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 the gateway to the Negev region of Israel. It is well known to readers of the Bible, but the modern city was only founded in 1900.
Beer Sheva can appear underwhelming at first glance. As you enter the city, the oversized avenues and partially run down residential building blocks from the 1950s and 1960s make for an unimpressive welcome. 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 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.
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. 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.
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 being "Abraham's Well".
According to the Bible, 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 also from there that Jacob is said to have 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.
Between the two Abimelech stories in Genesis, there are several different possible etymologies for Beersheba's name:
- in memory of the oath of Abraham and Abimelech (well of the oath)
- in memory of seven wells dug by Isaac (seven wells), though only three or four are identified
- in memory of the oath of Isaac and Abimelech (well of the oath)
- in memory of the seven ewes which stood witness to Abraham and Abimelech's oath (well of the seven).
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.
Israel Railways runs very comfortable trains from Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanya and Nahariyya, with hourly departures. Trains also runs from Dimona, the railway network's southern terminus. Beer Sheva has two train stations, 1 Beer Sheba Center, located just south of the city center, and 2 Beer Sheba North. All trains stop at both stations, except for those to/from Dimona which only stop at the north station.
- From Tel Aviv: Use Highway 20 (Ayalon) to connect to Highway 4 towards Ashdod, then turn to Highway 41 in order to connect to Highway 40 south. Straight to Be'er Sheva approximately 1½ hrs.
- From Jerusalem: Highway 1 towards Tel Aviv, Pick up route 3 at Latrun interchange, follow for 20 minutes to Route 40 at Re'em Junction. Straight ahead to Be'er Sheva. Total about 1 hr 40 min.
Intercity buses begin/end their routes at the Beer Sheva 3 Central Bus Station, which is next to the central train station, near the city center. Buses also make several stops along the road leading in/out of the city.
- From Tel Aviv: Take line 380 from Arlozorov Terminal, or line 370 from Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. The trip costs only ₪16.5. Both take about 1½ hours.
- From Jerusalem: Take lines 470 or 446 from the central bus station, costing ₪32.5. Line 470 is direct and takes 1½ hours, line 446 has intermediate stops and takes 1 hour 50 minutes.
- From Hebron: There are also a few buses coming from the north. Since Hebron is mostly Palestinian, ask the locals how to get on a bus south. You might have to cross to an Israeli town around Hebron first.
Beer Sheva is served by buses (₪3.80). 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. For details, see the bus map for Be'er Sheva. Pay attention that you can't pay the driver with cash on the buses.
Most taxi cabs in the city will take you anywhere else in the city for around ₪20.
- 1 Old Turkish Town (Old City). The Old Town was planned by Turkish and German engineers at the end of the 19th century. Its streets form a grid (very uncommon in the region). Many buildings date from Turkish times and have secret gardens behind high walls. Rehabilitated Smilansky Street has the best preserved buildings. Additionally there is a wide array of cheap stores and excellent ethnic restaurants and bars.
- 2 Abraham's Well. Located at the edge of the Old Town and on the Wadi Beer Sheva, this small site contains the well where according to tradition Abraham made the oath with Abimelech.
- 3 Municipal Market. Located between the Old Town and the central bus station is a vibrant market for any kind of merchandize.
- 4 Negev Museum of Art. Located in the residence of the Turkish governor in the Old Town, this small museum contains an art collection and has changing exhibits.
- 5 [dead link] Engine 70414. An old train station, built in 1915 by the Turks, featuring steam engine #70414 from the 1930s. You can walk around the station freely and eat at a restaurant. There are also paid tours and a small museum.
- 6 Israeli Air Force Museum, ☎ , fax: . Su-Th 8AM-5PM, F 8AM-1PM. Located near Kibbutz Hatserim, 5 km to the west of Beer Sheva. The museum has a collection of ~150 historical airplanes of the Israeli Air Force (and a few foreign or enemy planes). Some of the planes you can climb into. You can arrange for tours in Hebrew or English. To get here, take bus 40 from the central bus station (about hourly).
