Beersheba

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Beersheba
  • בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע
  • بئر السبع
Beersheba City Hall 6.jpg BSNU.jpg
בית המושל באר שבע.jpg Beer Sheba Israel IMG 6795.JPG
Kikar Hamitnadvim, Beersheba.jpg
Be'er Sheva at night.jpg
Official logo of Beersheba
Logo
Beersheba is located in Israel
Beersheba
Beersheba
Coordinates: 31°15′32″N 34°47′58.95″E / 31.25889°N 34.7997083°E / 31.25889; 34.7997083Coordinates: 31°15′32″N 34°47′58.95″E / 31.25889°N 34.7997083°E / 31.25889; 34.7997083
Country Israel
District Southern
Government
 • Type City
 • Mayor Ruvik Danilovich
Area
 • Total 117,500 dunams (117.5 km2 or 45.4 sq mi)
Elevation 260 m (850 ft)
Population (2014)[1]
 • Total 201,086
Name meaning Well of the Oath or Seven Wells(see also)
Website http://www.beer-sheva.muni.il

Beersheba (/bɪərˈʃbə/; Hebrew: בְּאֵר שֶׁבַע, Be'er Sheva [beʔeʁˈʃeva]; Latin: Bersabee; Arabic: بئر السبع‎‎ Bi'ir as-Sab  (listen) , 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 center of the fourth most populous metropolitan area in Israel, the eighth most populous city in Israel with a population of 201,086, and the second largest city with a total of 117,500 dunams (after Jerusalem).

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.[2]

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.[3]

Etymology[edit]

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 lambs 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). In this case the meaning is probably "oath," as the ancient Hebrews believed seven to be a lucky number, and the Hebrew "shvu'a" (to take an oath) literally means "to seven oneself."

The Arabic toponym can also be translated as "Seven wells".

Hebrew Bible[edit]

Beersheba is mainly dealt with in the Hebrew Bible in connection with the Patriarchs Abraham and Isaac, who both dig a well and close peace treaties with King Abimelech of Gerar at the site. Hence it receives its name twice, first after Abraham's dealings with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34), and again from Isaac who closes his own covenant with Abimelech of Gerar and whose servants also dig a well there (Genesis 26:23-33). The place is thus connected to two of the three Wife–sister narratives in the Book of Genesis.

According to the Hebrew Bible, Beersheba was founded when Abraham and Abimelech settled their differences over a well of water and made a covenant (see Genesis 21:22-34). Abimelech's men had taken the well from Abraham after he had previously dug it so Abraham brought sheep and cattle to Abimelech to get the well back. He set aside seven lambs to swear that it was he that had dug the well and no one else. Abimelech conceded that the well belonged to Abraham and, in the Bible, Beersheba means "Well of Seven" or "Well of the Oath".[4]

Beersheba is further mentioned in following Bible passages: 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 Simeon 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).[5] 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.[5]

Zibiah the consort of King Ahaziah of Judah, and the mother of King Jehoash of Judah.[6] was from Beersheba.

History[edit]

Antiquity[edit]

Human settlement in the area dates from the Copper Age. The inhabitants lived in caves, crafting metal tools and raising cattle.[7] 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.[8] The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.

Israelite era[edit]

Tel Be'er Sheva archaeological site
Main article: Tel Be'er Sheva

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.

Persian era[edit]

During the Persian rule 539 BCE–c. 332 BCE Beersheba was at the south of Yehud Medinata autonomous province of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. During that era the city was rebuilt[9] and a citadel had been built.[10] Archeological finds from between 359 and 338 BCE have been made and include pottery and Ostracon.[10]

Hasmonean era[edit]

During the Hasmonean rule, the city did not take importance as it was not mentioned when conquered from the Edom or described in the Hasmonean wars.[9]

Roman and Byzantine era[edit]

During the Roman the city was in Coele-Syria region, during the Roman era and later Byzantine periods, the town served as a front-line defense against Nabatean attacks. The last inhabitants of Tel BeerSheba were the Byzantines, who abandoned the city during the Muslim conquest of the Levant.

Around 64-63 BC Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus made Be'er Sheva the southern part of the Judea province, in the following years the city was on the limes belt (the limes belt in the region attributed to Vespasian era),[11] Estimated on year 268 the city become center of the Eparchy.[11]

Beersheba described in the Madaba Map and Eusebius of Caesarea describe the city during the fourth century as a large village with a Roman garrison.[12]

Circa 632 During the Muslim conquest, although the city had been destroyed [13] and was abandon up to the 19'th century some pottery from late Byzantine and early Islamic rule had been found [14] in the city.

