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“Abraham took flocks and cattle and gave them to Abimelech; and the two of them made an alliance. Abraham set up seven sheep of the flock… Abimelech said to Abraham ‘What are these seven sheep?’ … And he replied, “Because you must take these 7 sheep from me, so that it may serve as a testimony to me that I have dug this well. That’s why the place was called sheva beer because there the two took an oath (Genesis 21:27-31)”
Beer Sheva (Beer Sheva) is perhaps Israel’s most underrated city for tourists. Even most Israelis think it’s “somewhere” in the desert. This city offers world-class historical and battle sites (including the last battle of Calvary in the history of the British Empire), interactive/state-of-the-art museums (many of which are child-friendly), shops, beautiful scenery and important biblical sites. websites, and more.
As a tourist guide specializing in sheva beer(I have been consulted and interviewed in the media on this subject), I would like to give you an overview of this “must-see” city.
Today, Beersheba, nestled on the edge of Israel’s Negev desert, is one of Israel’s fastest growing cities. There are currently 230,000 people living here, almost double the population of 20 years ago. New neighborhoods consisting of high-rise condos and small villas are constantly being built at relatively affordable prices. Due to the city’s world-renowned university and medical school, 16% of the city is made up of students, the highest rate per capita in the country. A third are engineers, a fact that is not lost on the most powerful companies in the world who want to take advantage of these brains. Companies like Oracle, IBM, Google and Lockheed Martin are building large offices and R&D factories in the new multi-billion dollar technology park, located in the northern part of the city. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), arguably the world leader in technological innovation, is about to move its intelligence corps and telecommunications/computers/teleprocessing base of operations to Be’er Sheva.
The city has become known as the “City of Water” due to its proliferation of beautiful water fountains and a new 22.5-acre man-made lake under construction. It will be the largest man-made lake in the country and the second largest lake after the Sea of Galilee.
This desert municipality has the best soccer team in Israel, the most commercial space per square kilometer in the country, and has more chess grandmasters than any city in the world!
There is so much to say about Beer Sheva, but the main reason my tourists love it so much is its rich history!
Beer Sheva is mentioned 34 times in the Bible. The well-preserved archaeological remains are a must for Bible enthusiasts. It was the place where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived and proclaimed God’s name (Genesis 21:33). Here, Gd appeared to Abraham telling him to bring his son Isaac to Jerusalem to be sacrificed (Genesis 22). In this city, Jacob received the blessing of Isaac, who incurred the wrath of Esau, prompting Rebekah to tell her son to flee the land and not return until her brother’s anger subsided (Genesis 27 and 28).
Nine times in Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) the borders of Israel are mentioned as running from Dan (in the North) to sheva beer (in the south). This is quite surprising when one reads Numbers 34:3 which clearly states that the southern border of biblical Israel is actually Nahal Tzin, about 50 km (31 miles) further south. So why is Beer Sheva so often referred to as the southern border? Because Beer Sheva is the southern border of “populated” Israel. In ancient times, it was almost impossible to live further south due to the extreme heat of the desert, and civilization came to a halt here. Therefore, when Abraham drove Hagar and her son Ishmael from her house, they strayed into the “wilderness of sheva beer (Genesis 21:4)”.
Indeed, when standing at ancient Be’er Sheva, one can see how a little further south, the extreme desert begins to dramatically invade the landscape.
sheva beer itself had plenty of water because the underground water table was high. It was enough to dig a well and they fell on the water, as did Abraham and Isaac.
When Joshua brought the children of Israel into the land, sheva beerwas assigned to the tribe of Shimon (Simon) (Joshua 19:2).
Later, King Solomon will build sheva beer as a storage town (most of the remains we visit today date from this time) and it would become the local capital of the region. The city was tiny, just 11 dunums (2.7 acres). Yet the town planning was quite sophisticated.
As a provincial capital, they collected taxes from neighboring towns. This was before real money as we know it, so taxes were paid on things like grain, produce, oil, and other commodities. In the warehouse, the names of towns that paid taxes were found on pottery.
One of the jars read “Holy,” suggesting that whatever was in that jar was designated for use in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (see Numbers 27).
One of the most interesting rooms, the one with the “altar”, is mentioned explicitly in the Bible. Regarding Josiah, the righteous king who almost completely eradicated idol worship from the land, “He defiled the high places where…the priests used to burn Geba offerings to sheva beer…He who was at the entrance of the gate…located to his left (as he entered) the city gate (2 Kings 23:8)”. Indeed, when crossing the gate, the first building on your immediate left is this “high place”.
Interestingly, King Josiah “destroyed” places of idol worship in some parts of the country, while in other cases he only “defiled” them. Why did he choose to “defile” it and not to destroy it? According to Jewish sources, this particular altar was not used for idol worship, but for the service of Gd. Although this was also forbidden, since once the Temple was built it was forbidden to make sacrifices outside the Temple, it still had a level of holiness. Therefore, Josiah simply rendered it useless by defiling them.
Perhaps the most unique feature of this site is its complex water system.
Many of my tourists consider entering the water system to be the highlight of their visit!
There’s so much more to say about sheva beer! This article only gives a small taste of what there is to experience in this amazing city. On your next trip, I strongly encourage you to spend a day visiting here. Before doing so, check this: sheva beer Sample Itinerary
Please visit the author’s website: https://guidedtoursofisrael.com
(All photos are courtesy of the author, for public use or licensed by the author for commercial purposes)