- 7 Negev Brigade Memorial. Located on a hill to the northeast of the city, this large monument made out of concrete, commemorates symbolically the different aspects of the Negev Brigade which conquered the Negev region in Israel's War of Independence. There is a superb view on the city and its surroundings from this site.
- 8 [dead link] Negev Zoo. Located near the northwestern entrance to the city, this zoo displays many local desert animals, as well as some others like baboons. For visitors, it's not worth the ₪30 entrance fee, as you can see much better zoos for a similar price elsewhere. It's also a 20-minute walk from the nearest bus stop.
- 9 Bedouin Market. Located just outside of the city on the Road to Eilat, this market takes place every Thursday morning. Bedouin merchandise can be found next to a wide array of other products.
- 10 Tel Beer Sheva Archeological Park. Located outside the city to its east (next to Omer), this archeological park is a World Heritage Site and one of the top sites to explore how people have lived in Biblical times.
- 11 Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Located in the northern part of town on the road to Tel Aviv, this renowned university has a vibrant campus with many buildings designed by famous architects. There are two art galleries in the Senate Building and in the Library, a small museum of medical history in the building of the Medical Faculty and many small exhibits in the buildings of the different faculties.
- 12 British World War I Military Cemetery. Located just next to the Old Town, this cemetery is the resting place of British, Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) soldiers who fought against the Turks in the First World War.
- 13 [dead link] Carasso Science Park, 79 Ha’atzmaut St., ☎ . Su-W Sa 9AM-5PM, Th 9AM-8PM. New in the Old City of Be’er Sheva, ‘Carasso Science Park’, the largest science park in Israel, featuring an interactive museum, scientific garden with games and hands-on activities for all ages.
- A Hebrew list of cultural events in the city - concerts, theater, and more - is available here.
- Beer Sheva Circumferential Trail (Shvil Sovev Beer Sheva). If you're into hiking, there's a trail that goes round the outside of the city. The trail is 42 km, so it takes at least 2 days, and can even be broken up to 5 days, as it has 5 sections. Section 1 goes from the Negev Brigade Memorial through hilly terrain around Ramot neighborhood to the northern entrance to the city (10 km). Section 2 goes around the northern neighborhoods to Road 25 (7 km). Section 3 crosses Hatzerim Park (5 km). Section 4 goes along the Beersheba Promenade on the northern bank of the (usually dry) Beersheba River to Abraham's Well (8 km). Section 5 goes through the Beersheba River Park back to the Negev Brigade Memorial (9 km).
- 1 Lunada Children's Museum, David HaReuveni 25.
- 2 Mishkan HaTechelet visitor center, HaKotzer 8, ☎ , e-mail: Siurimishkan@gmail.com. Scheduled tours Su-Th at 9AM, 11AM, 3PM. Mishkan HaTechelet is a Judaica company which manufactures items such as tallits and tefillin. They offer an hour-long tour of the factory where you can see these items being made. The tour is reputed to be very interesting, at least if you have some background in Jewish practice and know a little bit about the items already. Tours might only be in Hebrew. Call/email ahead of time to definitively reserve a visit. ₪15 adult, ₪10 child.
Urban Oasis is an art and recreation initiative in Beer Sheva. It consists of dozens of artificial fountains, waterfalls, and other elements spread across the city. They are often architecturally interesting, especially at night when many of them are lit up in bright colors. Some are designed for people to bathe in, a welcome relief on hot desert days.
- Abraham's Well (described above), an ancient well
- A restored sakia which draws water from a well to an aqueduct, in Rabin Square
- City Park, at the junction of Rager Blvd and Henrietta Szold St, contains several large outdoor water installations, including fountains that are designed to be walked in on hot days
- Fountain at the northern entrance to Beer Sheva, at the junction of Rager Blvd, HaTzadik Mirushalayim, and Avital Avigdor streets
- Fountain in Shafrir Park, next to the municipality complext and Shazar Blvd.
