Southern Israel

  • About Beer Sheva
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Beer Sheva and the South

Be'er Sheva, the "Capital of the south", 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 Be'er 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 include Rahat, Tel Sheva, Hura and Laqiya. In Be'er Sheva itself, some modern/experimental architecture was been explored in the 1960s. Today, this is found mostly in government and public buildings, including the Ben Gurion University and Soroka Hospital buildings.
Be'er 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, Be'er 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 Be'er 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 revolting Beduin population.

Today, the architectural and historical jewels, culinary highlights, highly welcoming people and the provincial atmosphere of Be'er Sheva allow for the visitor to explore the "normal" and "unpretentious" Israel beyond Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. In addition to that, Be'er Sheva offers a vibrant student community - based around the University - which has developed a great nightlife one would never expect at first sight. Be'er Sheva and its surroundings give a feel of Israels strength. On the way down from the North, endless fields with agriculture have replaced desolate dessert; as Jesajah prophecied: "Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers". Also, like Tel-Aviv, a modern sky-skraper city has been created out of virtually nothing. Yet, an exciting feel of desert has remained, as Be'er Sheva looks with one side right into the Negev desert.