Information about Be’er Sheva

Location: Israel

Beersheba is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the seventh-largest city in Israel with a population of 187,200. Beersheba is located on the northern edge of the Negev desert 115 kilometres (71 mi) south-east of Tel Aviv and 120 kilometres (75 mi) south-west of Jerusalem.

The city is located on the main route from the center and north of the country to Eilat in the far south. The Valley of Beer Sheva has been populated since thousands of years ago due to the presence of water which travels here from the Hebron Mountains in the winter and is stored underground in vast quantities. The main river in Beersheba is Nahal Beersheva, a wadi which floods in the winter. The Kovshim and Katef streams are other important wadis which pass through the city.

Beersheba grew in importance in the 19th century, when the Ottoman Turks built a regional police station there. The Battle of Beersheba was part of a wider British offensive in World War I aimed at breaking the Turkish defensive line from Gaza to Beersheba. In 1947, Bir Seb'a, as it was known, was envisioned as part of the Arab state in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. When the Arabs rejected the United Nations resolution declaring Israel an independent state, the Egyptian army amassed its forces in Beersheba as a strategic and logistical base. In October 1948, the city was conquered by the Israel Defense Forces.

Beersheba has grown considerably since then. A large portion of the population is made up of Jews who immigrated from Arab countries after 1948, and has been significantly boosted since 1990 by immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union.

The findings unearthed at Tel Be'er Sheva, an archaeological site a few kilometers northeast of modern day Beersheba, suggest the region has been populated since the 4th millennium BC. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.

According to the Bible, Beersheba was the southernmost city of the territories actually settled by Israelites, hence the expression "from Dan to Beersheba" to describe the whole kingdom. Beersheba is mentioned in the Book of Genesis in connection with Abraham the Patriarch and his pact with Abimelech. Isaac built an altar in Beersheba (Genesis 26:23–33). Jacob had his dream about a stairway to heaven after leaving Beersheba.

(Genesis 28:10–15 and 46:1–7). Beersheba was the territory of the tribe of Shimon and Judah (Joshua 15:28 and 19:2). The prophet Elijah took refuge in Beersheba when Jezebel ordered him killed (I Kings 19:3). The sons of the prophet Samuel were judges in Beersheba (I Samuel 8:2). Saul, Israel's first king, built a fort for his campaign against the Amalekites (I Samuel 14:48 and 15:2–9). The prophet Amos mentions the city in regard to idolatry (Amos 5:5 and 8:14).

The last inhabitants of Tel Be'er-Sheva were the Byzantines, who abandoned the city in the 7th century. The Turkish Ottomans, who had controlled Palestine since the 16th century, took no interest in Beersheba until the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, Beersheba was portrayed by European pilgrims as a barren stretch of land with a well and a handful of Bedouin living nearby.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Ottomans built a police station in Beersheba in order to keep the Bedouin in check. They built roads and a number of small buildings from local materials which are still standing today. A town plan was created by a Swiss and a German architect, which called for a grid street pattern, a pattern which can still be seen today in Beersheba's Old City. All houses built during that period were of one storey, and the two-storey police station towered above them. Most of the residents at the time were Arabs from Hebron and the Gaza area, although a slew of Bedouin abandoned their nomadic lives and built homes in Beersheba.

During World War I, the Turks built a military railroad from the Hejaz line to Beersheba, inaugurating the station on October 30, 1915. The celebration was attended by the Turkish army commander Jamal Pasha, along with senior government officials. The train line was active until the British army took over the region.

Beersheba played an important role in the Sinai and Palestine Campaign in World War I. On October 31, 1917, three months after taking Rafah, General Allenby's troops breached the line of Turkish defense between Gaza and Beersheba. 800 soldiers of the Australian 4th and 12th Regiments of the 4th Light Horse Brigade under Brigadier General William Grant, with only horses and bayonets, charged the Turkish trenches, overran them and captured the wells of Beersheba in what has become known as the "last successful cavalry charge in British military history." On the edge of Beersheba's Old City is a Commonwealth cemetery containing the graves of Australian and British soldiers.

