If you’re on your way to southern Israel and the Negev desert be sure to stop at Be’er Sheva on the way. In fact, it’s worth a day trip from the center of the country too.
Be’er Sheva is a very ancient city and a very modern one. The remains of the ancient city can be found at Tel Be’er Sheva, a few kilometers away from the modern city. The city was known in the Bible as a place where water could be found. The Bible states that both Abraham and his son Isaac dug wells at Be’er Sheva. In fact, Be’er Sheva is mentioned repeatedly in the Bible. The excavations here are incredible! You can see how the city was laid out, how the ancient walls protected it and most fascinating, you can walk down through the water system to see how the Israelites brought water into the city.
The site as a great tower in the middle which one can ascend for a magnificent view of the surrounding area. That view includes not only the modern city of Be’er Sheva but also the Bedouin towns encircling the city. If you’re luck you might even see a herd of camels.
Modern Be’er Sheva was created by the Ottoman Turks in beginning of the 1900s where a Bedouin encampment stood. It’s the only city the Turks built during their 400-year rule of the Holy Land. Today Be’er Sheva is home to some very important institutions including Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Soroka Medical Center and, for me at least, Hodu Haktana – a great Indian restaurant.
Some of the original Turkish buildings are still standing and are a must-see. There is the Great Mosque next to the David Remez Gardens and the Governor’s House which today houses the Negev Museum of Art.
The Turks also built a railroad station there which has recently been renovated. It is a real gem with old photographs of the city as well as early train carriages and an engine. Just outside the station is a monument to the Turkish soldiers who died at the hands of the British in the Battle of Be’er Sheva during WWI – but that story is for another blog.