Be’er Sheva, gateway to southern Israel
Israel has four Holy cities: Yerushalayim, Tveria, Hevron and Safed. But, I have always wondered why Be’er Sheva is not included amongst them. After all, our forefathers spent a great deal of time digging wells, praying and living in Be’er Sheva.
We are introduced to Be’er Sheva through Avraham Avinu. His wanderings included a sojourn on lands owned by Avimelech, king of Gerar. After a series of disputes over wells, they finally arrive at an agreement of peace. A pact, or brit was made between them, and seven lambs were given by Avraham Avinu to Avimelech to seal the brit. Avraham named the location Be’er Sheva, in memory of the pact that was made between them. Hagar and Ishmael, after they are banished from the home of Avraham wander in the desert of Be’er Sheva. After the sacrifice of Isaac, the Torah tells us that Avraham returned to Be’er Sheva and lived there.
Yitzchak Avinu, after his father’s death, re-digs the wells his father dug and also encounters disputes, this time with the Pelishtim. Ultimately, he digs a well in Be’er Sheva, the dispute comes to a hault, and Yitzchak names the city Be’er Sheva—well of seven. Yitzchak erects an altar in Be’er Sheva to offer his thanks to HaShem.
When Yaacov Avinu is fleeing from his brother Eisav and on his way to the house of Lavan, he falls asleep near Be’er Sheva. This is where he has his dream about the ladder with the angels going up and down. The Torah tells us that Yaacov left Be’er Sheva and traveled toward Haran. The tribes of Shimon and Yehuda lived in Be’er Sheva. Many generations later, Shaul HaMelech erected Tel Be’er Sheva, from where he waged war against the Amalekites. Eliyahu HaNavi fled to Be’er Sheva to escape the death decree issued by Queen Jezebel.
Through all these thousands of years of Be’er Sheva’s rich history, it remained a desert city, barely inhabited, until finally recovered from the hands of the Egyptians in 1949. Soon after the earliest modern Jewish settlers arrived, the desert blossomed and Be’er Sheva started to take shape, eventually becoming the gleaming, modern gateway to southern Israel that it is today.
You can still see Avraham’s well, Tel Be’er Sheva and many other historical remnants from Biblical times when visiting this southern paradise.
Modern Be’er Sheva is an oasis come alive. Home to approximately 205,000 residents, Be’er Sheva is best known for its world-class university—Ben-Gurion University and Soroka Medical Center, a 1,000 bed hospital. Ancient architecture blends in with new, eye-catching, sleek building designs, able to compete with the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Designated as the regional center for the south, the government has invested significant financial resources to consolidate government offices, attract business development and increase residential housing. There are shopping malls, wineries, boutique shops, desert tours, and accommodations to fit every taste. Only one hour from Yerushalayim or Tel Aviv, it is definitely worth a trip.