|• Arabic||بلاطة البلد|
|• Jurisdiction||100 dunams (0.1 km2 or 0.04 sq mi)|
|Name meaning||"village of Balata"|
The village's name is Balata, the name of an ancient Arab village, which was preserved by local residents. Its pseudonymn, al-Balad (meaning "the village"), is used to distinguish it from the Palestinian refugee camp of Balata which lies to the east and was established in 1950.
The village's name is transcribed in the writings of Eusebius (d. circa 339) and Jerome (d. 420), as Balanus or Balata. In the Samartian chronicles, its Arabic names are transcribed as Balata ("a pavement of flat stone slabs") and Shejr al-Kheir ("tree of grace"). In the writings of Yaqut al-Hamawi (d. 1229), the Syrian geographer, its name is transcribed as al-Bulāṭa.
One theory holds that balata is a derivation of the Aramaic word Balut, meaning "acorn" (or, in Arabic, "oak"), while another theory holds that it is a derivation of the Byzantine-Roman era, from the Greek word platanos, meaning "terebinth", a type of tree that grew around the village spring.
A suburb of the city of Nablus, the village is situated on the southern part of Tell Balata, and covers about one-third of the tell. The built-up area was made up of 2.5 hectares (25 dunams) in 1945, and increased to more than 10 hectares (100 dunams) in 1980. To the east, is a vast plain, with the ways running east-west leading out through the pass from Jerusalem to Nablus and the coast, and the way to the northeast around Mount Ebal leading down to Wadi Fa'rah and the ford across the Jordan River at Jisr el-Damiyah.
The history of the village of Balata is tied to that Jacob's Well and Joseph's Tomb. Benjamin of Tudela, the Navarrese traveller, who visited the site in 12th century, places it "A sabbath-way distance from Sichem," and says it contains Joseph's sepulcher. The church built around Jacob's Well and the lands of the village of Balata belonged to the Benedictine nuns of Bethany in the 12th century. Written documentation from this time of the Crusades indicates that, Balata, also known as Balathas, was a Frankish settlement.
During the rule of the Ottoman Empire over Palestine, an 1894 report by Conrad Schick for the Palestine Exploration Fund describes Balata as a hamlet made up of a few huts surrounded by gardens that lay to the west of Jacob's Well and its accompanying church complex, at that time in ruins.
Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Palestinian refugee camp of Balata was established directly adjacent to the village in 1950. Its population is significantly larger than that of the village of Balata. During the First Intifada, whenever the refugee camp was placed under curfew by the Israeli occupying authorities, so too was the village.
The village contains an old mosque, five schools, and the village spring, which served as the main water source, is known as 'Ain el-Khidr. Education and medical services in the Balata refugee camp are provided by UNRWA. While electricity and running water supplies were often irregular, the camp was better off in terms of public services than the village of Balata, which lacked piped water, and depended upon private electricity generators and Israeli-run education and medical services, until some after the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority following the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
USAID sponsors a flagship program involving the Balata Al-Balad Women's Society in the village that seeks to increase coordination between community-based organizations and the Palestinian Ministry of Health to improve the provision of health care services.
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- "Press Release: USAID Supports Seven Community-Based Organizations' Efforts to Improve Health Services". USAID. November 18, 2009. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
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