- For other meanings see Beersheba (disambiguation).
|• Hebrew||בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע|
|• Arabic||بئر السبع|
Beersheba city hall
|• Mayor||Ruvik Danilovich|
|• Total||117,500 dunams (117.5 km2 or 45.4 sq mi)|
|Elevation||260 m (850 ft)|
|Name meaning||Well of the Oath or Seven Wells(see also)|
Beersheba (//; officially Be'er Sheva; Hebrew: בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע [beʔeʁˈʃeva]; Greek: Βηρσαβεε; Latin: Bersabee; Arabic: بئر السبع , Levantine pronunciation: [biːr esˈsabeʕ]) 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 205,588.
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 (Arabic: بيئر شيبع), as it was known, was envisioned as part of the Arab state in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Following the declaration of Israel's independence, the Egyptian army amassed its forces in Beersheba as a strategic and logistical base. In the Battle of Beersheba waged in October 1948, it was conquered by the Israel Defense Forces.
Beersheba has grown considerably since then. A large portion of the population is made up of the descendants of Sephardi Jews and Mizrahi Jews who immigrated from Arab countries after 1948, as well as smaller communities of Bene Israel and Cochin Jews from India. Second and third waves of immigration have taken place since 1990, bringing Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, as well as Beta Israel immigrants from Ethiopia. The Soviet immigrants have made the game of chess a major sport in Beersheba. The city is now Israel's national chess center, with more chess grandmasters per capita than any other city in the world.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Geography
- 4 Climate
- 5 Demography
- 6 Economy
- 7 Local government
- 8 Educational and religious institutions
- 9 Neighborhoods
- 10 Art and culture
- 11 Transportation
- 12 Sports
- 13 Environmental awards
- 14 Notable residents
- 15 International Relations
- 16 See also
- 17 References
- 18 Bibliography
- 19 External links
There are several etymologies for the origin of the name "Beersheba": The oath of Abraham and Abimelech (well of the oath) is the one stated in Gen. 21:31. Others include the seven wells dug by Isaac (seven wells), though only three or four have been identified; the oath of Isaac and Abimelech (well of the oath in Gen. 26:33); the seven ewes that sealed Abraham and Abimelech's oath (well of the seven).
Be'er is the Hebrew word for well; sheva could mean "seven" or "oath" (from the Hebrew word shvu'a).
Human settlement in the area dates from the Copper Age. The inhabitants lived in caves, crafting metal tools and raising cattle. Findings unearthed at Tel Be'er Sheva, an archaeological site east of modern day Beersheba, suggest the region has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.
Tel Be'er Sheva, an archaeological site containing the ruins of an ancient town believed to have been the Biblical Beersheba, lies a few kilometers east of the modern city. The town dates to the early Israelite period, around the 10th century BCE. The site was probably chosen due to the abundance of water, as evidenced by the numerous wells in the area. According to the Bible, the wells were dug by Abraham and Isaac when they arrived there. The streets were laid out in a grid, with separate areas for administrative, commercial, military, and residential use. It is believed to have been the first planned settlement in the region, and is also noteworthy for its elaborate water system; in particular, a huge cistern carved out of the rock beneath the town.
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 sons of the prophet Samuel were judges in Beersheba (I Samuel 8:2). Saul, Israel's first king, built a fort there for his campaign against the Amalekites (I Samuel 14:48 and 15:2–9). The prophet Elijah took refuge in Beersheba when Jezebel ordered him killed (I Kings 19:3). The prophet Amos mentions the city in regard to idolatry (Amos 5:5 and 8:14). Following the Babylonian conquest and subsequent enslavement of many Israelites, the town was abandoned. After the Israelite slaves returned from Babylon, they resettled the town. According to the Hebrew Bible, Beersheba was the southernmost city of the territories settled by Israelites, hence the expression "from Dan to Beersheba" to describe the whole kingdom.
Roman and Byzantine era
During the Roman and later Byzantine periods, the town served as a front-line defense against Nabatean attacks. The last inhabitants of Tel Be'er Sheva were the Byzantines, who abandoned the city during the Arab conquest of Palestine in the 7th century.
