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, 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 include Rahat, Tel Sheva, Hura and Laqiya. In Beer 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.
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 revolting Beduin 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'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 mentioned as a location where an oath of non-aggression was made between the Philistines, represented by a king named Abimelech, and Abraham. The bible describes the oath being made on two separate occasions by the Israelites, once represented by Abraham, and once by Isaac. 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. Beersheba 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, there are several different etymologies given for the origin of Beersheba's name:
It should be noted that in Hebrew, the word for oath, "shava" and seven, "sheva" are essentially the same, hence some scholars indicate 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.
The closest airport is Ben Gurion, located outside Tel Aviv.
Beersheva is served by buses, 3.80 shekel (about 90 cents). 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. All taxi cabs in the city are a flat rate of 20 shekel (about 5 dollars).
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.
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).
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 - Kenyon 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 HaKtana: Ringlebum 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 - Kenyon 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 - Kenyon 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, Black & White and Einstein.
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