentioned in the tablets of Tell el Amarna in Egypt. It was peacefully occupied by the Hebrews as a result of the princes' marriages (12 Century B.C.). It remained the northern capital of the different Israelite kingdom until being replaced by Samaria in 876 B.C. However it remained the economic capital. Jerolsoam I, King of Israel, strengthened the fortifications between 850 and 800 B.C. However this was not enough to prevent the destruction of the city by the Assyrian, Sargon II, in 724 B.C. The Jewish elite were then deported to Mesopotamia and foreign settlers were brought in to replace them.
During the 4th Century B.C., Alexander the Great settled his veterans in Sichem and the city lived a final phase of prosperity. It would never recover from the subsequent Roman conquest led by John Hyrcan and his successors which began during the 2nd Century B.C., and the prosperity of their new urban settlement: Flavia Neapolis from which Nablus would stem.
Visiting the ruins of Sichem is made difficult by the lack of signs indicating the location. It is with these ruins that are associated stories such as Abraham building an alter to the Eternal upon entering Canaan or Joshua throwing his anathemas against the violators of "the law." The easiest way to go is to follow signs towards "Josep's tomb." This little tomb with a white dome was renovated during the 19th century. Inside is a tomb to the memory of the patriarch. It is sad that his bones were buried in Sichem, “on the tract of land that Jacob had bought from the son of Hamor for 100 pieces of silver” (Joshua 24:32).
However, other traditions have Joseph buried in the mysterious cave of Nakhpela, in Hebron. So it's probably just a cenotaph...
In the same street a hundred meters down on the right hand side, after a small pink building, a road leaves towards Tell Balata, where the ruins of Ancient Sichem lie. You access the site by what was the eastern gate, where a paved road ended.
Inside the walls, you walk through the remains of many Israelite homes, before reaching the Acropolis where you can see the ruins of a palace dating back to the Hyksos occupations (12th Century B.C.) and foundations of a temple probably dedicated to Baal. Finally, on the northeastern side of the Acropolis are ruins of the Cyclopean fortifications, built by the Hyksos as well, along with the ruins of a second gate, built in the same style as the first.
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