Ottoman era[edit]

Beersheba, 1917

The Ottomans, who had controlled the area set Beersheba in the Damascus Eyalet (later in the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem ), since the 16th century, took an interest in Beersheba in the late 19th century.[15]

The Ottoman operated a quarry between 1900 and 1917 in the Gaza-Beersheeba canyon. The quarry is 25 meter in depth 200 meter wide and is 30 dunam in size, and provided the stone needed for the city's construction.

Negev Bedouin[edit]

In 1982, Joseph Ben-David of the J. Blaustein Institute for Desert Research and Gideon M. Kressel of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev undertook research on the importance of the market in the Negev Bedouin economy.[16]:3 Ben-David and Kressel argued that the Bedouin traditional market was the cornerstone for the founding of Beersheba as capital of the Negev during the Ottoman period.[16] A Negev Bedouin, Aref Abu-Rabia, who earned his PhD in anthropology and went on to become the official in charge of education in the Negev District of the Israeli Ministry of Education and Culture, published his book entitled A Bedouin Century in which he called Beersheba "the first Bedouin city."[17]:ix

The Ottomans 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,[18] 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.[19]

During World War I, the Ottomans built a military railroad from the Hejaz line to Beersheba, inaugurating the station on October 30, 1915.[20] 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 the Ottomans out in 1917, towards the end of the war.

Jewish 1917 mass grave[edit]

Beersheeba mass grave

The mass grave is significant as it was the first Jewish cemetery in Beersheva, prior to the erection of the cemetery Jewish people who died in Beersheba had been buried in Hebron.

Following an aerial bombing by the Royal Air Force's 67 squadron on the Ottoman railroad on 15 January 1917, a mass grave for the Jewish victims had been erected.[21][22] The victims had been two Jewish groups, one from Jerusalem and another from Jaffa, who had been stranded for 10 days at their location following the 1916/1917 flood which damaged the railroad. One bomb hit a carriage where 11 of the men had been sitting (killing all) and five more died the same day, and four wounded survived. At first the mass grave had 16 corpses, but families of the Jerusalem group were able to move the corpses to a Jerusalem burial site. The burial was done in two rows[21][23] (one row for each worker group). A bottle with a name had been put near each body and a small stone with the description had been put above ground. The mass grave later become the first Jewish cemetery in Beersheeba.[21] Following repeated desecration, the tomb stones has been replaced by a single reinforced concrete headstone in 1946 which was also destroyed.

British Mandate era[edit]

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.[24] Eight-hundred soldiers of the Australian 4th and 12th Regiments of the 4th Light Horse under Brigadier General William Grant, with only horses and bayonets, charged the Turkish trenches, overran them and captured the wells in what has become known as the Battle of Beersheba, called the "last successful cavalry charge in British military history."[25][26] On the edge of Beersheba's Old City is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery containing the graves of Australian and British soldiers. The town also contains a memorial park dedicated to them.

During the Palestine Mandate, 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.[27] 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 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine, the remaining Jews left.[28]

At the time of the 1922 census of Palestine, Beersheba had a population of 2,012 Muslims, 235 Christians, 98 Jews and 11 Druze (total 2,356).[29] At the time of the 1931 census, Beersheba had 545 occupied houses and a population of 2,791 Muslims, 152 Christians, 11 Jews and 5 Bahá'í (total 2,959).[30] The 1945 village survey conducted by the Palestine Mandate government found 5,360 Muslims, 200 Christians and 10 others (total 5,570).[31]

State of Israel[edit]

Israel Philharmonic Orchestra performing in Beersheba, Israel, 1948

In 1947, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) proposed that Beersheba be included within the Jewish state in their partition plan for Palestine.[32] However, when the UN's Ad Hoc Committee revised the plan, they moved Beersheva to the Arab state on account of it being primarily Arab.[32]

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,[33] 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."[34] 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.[33] At 4:00 am on October 21, 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 9:45, 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.[34] Following Operation Yoav, a 10-kilometer radius exclusion zone around Beersheba was enforced into which no Bedouin were allowed.[35] 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.[33]

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 cinemas in Israel were also built in the city. By 1956, Beersheba was a booming city of 22,000.[36][37] By 1968, its population had grown to 80,000.[38] 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. The then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat visited Beersheba in 1979.

