There’s no denying that Be’er Sheva (Bear Share-Vah) is a hot and ugly town, developed quickly in the ’60s and still growing. It’s a city that is constantly being built – a vast construction site of shoddy grey apartment blocks built to house the swelling population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. But it is also the fourth-largest city in Israel, the ‘capital of the Negev’ and home to the pioneering Ben-Gurion University, a major centre for teaching and research with over 17, 000 students.
High-tech research and development is now big business in Be’er Sheva, with multimillion-dollar investments and industrial parks attracting global companies such as Intel to the area. The young, educated population is starting to stay on after graduation and the city is slowly gaining a reputation for its active nightlife and unpretentious desert atmosphere
Be’er Sheva also has a rich history, receiving mention in the Old Testament several times (Judges 20:1; I Samuel 3:20; II Samuel 3:10, 17:11, 24:2), though little of that is detectable today. The one surviving ancient monument, a well on Hebron Rd, attests to the town’s association with the story of Abraham (Genesis 21:25-33), in which the name Be’er Sheva is given as meaning ‘the well of the oath’ after a covenant believed to have agreed in this place between the patriarch and Abimelek the Philistine.
In fact, until the late 19th century, Be’er Sheva remained little more than a collection of wells, used by the Bedouin to water their flocks. Changes came when the Turks began to develop this remote desert spot as an administrative centre. During WWI the small town fell to Allenby’s allied forces after a spectacular and celebrated charge by units of the Australian Lighthorse.
The Israelis captured Be’er Sheva in 1948, then still an Arab village of approximately 2000 inhabitants.