Beer Sheba is the gateway to the Negev, and a much visited city on a trip to Israel. A mixture of ancient and new, the city’s famous old Turkish quarter sits next to wealthy suburbs packed with private villas. Beer Sheba grew in importance during the 19th century when Ottoman Turks built their regional police station here in an attempt to keep local Bedouin tribes in order. They also built roads and buildings that can be seen today in a city which was then largely comprised of Arabs from Hebron and Gaza.
During the First World War, the Battle of Beer Sheba was a successful British attempt to break the Ottomans’ rule of Beer Sheba, beginning the British Mandate. In 1948 Israeli defense forces captured the city. Today the population of Beer Sheba is largely made up by Jews who emigrated from Arab countries, from India and the Soviet Union.
Settlements dating back to the Copper Age have been discovered here, with an archeological site east of the city suggesting the region has been inhabited since the 4th century BC. The city has since been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Tel Beer Sheba is an important focus of Israel tourism, home to numerous wells including, according to the Bible, those dug up by Abraham and Isaac when they arrived here. There are also remains of an elaborate water system, including a huge cistern carved out of the rock beneath the town. Beer Sheba is also mentioned as the place Elijah took refuge when Jezebel ordered his death, and the prophet Amos also mentions the city.
The Old Turkish Town or Old City is home to not only notable historical buildings, but numerous ethnic restaurants and bars. The Negev Museum is located in the Old Town in the Turkish governor’s residence, now home to an art collection as well as a series of changing exhibits. The Turkish Railway Station is also located here and the Government House which today houses the city’s Police station.