Urban development[edit]

Pipes Bridge, 2012

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.[39] 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.[40]

Four new shopping malls are planned. The first, Kanyon 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.[40][41][42] Another mall will be a farmer's market, the first ever in Israel. It will be an enclosed, circular complex with 400 spaces for vendors, and it will be surrounded by parks and greenery.[40]

A new central bus station has been built in the city. The station has a glass-enclosed complex also containing shops and cafes.[40]

In recent years, some $10.5 million has been invested in renovating Beersheba's Old City, preserving historical buildings and upgrading infrastructure.[43] 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.[39]

In 2011, city hall announced plans to turn Beersheba into the "water city" of Israel.[44] One of the projects, "Beersheva beach," envisions a 7-dunam facility opposite city hall.[45][46] 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.[47] Today, downtown Beersheba has been described as a "clean, compact, and somewhat sterile-looking collection of high-rise office and residential towers."[48] The city's tallest building is Rambam Square 2, a 32-story apartment building.[49] Many additional high-rise buildings are planned or are under construction, including skyscrapers.[50][51][52] There are further plans to build luxury residential towers in the city.[53]

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.[54]

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.[55]

Arab–Israeli conflict[edit]

On August 31, 2004, sixteen people were killed in two suicide bombings on commuter buses in Beersheba for which Hamas claimed responsibility. On August 28, 2005, another suicide bomber attacked the central bus station, seriously injuring two security guards and 45 bystanders.[56] During Operation Cast Lead, which began on December 27, 2008 and lasted until the ceasefire on January 18, 2009, Hamas fired 2,378 rockets (such as Grad rockets) and mortars, from Gaza into southern Israel, including Beersheba. The rocket attacks have continued, but have been only partially effective since the introduction of the Iron Dome rocket defense system.[57][58][59][60]

In 2010 an Arab attacked and injured two persons with an axe.[61][62][63] In 2012, a Palestinian from Jenin had been stopped before a stabbing attack in a "safe house."[64][65]

Geography[edit]

Dry riverbed in Nahal Ashan park

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 Beersheba Valley 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.[66] The main river in Beersheba is Nahal Beersheva, a wadi that floods in the winter. The Kovshim and Katef streams are other important wadis that 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.

Gvaot goral Aerial view from Beersheba toward Meitar

Just north west of the city (near Ramot neighborhood ) is a region called Goral hills (heb:גבעות גורל lit: hills of faith), the area have hills with up to 500 meter above sea level and low as 300 above sea level.[67] due to heavy construction the flora unique to the area is endangered.

Loess lands north east of the city

North east of the city (north to the Neve Menahm neighborhood) there are Loess plains and dry river bands.

Climate[edit]

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 mild. Rainfall is highly concentrated in the winter season, even more so than other cities with a similar climate such as Almeria in southern Spain. In summer, the temperatures are high in daytime and nighttime with an average high of 34.7 °C (94 °F) and an average low of 21.4 °C (71 °F). Winters have an average high of 17.7 °C (64 °F) and average low of 7.1 °C (45 °F). Snow is very rare; a snowfall on February 20, 2015 was the first such occurrence in the city since 1992.[68]