The Ottomans, who had controlled Palestine since the 16th century, took an interest in Beersheba in the late 19th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, European pilgrims to Palestine described Beersheba as a barren stretch of land with a well and a handful of Bedouins 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, created by Swiss and German architects, called for a grid street pattern, a pattern which can be seen today in Beersheba's Old City. All houses built during that period were of one story, and the two-story police station towered above them. Most of the residents at the time were Arabs from Hebron and the Gaza area, although Jews also began settling in the city. Many Bedouin abandoned their nomadic lives and built homes in Beersheba.
During World War I, the Ottomans built a military railroad from the Hejaz line to Beersheba, inaugurating the station on October 30, 1915. The celebration was attended by the Ottoman army commander Jamal Pasha and other senior government officials. The train line was active until the British Army forced out the Ottomans in 1917, towards the end of the war.
British Mandate era
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. Eight-hundred 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. The town also contains a memorial park dedicated to them.
During the period of the British Mandate for Palestine, Beersheba was a major administrative center. The British constructed a railway 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 control of 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.
State of Israel
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 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when military intelligence intercepted a telegram from Egyptian officers about plans to redeploy along the Beersheba-Gaza line, Yigal Allon proposed the conquest of Beersheba, which was approved by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. According to Israeli historian Benny Morris, he ordered the "conquest of Beersheba, occupation of outposts around it, [and] demolition of most of the town." The objective was to break the Egyptian blockade of Israeli convoys to the Negev. The Egyptian army did not expect an offensive and fled en masse. 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 troops advancing from Mishmar HaNegev junction, 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Beersheba, others from the Turkish train station and Hatzerim. By 09:45, Beersheba was in Israeli hands. Around 120 Egyptian soldiers were taken prisoner. The remaining Arab civilians, 200 men and 150 women and children, were taken to the police fort. On October 25, the women, children, disabled and elderly were driven by truck to the Gaza border. The Egyptian soldiers were interned in POW camps. Some men lived in the local mosque and were put to work cleaning but when it was discovered that they were supplying information to the Egyptian army they were also deported. Following Operation Yoav a 10-kilometer radius exclusion zone around Beersheba was enforced into which no Bedouin were allowed. Beersheba was deemed strategically important due to its location with a reliable water supply and at a major crossroads, northwest to Hebron and Jerusalem, east to the Dead Sea and al Karak, south to Aqaba, west to Gaza and southwest to Al-Auja and the border with Egypt.
After a few months, the town's war-damaged houses were repaired. As a post-independence wave of Jewish immigration to Israel began, Beersheba experienced a population boom as thousands of immigrants moved in. The city rapidly expanded beyond its core, which became known as the "Old City", as new neighborhoods were built around it, complete with various housing projects such as apartment buildings and houses with auxiliary farms, as well as shopping centers and schools. The "Old City" was turned into a city center, with shops, restaurants, and government and utility offices. An industrial area and one of the largest cinema houses in Israel were also built in the city. By 1956, Beersheba was a booming city of 22,000. By 1968, it's population had grown to 80,000. Soroka Hospital opened its doors in 1960, and the University of the Negev, which would later become Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, was established in 1969. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat visited Beersheba in 1979.
As part of its Blueprint Negev project, the Jewish National Fund is funding major redevelopment projects in Beersheba. One project is the Beersheba River Walk, a 900-acre (3.6 km2) riverfront district with green spaces, hiking trails, a 3,000-seat sports hall, a 15-acre boating lake filled with recycled waste water, promenades, restaurants, cafés, galleries, boat rentals, a 12,000-seat amphitheater, playgrounds, and a bridge along the route of the city's Mekorot water pipes. The plans include building new homes overlooking the park and neighborhood. At the official entrance to the river park will be the Beit Eshel Park, which will consist of a park built around a courtyard with historic remains from the settlement of Beit Eshel.
Four new shopping malls are planned. The first, Kenyon Beersheba, will be a 115,000-square meter ecologically planned mall with pools for collecting rainwater and lighting generated by solar panels on the roof. It will be situated next to an 8,000-meter park with bicycle paths. Another mall will be a Farmer's Market, the first ever in Israel. The market will be an enclosed, circular complex with 400 spaces for vendors, and it will be surrounded by parks and greenery.
A new Central Bus Station is planned for the city. The station will be a glass-enclosed complex also containing shops and cafes.
