Beersheva (Beersheba) is a Negev desert City in the south of Israel and is the seventh largest city in the country with a population of approximately 200,000. It is also known as “The capital of the Negev”.
Archeological findings have suggested that people have lived in the area since the 4th millennium BC and that the city has been rebuilt many times over the centuries after being destroyed time and again.
In the Old Testament Bible, Beersheba is mentioned in the book of Genesis in connection with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac who built an alter there, and Jacob. Later, the area became the territory of Shimon and Judah (Joshua 15:28 and 19:2). Beersheba is also linked in the bible to the prophet Elijah. King Saul, who was Israel’s first king built a fort in Beersheba during his battle against the Amalekites.
Around the end of the 19th century when Palestine was controlled by the Turkish Ottoman Empire, a police station was built in an effort to keep the surrounding Bedouin population under control. At that time a town was planned with the streets laid out in a grid pattern and then during the First World War a military railway was laid linking Beersheba to the existing Hejaz line. The rail link remained active until October 1917 when General Allenby’s troops made up of British and Australian cavalry, broke through the Turkish defenses and took control of the Wells of Beersheba.
During the time of the British Mandate of Palestine Beersheba became a key administrative centre. In 1928 during wide scale Arab rioting, 133 Jews were killed and 339 injured. Many Jews left Beersheba and the rest of the Jewish population left after an Arab attack on a Jewish bus in 1936.
The 1947 U.N. Partition Plan included Beersheba in part of the allotted Arab territory and in 1948 the Egyptian army was stationed in Beersheba. During Israel’s War of Independence Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, who was convinced that Beersheba and the surrounding outposts would be of great importance to the security of the fledgling Jewish State, gave orders for the city to be placed under Israel’s control. On the 21st October 1948 after surrounding the Egyptian forces, Beersheba was in the hands of Israeli soldiers.
Today Beersheba is regarded as the gateway to the Negev and is a thriving modern city with a number of interesting places for local tourists and visitors from abroad to enjoy. Visit the Old Turkish Town with its well preserved old buildings and a wide selection of cheap stores and many ethnic restaurants. On the edge of the old town there is Abraham’s Well, and the Negev Museum housed in what was the residence of the Turkish Governor. Just next to the Old Town is the British First World War Cemetery where British, Australian and New Zealand troops were laid to rest.
Beersheba also has some colorful and interesting markets, there is the municipal market which can be found in the area between the Old Town and the Central Bus Station and the Thursday Bedouin Market with its wide array of unusual merchandise that is located outside the city on the road to Eilat.