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
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 31.5
(88.7)
35.2
(95.4)
38.4
(101.1)
43.8
(110.8)
44.8
(112.6)
46.0
(114.8)
42.0
(107.6)
43.8
(110.8)
43.8
(110.8)
41.7
(107.1)
38.3
(100.9)
32.5
(90.5)
46
(114.8)
Mean maximum °C (°F) 24.6
(76.3)
27.3
(81.1)
32.0
(89.6)
37.5
(99.5)
38.7
(101.7)
39.6
(103.3)
39.3
(102.7)
38.3
(100.9)
38.7
(101.7)
36.8
(98.2)
31.9
(89.4)
26.9
(80.4)
39.6
(103.3)
Average high °C (°F) 17.7
(63.9)
18.7
(65.7)
22.0
(71.6)
26.5
(79.7)
30.5
(86.9)
33.1
(91.6)
34.7
(94.5)
34.7
(94.5)
32.9
(91.2)
29.7
(85.5)
25.0
(77)
20.0
(68)
27.13
(80.84)
Daily mean °C (°F) 12.4
(54.3)
13.2
(55.8)
15.9
(60.6)
19.7
(67.5)
23.2
(73.8)
26.1
(79)
28.0
(82.4)
28.1
(82.6)
26.2
(79.2)
23.2
(73.8)
18.6
(65.5)
14.4
(57.9)
20.75
(69.37)
Average low °C (°F) 7.1
(44.8)
7.7
(45.9)
9.8
(49.6)
12.8
(55)
16.0
(60.8)
19.0
(66.2)
21.3
(70.3)
21.5
(70.7)
19.6
(67.3)
16.7
(62.1)
12.2
(54)
8.8
(47.8)
14.38
(57.87)
Mean minimum °C (°F) 2.8
(37)
4.0
(39.2)
5.3
(41.5)
7.2
(45)
11.1
(52)
15.4
(59.7)
18.4
(65.1)
18.4
(65.1)
16.0
(60.8)
12.4
(54.3)
7.5
(45.5)
4.8
(40.6)
2.8
(37)
Record low °C (°F) −2.0
(28.4)
−4.0
(24.8)
−1.0
(30.2)
1.5
(34.7)
4.5
(40.1)
8.0
(46.4)
12.0
(53.6)
12.0
(53.6)
9.4
(48.9)
6.0
(42.8)
2.0
(35.6)
0.2
(32.4)
−4
(24.8)
Average precipitation mm (inches) 48
(1.89)
40
(1.57)
29
(1.14)
9
(0.35)
3.6
(0.142)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0
(0)
0.5
(0.02)
9
(0.35)
18
(0.71)
38
(1.5)
195.1
(7.672)
Average precipitation days 9 8 6 2 1 0 0 0 0.2 2 4 7 39.2
Average relative humidity (%) 50 48 44 35 34 36 38 41 43 42 42 48 41.8
Source #1: Israel Meteorological Service[69][70][71][72]
Source #2: Israel Meteorological Service[73]

Demography[edit]

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.[74] 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.[75] Beersheba's 20,000 Arabs represent about 10% of the population.[76] Israel Central Bureau of Statistics divides the Beersheba metropolitan area into two areas:

Metropolitan rings in the Beersheba metropolitan area[77]
Metropolitan ring Localities Population (2014 census) Population density
(per km²)
Annual Population
growth rate
Total Jews and others1 Thereof: Jews Arabs
Core2 1 201,100 196,700 177,200 4,400 1,711.8 0.9%
Outer Ring3 32 160,300 36,200 35,700 124,100 286.4 3.0%
Northern Section 12 84,100 11,900 11,700 72,100 272.8 3.2%
Eastern Section 8 67,100 15,100 14,900 52,000 527.8 2.7%
Western Section 12 9,100 9,100 9,000 0 73.2 4.4%
Total 33 361,400 232,900 212,900 128,500 533.6 1.8%

Notes

  • 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).

Economy[edit]

Negev Mall Tower

The largest employers in Beersheba are the municipality, Israel Defense Forces, Ben-Gurion University and the Soroka Medical Center. A major Israel Aerospace Industries complex is located in the main industrial zone, north of Highway 60. Numerous electronics and chemical plants, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, are located in and around the city.

Beersheba is emerging as a high-tech center, with an emphasis on cyber security.[78] A large high-tech park is being built near the Be'er Sheva North Railway Station.[79] Deutsche Telekom, Elbit Systems, EMC, Lockheed Martin, Ness Technologies, and RAD Data Communications have already opened facilities there, as has a cyberincubator run by Jerusalem Venture Partners.[80] A Science park funded by the RASHI-SACTA Foundation, Beersheba Municipality and private donors was completed in 2008.[79] Another high-tech park is located north of the city near Omer.

An additional 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.

Local government[edit]

Beersheba District Court

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.[81]

The official emblem of the municipality of Beersheba depicts an eshel (tamarisk tree), the tree planted by Abraham according to Genesis,[82] and the observation tower connected to the municipality building.