In recent years, some $10.5 million has been invested in renovating Beersheba's Old City, preserving historical buildings and upgrading infrastructure. The Turkish Quarter is also being redeveloped with newly cobbled streets, widened sidewalks, and the restoration of Turkish homes into areas for dining and shopping.
In 2011, city hall announced plans to turn Beersheba into the "water city" of Israel. One of the projects, "Beersheva beach," envisions a 7-dunam facility opposite city hall. Other projects include new fountains near the Soroka Medical Center and in front of the Shamoon College of Engineering.
In the 1990s, as skyscrapers began to appear in Israel, the construction of high-rise buildings began in Beersheba. Today, downtown Beersheba has been described as a "clean, compact, and somewhat sterile-looking collection of high-rise office and residential towers." The city's tallest building is Rambam Square 2, a 32-story apartment building. Many additional high-rise buildings are planned or are under construction, including skyscrapers. There are further plans to build luxury residential towers in the city.
The city is undergoing a major construction boom, which includes both development of urban design elements, such as water fountains and bridges, and environmental development such as playgrounds and parks.
In December 2012, a plan to build 16,000 new housing units in the Ramot Gimel neighborhood was scrapped in favor of creating a new urban forest, which will span 1,360 acres (550 ha) and serve as the area's "green lung", as part of the plans to develop a "green band" around the city. The forest will include designated picnic areas, biking trails, and walking trails. According to Mayor Ruvik Danilovich, Beersheba still has an abundance of open, underdeveloped spaces that can be used for urban development.
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 for thousands of years, as it has available water, which flows from the Hebron hills 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 is surrounded by a number of satellite towns, including Omer, Lehavim, and Meitar, and the Bedouin localities of Rahat, Tel as-Sabi, and Lakiya.
Beersheba has a hot semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSh) with Mediterranean influences. The city has both characteristics of Mediterranean and desert climates. Summers are hot and dry, and winters are cool and rainy. In summer, the temperatures are high in daytime and nighttime with an average high of 32.3 °C (90 °F) and an average low of 19.9 °C (68 °F). In winter, the temperature are cool and the weather is rainy and snow is very rare. Winters have an average high of 17.7 °C (64 °F) and average low of 8 °C (46 °F).
Precipitation in summer is rare, the most rainfalls come in winter between September to May, but the annual amount is low, averaging 204.1 millimeters (8.0 in) per year. Sandstorms, haze and fog are common, especially in winter, as a result of the high humidity.
|Climate data for Beersheba|
|Record high °C (°F)||28.4
|Average high °C (°F)||15.7
|Average low °C (°F)||6.5
|Record low °C (°F)||−5.3
|Precipitation mm (inches)||49.6
|Avg. precipitation days||9.2||7.3||5.4||1.6||0.8||0||0||0||0.3||2.4||5.6||7.5||41|
|Source: Israel Meteorological Service|
Beersheba is one of the fastest-growing cities in Israel. Though it has a population of about 200,000, the city is larger in size than Tel Aviv, and its urban plan calls for a population of 450,000–500,000. In 2010, the National Council for Planning and Construction approved a master plan with the goal of increasing the population of Beersheba and its metropolitan area to 1 million by 2020. Israel Central Bureau of Statistics divides the Beersheba metropolitan area into four areas:
|Metropolitan ring||Localities||Population (2009 census)||Population density
|Total||Jews and others1||Thereof: Jews||Arabs|
- 1 The population of "Jews and others" incl. Jews, non-Arab Christians and those not classified by religion.
- 2 Includes the city of Beersheba.
- 3 Includes the cities Rahat and Ofakim, the local councils Lehavim, Omer and Tel Sheva, as well as many smaller towns (local councils).
- 4 Includes the cities Dimona, Arad, Netivot and Sderot, the local councils Ar'arat an-Naqab and Yeruham, as well as many smaller towns (local councils).
- 5 Includes the local council of Mitzpe Ramon, as well as many smaller towns (local councils).
The largest employers in Beersheba are the municipality, Israel Defense Forces, Ben-Gurion University and the Soroka Medical Center. Numerous electronics and chemical plants, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, are located in and around the city. A large high-tech park is being built near the Be'er Sheva North Railway Station. A major Israel Aerospace Industries complex is located in the main industrial zone, north of Highway 60. Three industrial zones are located on the southeastern side of the city – Makhteshim, Emek Sara and Kiryat Yehudit – and a light industry zone between Kiryat Yehudit and the Old City. A high-tech park is located near Omer. A Science Park funded by the RASHI-SACTA Foundation, Beersheba Municipality and private donors was completed in 2008. In addition, Elbit Systems is planning to build a research and development center in the city, which will employ 100 workers.