- "Globe Fountain" at the entrance to Soroka Hospital on Wingate St.
- Fountain at Kikar HaMichlalot (Colleges Square) in Shchuna Alef, at the junction of Bialik and Tel Hai streets
- Fountain at the plaza of the city library and musical conservatory
- Fountain at the junction of Jerusalem and Beit Lehem streets
- Fountain at Rabin Square in the Old City
- Fountain at JNF Square, at the junction of Imber and Kfar Darom streets
- Fountain the junction of Imber and HaRav Mishael Dahan streets
- Fountain at the western city entrance, at the junction of Toviyahu and Yigal Yadin Blvd.
- Fountain between the Neveh Ze'ev and Shchunah Tet neighborhoods, near Joe Allon road and Jericho street
- Fountain in Nahal Ashan neighborhood, at the junction of HaHashmonaim and Egoz streets
- Two fountains outside the Grand Kanyon
- Fountain at Cluj-Napoca square, at the junction of HeArim HaToamot, Professor Gabriel Terek, and Professor Yosef Stern streets
- Fountain at Nawi square, outside the train station
- Rainbow-colored waterfall at the junction of Avital Avigdor, Levi Eshkol, and HaMada streets
- Waterfall in the Australian Soldier Park
- Mosaic waterfall at the junction of Johanna Jabotinsky and Hativa Shmonah streets
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 [dead link] 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.
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:
- - in the Old Town either on the pedestrianized Keren-Kayemet Street (Bulgarian Restaurant) or Smilansky Street (Shabazi, Ahuzat Halperin, Bilbao, Beit haFul, Arabica, Mate Midbar)
- - in the Civic Center (new city centre) close to the central train and bus stations (Arigato, Kapulski, Mor Noodle Bar, Saba Jebetto)
- - at the BIG shopping compound (Nafis, Spagettim, Rigoletto, Shipudei haAvaz, and the highly recommended Pitput)
- - around the main campus of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (mainly Dalet neighborhood) (Gatro, Small India, Ringelblum, Hummus Hamsa, and the highly recommended SUSHI Ishimoto at Derech Metsada street , and a Mehadrin Kosher shwarma place Falafel Liberty at 50 Merkaz Oren with very generous servings.)
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).
- K = Kosher
- SD = Student Discount with ID
- D = Delivery
- S = Open on Shabbat
- V = Vegetarian Options
- Arabica - 12 Herzel St (08-627-7802)
- Saba Gepetto - 109 Rager (08-627-2829)
- Kifris - 1 Herzel St, old city
- Matte Midbar - 22 Histadrut St, old city (08-623-3370)
- Ta'amin - 101 Rasco Ct (08-627-0392)
- China Town - Kanyon HaNegev (08-627-5489)
- Jade Palace - Beer Sheva Theater (08-627-5375)
- MOR Noodles Bar - 115 Rasco (077 766 5005)
- Ahuzat Halperin - 23 Smilansky St, Old City (08-665-4854)
- Hodu Ha-Ktana: Ringelblum St (08-648-9801) K,V,D
- Balcona - 18 Herzel, Old City
- Gatro - Sports Center, Ben Gurion Blvd
- La Piazza - Kiriat HaMemshala
- Spagettim - BIG Shopping Center (08-665-5122) SD,D,S
- Pizza Hut - Kanyon HaNegev (1700 50 6070) K,D
- Dominos - (1700 70 7070) D
- Pizza Guta - D
- Ishimoto - Derekh Metsada, (077 7551100) S,D,V
- Street Food - Tiv Tam, BIG Shopping Centre (08-625-2000) SD
- Amuna - 58 Keren Ka'emet St, Old City (08-627-8865)
- Shipuday Sof HaDerekh - 111 HaPalmach St, Old City (08-628-9155)
