Be’er Sheva, the Biblical city of the Patriarchs is the largest city in southern Israel referred to as the “Capital of the Negev”.
Be’er Sheva is first mentioned in the Bible when the Patriarchs Abraham and Isaac, both dug wells and made treaties with Abimelech King of Gerar. First, it was Abraham’s pact with Abimelech (Genesis 21:22-34), and later his son Isaac who closed his own agreement with him to allow the latter’s servants to dig wells in the area (Genesis 26:23-33).
Be’er Sheva means “Well of Seven (sheep)” or “Well of the Oath”. Jacob with his family resided in the city as well.
The site is also mentioned in many other passages in the Bible: (Genesis 26:23–33), (Genesis 28:10–15 and 46:1–7), (Joshua 15:28 and 19:2), (I Samuel 8:2), (I Samuel 14:48 and 15:2–9), (I Kings 19:3), (Amos 5:5 and 8:14).
According to the Bible, Be’er Sheva was the southernmost territory settled by Israelites, hence the expression “from Dan to Be’er Sheva” to describe the kingdom.
Human settlements in the area date way back to the Copper Age. Former inhabitants lived in caves, crafting copper tools and raising cattle. Remains discovered at nearby Tel Sheva (recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site), is a famous archaeological site east of modern-day Be’er Sheva. It reveals that the region has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BCE. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.
During the Roman era and later Byzantine period, the town served as a front-line defense against Nabatean attacks. The last inhabitants of Tel Sheva were the Byzantines, who abandoned the city during the Arab conquest of the Holy Land in 638 CE.
During the Ottoman period (1517 – 1917) and towards the end of the 19th century, the Ottomans built a police station in the location to keep the Bedouins 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 can still be seen today in the Old City.
During World War I, the Ottomans built a military railroad from the Hejaz to Be’er Sheva. The station that was inaugurated on October 30, 1915, is an active museum and restaurant today.
The train line was active until the British army conquered the region.
On October 31, 1917, following Col. Richard Meinertzhagen’s brilliant diversion plan, General Allenby’s troops breached the Turkish defense lines between Gaza and Be’er Sheva. 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 Be’er Sheva in what is known as the “last successful cavalry charge in British military history.”
On the north side of the Old City, there is a British cemetery containing the graves of the Australian and British soldiers from WWI.
During the war of Independence of 1948, the Negev Brigade with the 89th Battalion of the 8th Brigade liberated the city from the Egyptians.
In memory of the soldiers who fought and liberated the city, a Monument to the Negev Brigade designed by Dani was erected on a hill overlooking the city from the east and recognized as a symbol of Be’er Sheva.
Lately, the city of Be’er Sheva is being transformed into an innovation center with modern cultural, scientific and environmental developments. These include urban design elements such as water fountains, bridges, playgrounds, parks and newly erected buildings at the Ben-Gurion University. Just north of Soroka Hospital, office towers and an Advanced Technologies Cyber Park with an adjacent train station serve crowds of young students and high Tec personnel.
By bus, taxi or guided tour.