The Beersheba municipality was plagued for many years by an ineffectual leadership, political problems and poor financial planning. Since 2005, attention has been focused on developing parks and infrastructure. A new youth center opened in 2005, and a new cultural centre opened in 2008. In 2006, after many years of financial struggle,the municipality has achieved a balanced budget.
The official emblem of the municipality of Beersheba depicts an eshel (tamarisk tree), the tree planted by Abraham according to Genesis, and the observation tower connected to the municipality building.
|Name||Took office||Left office||Years in office|
Educational and religious institutions
According to CBS, Beersheba has 81 schools and a student population of 33,623: 60 elementary schools with an enrollment of 17,211, and 39 high schools with an enrollment of 16,412. Of Beersheba's 12th graders, 52.7% earned a Bagrut matriculation certificate in 2001. The city also has several private schools and Yeshivot which cater to the religious sector.
Beersheba is home to one of Israel's major universities, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev located on an urban campus in the city (Dalet neighborhood). Other schools in Beersheva are the Open University of Israel, Sami Shamoon Academic College of Engineering. Kaye Academic College of Education, Practical Engineering College of Beersheba (Hamichlala ha technologit shel Be'er sheva), and a campus of the Israeli Air and Space college (Techni Be'er sheva ) 
Despite Arab objections in 2009, the historic mosque in Beersheba was renovated and is currently being used as a municipal museum. Beersheba's 20,000 Arabs represent about 10% of the population. The mosque was first used as a prison in 1948 after almost all indigenous Arabs were removed from Beersheba by Israeli forces to the Gaza Strip, al-Khalil (Hebron), Jordan and a small number ended up in the Sinai.
After Israeli independence, Beersheba became 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. Today, 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.
Art and culture
Beersheba is the home base of the Israel Sinfonietta, founded in 1973. Over the years, the Sinfonietta has developed a broad repertoire of symphonic works, concerti for solo instruments and large choral productions, among them Handel's Israel in Egypt, masses by Schubert and Mozart, Rossini's "Stabat Mater" and Vivaldi's "Gloria." World-famous artists have appeared as soloists with the Sinfonietta, including Pinhas Zuckerman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Shlomo Mintz, Gary Karr and Paul Tortelier. In the 1970s, a memorial commemorating fallen Israeli soldiers designed by the sculptor Danny Karavan was erected on a hill north-east of the city. The Beersheba Theater opened in 1973. The Light Opera Group of the Negev, established in 1980, performs musicals in English every year.
The Negev Museum of Art reopened in 2004 in the Ottoman Governor House, and an art and media center for young people was established in the Old City. In 2009, a new tourist and information center, Gateway to the Negev, was built. Landmarks in the city include Abraham's Well and the old Turkish train station, now the focus of development plans. The Artists House of the Negev, in a Mandate-era building, showcases artwork connected in some way to the Negev.
Beersheba is the central transport hub of southern Israel, served by roads, railways and air. Beersheba is connected to Tel Aviv via Highway 40, the second longest highway in Israel, which passes to the east of the city and is called the Beersheba bypass because it allows travellers from the north to go to southern locations, avoiding the more congested city center. From west to east, the city is divided by Highway 25, which connects to Ashkelon and the Gaza Strip to the northwest, and Dimona to the east. Finally, Highway 60 connects Beersheba with Jerusalem and the Shoket Junction, and goes through the West Bank. On the local level, a partial ring road surrounds the city from the north and east, and Road 406 (Rager Blvd.) goes through the city center from north to south.
Metrodan Beersheba, established in 2003, has a fleet of 90 buses and operates 19 lines in the city, most of which depart from the Beersheba Central Bus Station. These lines were formerly operated by the municipality as the 'Be'er Sheva Urban Bus Services'. Inter-city buses to and from Beersheba are operated by Egged, Egged Ta'avura and Metropoline.
Israel Railways operates two stations in the city that form part of the railway to Beersheba: the old Be'er Sheva North University station, adjacent to Ben Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center, and the new Be'er Sheva Central station, adjacent to the central bus station. Between the two stations, the railway splits into two, and also continues to Dimona and the Dead Sea factories. An extension is planned to Eilat and Arad.