The mayor of Beersheba is Ruvik Danilovich, who was deputy mayor under Yaakov Turner.[83]

Mayors of Beersheba
Name Took office Left office Years in office
1 David Tuviyahu 1950 1961 11
2 Ze'ev Zrizi 1961 1963 2
3 Eliyahu Nawi 1963 1986 23
4 Moshe Zilberman 1986 1989 3
5 Yitzhak Rager 1989 1997 8
6 David Bunfeld 1997 1998 1
7 Yaakov Turner 1998 2008 10
8 Ruvik Danilovich 2008

Educational institutions[edit]

Sami Shamoon College of Engineering

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 that 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 (Hamikhlala ha technologit shel Be'er sheva),[84] and a campus of the Israeli Air and Space College (Techni Be'er sheva )[85]

Neighborhoods[edit]

After Israeli independence, Beersheba became a "laboratory" for Israeli architecture.[86] 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.[86] Today, Beersheba is divided into seventeen residential neighborhoods in addition to the Old City and Ramot, an umbrella neighborhood of four 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 cultural institutions[edit]

Monument to the Negev Brigade, Danny Karavan

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 Pinchas Zuckerman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Shlomo Mintz, Gary Karr, and Paul Tortelier.[87] 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.[88] The Beersheba Theater opened in 1973. The Light Opera Group of the Negev, established in 1980, performs musicals in English every year.[89]

Landmarks in the city include Abraham's Well and the old Turkish train station, now the focus of development plans.[90] The Artists House of the Negev, in a Mandate-era building, showcases artwork connected in some way to the Negev.[91]

The Negev Museum of Art reopened in 2004 in the Ottoman Governor's 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.[92]

Great Mosque of Beersheba

In 1906, during the Ottoman era, Negev Bedouin built The Great Mosque of Beersheba. It was used actively as a mosque until the city fell to Israeli forces in 1948.[93] The mosque was used until 1953 as the city's courthouse. From then until the 1990s, when it was closed for renovations, the building housed an archeological museum, which the city intended to turn into the archeological branch of the Negev Museum.[94] In 2011, however, the Supreme Court of Israel, sitting as the High Court of Justice, ordered the property to be turned into a museum of Islam without reverting to a place of worship.[95]

Transportation[edit]

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.[96] 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, Dan BaDarom and Metropoline.[97] The intracity bus service will be transferred to Dan BaDarom around September 2016 and Metrodan Beersheva will be shutted down.

Mexico Bridge from railway station to Ben-Gurion University

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[98] 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 Kiryat Motzkin to Beersheba.[99] In addition, Beersheba will be linked to Tel Aviv and Eilat by a new passenger and freight high-speed railway system.[100]

There have been plans for a light rail system in Beersheba for many years, and a light rail system appears in the master plan for the city.[101] An agreement was signed for the construction of a light rail system in 1998, but was not implemented. In 2008, the Israeli Finance Ministry contemplated freezing the Tel Aviv Light Rail project and building a light rail system in Beersheba instead, but that did not happen. In 2014, mayor Ruvik Danilovich announced that the light rail system will be built in the city.[102][103][104]

Hiking[edit]

Beersheba is linked to Hilvan by the Abraham Path.

Sports[edit]

Beersheba country club

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 three times, in 1975, 1976 and 2016, as well as the State Cup in 1997. Beersheba has two other local clubs, Maccabi Be'er Sheva (based in Neve Noy) and F.C. Be'er Sheva (based in the north of Dalet), a continuation of the defunct Beitar Avraham Be'er Sheva. Hapoel play at the Turner Stadium.

Beersheba has a basketball club, Hapoel Be'er Sheva. The team plays at The Conch Arena, which seats 3,000.

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.[105] The city hosted the World Team Chess Championship in 2005, and chess is taught in the city's kindergartens.[106] The Israeli chess team won the silver medal at the 2008 Chess Olympiad[107] 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.[108]

The city has the second largest wrestling center (AMI wrestling school) in Israel.[citation needed] 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 immigrant absorption center. Maccabi Be'er Sheva has a freestyle wrestling team, whilst Hapoel Be'er Sheva has a Greco-Roman wrestling team. In the 2010 World Wrestling Championships, AMI students won five medals.[109] 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).[110] Beersheba's tennis center, which opened in 1991, features eight lighted courts, and the Beersheba (Teyman) airfield is used for gliding.

Environmental awards[edit]

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.[111]

Notable residents[edit]

International Relations[edit]

Twin towns—Sister cities[edit]

Beersheba is twinned with 13 other towns and cities:[112]

Africa

Asia

Europe North America

Oceania

South America

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Thareani-Sussely, Yifat (2007). "The 'Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh' Reconsidered in the Light of Evidence From The Beersheba Valley". Palestine Exploration Quarterly. 139 (2): 69–77. 

External links[edit]

Beer Sheva travel guide from Wikivoyage