Beersheba was a major administrative center during the period of the British Mandate for Palestine. A railway was constructed between Rafah and Beersheba in October 1917; it opened to the public in May 1918, serving the Negev and settlements south of Mount Hebron. In 1928, at the beginning of the tension between the Jews and the Arabs over Palestine, and wide-scale rioting which left 133 Jews dead and 339 wounded, many Jews abandoned Beersheba, although some returned occasionally. After an Arab attack on a Jewish bus in 1936, which escalated into the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, the remaining Jews left.


The 1947 UN Partition Plan included Beersheba in the territory allotted to the proposed Arab state as the city's population of 4,000 was primarily Arab. The Egyptian army was stationed in Beersheba in May 1948. During the War of Independence of Israel, convinced that Beersheba was vital for the security of the Jewish state, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion gave the green light for the city to be conquered. The order called for the "conquest of Beersheba, occupation of outposts around it, [and] demolition of most of the town."[12] Israeli Air Force bombing raids began during the night of October 18/19, 1948. The Arab residents left en masse the next day on foot and in buses.

More bombing raids followed that night, and on October 21 at 4:00 in the morning, the 8th Brigade's 89th battalion and the Negev Brigade's 7th and 9th battalions moved in, some of the troops advancing from Mishmar HaNegev junction, 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Beersheba, others from the Turkish train station and Hatzerim. By 09:45, the Egyptian forces were surrounded, and Beersheba was in Israeli hands.

Beersheba is divided into seventeen residential neighbourhoods in addition to the Old City and Ramot, an umbrella neighborhood of 4 sub-districts. Many of the neighbourhoods are named after letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which also have numerical value, but descriptive place names have been given to some of the newer neighborhoods. Beersheba has always been a "laboratory" for Israeli architecture. Mishol Girit, a neighborhood built in the late 1950s, was the first attempt to create an alternative to the standard public housing projects in Israel. Hashatiah (lit. "the carpet"), also known as Hashekhuna ledugma ("the model neighborhood"), was hailed by architects around the world.

As part of its Blueprint Negev project, the Jewish National Fund is funding redevelopment of the city. It is trying to more than double the population to more than 500,000 residents, and has undertaken major development projects. It, along with the city of Beerhseba and the government of Israel, is turning a muddy stream into what will eventually become the Beersheba River Walk - a 900-acre riverfront district with green spaces, hiking trails, a 3,000-seat sports hall, a boating lake made from recycled waste water, promenades, restaurants, cafes, galleries, boat rentals, a 12,000-seat amphitheater, playgrounds, and a bridge made up of Mekorot water pipes. Four new shopping malls will be built.


One of them will be an 115,000-square meter enclosed mall that will be the biggest and the only ecologically planned shopping mall in Israel. At its entrance, it will have three waterfalls augmented by pools for collecting rainwater, and will make use through natural lighting from solar panels on its roof. It will be situated next to an 8,000-meter green park with bicycle paths. The second mall will be located near two existing shopping areas, and it will have tree-shaded open areas surrounded by shops, cafes, rest, and recreational areas.


The third mall will be an enclosed circular Farmer's market inside the Beersheba River park. The third will be a glitzy, glass-enclosed Central Bus Station that will include access to shops and cafes as well as buses. New homes are being built near the park so as to attract new residents. A soccer center complete with locker rooms and a sports center designed for beach sports will also open.


The JNF also supported the clean-up of the riverbed. The Beit Eshel park is being restored on a heritage site from the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, along with the Ottoman Bridge and Ancient Wells so as to provide tourist attractions. The JNF is planting new gardens, building new bicycle paths, recreation and rest areas, and 750 acres of new parks with 40,000 trees. The Old Turkish section of Beersheba is being transformed. Newly cobbled streets, widened sidewalks, and restored Turkish homes are creating a shopping and dining center. A 100-year old Turkish mosque will also be restored.