The Be'er Sheva North University station is the terminus of the line to Dimona. All stations of Israel Railways can be accessed from Beersheba using transfer stations in Tel Aviv and Lod. Until 2012, the railway line to Beersheba used a slow single-track configuration with sharp curves and many level crossings which limited train speed. Between 2004 and 2012 the line was double tracked and rebuilt using an improved alignment and all its level crossings were grade separated. The rebuilding effort cost NIS 2.8 billion and significantly reduced the travel time and greatly increased the train frequency to and from Tel Aviv and Haifa to Beersheba. In addition, Beersheba will be linked to Tel Aviv and Eilat by a new passenger and freight high-speed railway system.
Hapoel Be'er Sheva plays in the Israeli Premier League, the top tier of Israeli football, having been promoted in the 2008–2009 Liga Leumit season. The club has won the Israeli championship twice, in 1975 and 1976, as well as the State Cup in 1997. Beersheba has two other local clubs, Maccabi Be'er Sheva (based in Neve Noy) and MS Be'er Sheva (based in the north of Dalet), a continuation of the defunct Beitar Avraham Be'er Sheva. Hapoel and Maccabi both play at the Vasermil Stadium, a 14,000-capacity concrete bowl located in the Bet neighbourhood.
Beersheba has become Israel's national chess center; thanks to Soviet immigration, it is home to the largest number of chess grandmasters of any city in the world. The city hosted the World Team Chess Championship in 2005, and chess is taught in the city's kindergartens. The Israeli chess team won the silver medal at the 2008 Chess Olympiad and the bronze at the 2010 Olympiad. The chess club was founded in 1973 by Eliyahu Levant, who is still the driving spirit behind it.
The city has the second largest wrestling center (AMI wrestling school) in Israel. The center is run by Leonid Shulman and has approximately 2,000 students most of whom are from Russian immigrant families since the origins of the club are in the Nahal Beka integration camp. Maccabi Be'er Sheva has a freestyle wrestling team, whilst Hapoel Be'er Sheva has a Greek-Romi wrestling team. In 2010 world championships by FILA in wrestling 5 medals were won by AMI students. Cricket is played under the auspices of Israel Cricket Association. Beersheba is also home to a rugby team whose senior and youth squads have won several national titles (including the recent Senior National League 2004–2005 championship). Beersheba's tennis center, which opened in 1991, features eight lighted courts, and the Be'er Sheva (Teyman) airfield is used for gliding.
In 2012, the Beersheba "ring trail," a 42-kilometer hiking trail around the city, won third place in the annual environmental competition of the European Travelers Association.
- Aref al-Aref, Arab historian
- Orna Banai, Israeli actress, comedian, and entertainer
- Elyaniv Barda, football (soccer) player
- Zehava Ben, singer
- Avishay Braverman, professor and politician
- Anat Draigor, basketball player
- Ronit Elkabetz, actress
- Zvika Hadar, comedian and show host
- Boaz Huss, professor of Kabbalah at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
- Victor Mikhalevski, chess grandmaster
- David Newman, professor and Dean of Social Science and Humanities, BGU
- Ilan Ramon, Israel's first astronaut; died in the Columbia disaster
- Yehudit Ravitz, singer
- Eli Zizov, football (soccer) player
- Ze'ev Zrizi, second mayor of Beersheba
- Almog Cohen, soccer player
Twin towns—Sister cities
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Beersheba.|
Beer Sheva travel guide from Wikivoyage
- Beersheba City Council
- Selection of photos from Beer-Sheva from flickr
- Ben-Gurion University
- The city of Beersheba: a tourist's guide
- Beer-Sheva – Historical article from the Catholic Encyclopaedia
- Light Horse charges again Article written by Martin Chulov, published in The Australian, November 1, 2007, the descendants of the Australian light-horsemen rode into the centre of Beersheva, re-enacting the gallant gallop of October 31, 1917
- Israel Builds Expansion and architecture of Beersheva in the 1960s and 1970s
- Blueprint for Beersheba
- Goodchild, Philip; Talbert, Andrew (2010). "Beersheba & Abraham". Bibledex in Israel. Brady Haran for the University of Nottingham.