Beer Sheva

Be'er Sheva (also spelled Beersheba, Hebrew באר שבע) is a desert city of approximately 200,000 inhabitants in southern Israel. It is the sixth largest city in the country and is very much the gateway to the Negev region of Israel. The city is spread out by Israeli standards, as there is no shortage of land in the desert, and there isn't much of a downtown, except for a few streets in the old Turkish quarter. While Beer Sheva is mostly middle class, it does have three wealthy satellite suburbs with manicured landscapes, private villas and a Palm Springs feel to them: Omer, Metar and Lehavim. A few Bedouin villages surround the city as well. Some feature tribal attractions which are worth a visit, including Rahat, Tel Sheva, Hura and Laqiya. In Beer Sheva itself, some modern/experimental architecture was built in the 1960s. Today, this is found mostly in government and public buildings, including the Ben Gurion University and Soroka Hospital buildings.

Understand

Beer Sheva is at first sight highly disappointing for any visitor. As one enters the city, the oversized avenues and partially run down residential building blocks from the fifties and sixties make for an unwelcoming first impression. However, Beer Sheva can be of interest for any traveller who wishes to experience Israel off-the-beaten-track and there might be no better place to do this, since not even most Israelis are aware that Beer Sheva can be much more than only a stopover on the way to Eilat. The old Turkish town, as run down as it might be, has a very distinct feel and a is hugely underrated: it is the only planned Ottoman city in the entire region, erected in 1900 for strategic reasons in order to secure the Negev region and to control the restive Bedouin population. Today, the architectural and historical jewels, culinary highlights, highly welcoming people and the provincial atmosphere of Beer Sheva allow for the visitor to explore the "normal" and "unpretentious" Israel beyond Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. In addition to that, Beer Sheva offers a vibrant student community - based around the university - which has developed a great nightlife one would never expect at first sight.

Beer Sheva and its surroundings give a feel of Israel's strength. On the way down from the north, endless fields with agriculture have replaced desolate dessert; as Isaiah prophesied: "Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers". Also, like Tel-Aviv, a modern skyskraper city has been created out of virtually nothing. Yet, an exciting feel of desert has remained, as Beer Sheva looks with one side right into the Negev desert.

History

Beer Sheva's importance is its function as a central place for the entire Negev. Historically it developed because of the many wells, the most famous of it being "Abraham's Well".

Biblically, the site of Beersheba is where Abraham and his son Isaac made oaths of non-aggression with the Philistines, represented by a king named Abimelech. Abraham lived in the city for 26 years and his son Isaac lived there for many years as well. It is from there that Jacob set out on his journey to "Haran" the birthplace of his mother, to flee from his brother Esau.

Beersheba is also mentioned in Joshua 19:2. It was the southernmost city of Israel in Biblical times - hence the expression "from Dan to Beersheba" was sometimes used to describe the whole kingdom.

Name

Between the two Abimelech stories in Genesis, there are several different possible etymologies for Beersheba's name:

In Hebrew, the word for oath, "shava" and seven, "sheva" are essentially the same, hence some scholars think that the name Be'er Sheva always referred to the original oath between Abraham and Abimelech and the seven ewes were simply a sign of peace as was customary in those times.

Get in

By train

A very comfortable train ride links the city to Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanya and Nahariyya with hourly departures. Trains also come from Dimona, currently the train's southern termini.

By road

By air

The closest airport is Ben Gurion, located outside Tel Aviv.

By bus

Get around

Beersheva is served by buses (4.20 ILS). Most of these depart from behind the central bus station (on your right when getting off from an inter-city bus). If coming in by train, these will be on your left when coming out of the train station. Most taxi cabs in the city will take you anywhere else in the city for around 20 shekels.

See

Tel Beer Sheva

Do

Learn

The Ginsburg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev offers a wide array of short and long-term Hebrew language and academic studies. For German speaking students the German Language Summer University is organized yearly.

The Medical School for International Health at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev offers an MD program for North Americans.

The MAPMES (Master of Arts Program in Middle Eastern Studies) offers an English-language M.A. program to international students.

Eat

24 hour dining at Nafis located at the BIG mega shopping compound. There are also Chinese, Italian, French, Ethiopian, Argentinean, Brazilian, Indian, Bulgarian, Moroccan, Yemenite, Russian, Japanese, Spanish and many Middle Eastern restaurants in town which are moderately pricy. Beer Sheva's culinary offer is spectacular and reflects the cultural backgrounds of the inhabitants of this multi-ethnic city. Locations do change frequently and the restaurants are sometimes located in residential neighborhoods, so advice from locals (and especially students) can be essential.

The major concentrations of restaurants are:

Israeli fast food (falafel, shawarma, hummus) is readily available almost everywhere across town. Some places have gained fame for their quality (Hummus Hamsa, Universitat haShawarma, Falafel haKerem, Beit haFul).

General

Chinese

French Mediterranean

Indian-Vegetarian

Italian

Japanese/Thai

Meat Restaurants


Moroccan

South American

Fish

Coffee Shops

Clubs

Pubs

Drink

Lots of water, it's in the desert.

And then, go into the student pubs around the university during the semester in order to sense the country-wide famous student life of the city. The pubs around the university are: Publo, Rosa, Manga, Munchilla, Coca, Barbasaba and Grace.

Sleep

Go next

Beer Sheva is a convenient departure point for excursions to Arad and elsewhere in the Negev.

Two good rental car agencies across from the train station (daily rate for automatic 200 Shekels - $45 on a walk in basis), but be careful: police inspectors are on the lookout for traffic and parking violations

Routes through Beer Sheva

Tel Aviv  N  S  Sde Boker, Mitzpe Ramon Eilat


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, February 14, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.