- Shipuday HaTikva - Kanyon Kiriat HaMemshelah, near Rasco City (08-665-5722)
- Mifgash Shaul - BIG Shopping Center (08-623-0161)
- Schnitzel and Grill - 8 Henrietta Szold, Rasco City (08-628-6619)
- Chompy - 8 Henrietta Szold, Rasco City (08-645-0130)
- Nafis - BIG Shopping Center (08-628-2855) S
- Avazi - BIG Shopping Center (08-665-5274)
- Meat me at Shiri - 5 Pinchas HaChotziv (08-623-4935)
- Hmamsky's - Yosef ben Matiyahu (University Gate 90)
- Yakuta - 18 Moredai Ha Geta'ot St, Old City (08-623-2689)
- Barzilai - Dimona Rd, Opposite Hutzot Lahav (08-649-9942)
- Misadat HaDagim Shel Zvili - 7 HaPalmach, Old City (08-627-5557)
- Mona - 2 Shlomo HaMelech (054 664 7773) S,V
- Balkona - 81 Herzel St, Old City (08-665-1811)
- Ma'Afiat HaRishonim - BIG Shopping Center
- Mocca - 108 Rasco Ct (08-628-4339)
- Pocoloco - 97 Herzel St, Old City (08-628-2793)
- Pitput - 122 Herzel, Old City (08-623-7708)
- Kapulsky - Kanyon HaNegev (08-623-0425) K
- Betti Bar - 8 Henrietta Szold, Rasco City
- Siesta - Kanyon Kiriat HaMemshelah and BIG Shopping Center
- Aroma - Ben Gurion Campus K and BIG Shopping Center (1700701017) S
- Ashan Hazman - Ringelblum St (077 764 4218)
- Arcaffe - New side of the Big center S (free wireless, good place to study)
- Forum Factor - Kiriat Yehudit, Industrial Park (08-626-2555)
- The Q - Kiriat Yehudit, Industrial Park
- Baraka - 70 Shoshet Bnei Ein Harod, Old City (08-628-7111)
- Red Bar - BIG Shopping Center
- Chika - 4 HaSadna St, Derekh Hevron (08-690-0330)
- Belfast Irish Pub - Mitcham Slavador (08-623-7723)
- Izzy - Intersection, Omer South (052 270 0796)
- Publo - Near Dalet Dormitories
- Coca - 50 Arlozarov, behind Gimmel Dormitories
- Cazma Lounge Bar - 50 Arlozarov
- Moncheela - Gimel, opposite Coca (052 2626 266)
- SanGam - Merkaz HaNegev
- Manga - Teacher's Center, Rager St
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.
Despite its size and university location, Beer Sheva does not offer budget options for light travellers and families. Therefore, your best bet would be to head to Arad and stay there. Arad is less than an hour away, has dorm accommodation and is only ₪8.70 by bus one way. However, you may try BeWeclome, HospitalityClub or Couchsurfing if you comfortable it.
- 2 Leonardo Hotel Negev Beersheba, Henrietta Szold St 4, ☎ .
- Mashabim Holiday Village (Mashabim Holiday Village), D.N. Halutza 85510 on Route 40 (Beer Sheva-Mitzpe Ramon-Eilat), ☎ . Mashabim is an excellent point of exit to a wide range of challenging, desert field trips.
- Hotel La Finca, 52 Smilansky st, ☎ .
- Hotel Arava, 37 Histadrut st
- Hotel Hanegev, 26 Independence st
- The Desert Inn
There are also a few buses going north to Hebron, the traditional burial place of the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their wives. Check that the bus you are thinking of taking goes into Hebron and not just to the nearby Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba.
There are two good rental car agencies across from the train station (daily rate for automatic ₪200 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|
|Nahariyya, Akko, Haifa ← Hadera, Netanya, Herzliya ←||N S||→ Dimona|
|Ben Gurion International Airport ← Tel Aviv, Lod ←||N S||→ Dimona|