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Encyclopedia > Beer Sheva

Beersheba or Be'er Sheva (Hebrew באר שבע; Arabic بئر السبع Biʾr as-Sabʿ) is a city in Israel. It is the largest city of the Negev desert, and often known as the "Capital of the Negev" in the Southern District of Israel. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), at the end of 2001 the city had a total population of 177,900. The population in 2003 was around 200,000.

It is the administrative center for the southern region and home of Ben_Gurion University of the Negev, Soroka Hospital, and the Beer_Sheva Symphonietta.

The city dates back at least to the time of Abraham. The town center has streets in a grid-like pattern and was built by the Germans when the area was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. The city has expanded considerably since 1948 and is inhabited mainly by people who originally immigrated to Israel from Arab countries and the former Soviet Union. Many Bedouin live in towns and encampments in the area.

On August 31, 2004, at least 16 people were killed in two suicide bombings on buses in Beersheba. Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attacks.



Beer Sheva (literally, "Well of the Oath") was first mentioned in the Bible in the book of Genesis. It is believed to be the location of the oath between Abraham and Abimelech. Genesis 21:

21:25 And Abraham reproved Abimelech because of a well of water, which Abimelech's servants had violently taken away
21:26 And Abimelech said, I wot not who hath done this thing: neither didst thou tell me, neither yet heard I [of it], but to day.
21:27 And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech; and both of them made a covenant.
21:28 And Abraham set seven ewe lambs of the flock by themselves.
21:29 And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What [mean] these seven ewe lambs which thou hast set by themselves?
21:30 And he said, For [these] seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well.
21:31 Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because there they sware both of them.
21:32 Thus they made a covenant at Beersheba: then Abimelech rose up, and Phichol the chief captain of his host, and they returned into the land of the Philistines.
21:33 And [Abraham] planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.
21:34 And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days.

According to Genesis 21:31 "Beersheba" means "Well of Oath" and not the popular "Seven Wells".

An archeological site called "Tel Beer Sheva", a few kilometers north-east of modern day Beer Sheva has evidence of being populated since the 4th millennium BC. It was destroyed and rebuilt many times during its history. The latest inhabitants of Tel Beer Sheva were the Byzantines, which abandoned the city at the 7th century AD.

The Ottoman Empire rebuilt the city as an administration center during the early 1900s. The city was captured by the British army at 1917. After the British mandate of Palestine has ended in 1947, Beer Sheva was captured by Israeli forces on October 21, 1948 during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Most of the Muslim citizens fled the city and it has since been settled by Jews immigrating from North Africa, Middle East arab countries and Eastern Europe (including the former Soviet Union).

List of mayors

  • David Tuviahu
  • Zeev Zrizi
  • Eliyahu Navi
  • Moshe Zilberman
  • Itzhak (Ijo) Rager
  • David Bunfeld
  • Yaacov Turner


According to CBS, in 2001 the ethnic makeup of the city was 98.9% Jewish and other non-Arab, with no significant Arab population. There are 2,339 immigrant settlers. See Population groups in Israel.

According to CBS, in 2001 there were 86,500 males and 91,400 females. The population of the city was spread out with 31.8% 19 years of age or younger, 17.4% between 20 and 29, 19.6% between 30 and 44, 15.8% from 45 to 59, 4.0% from 60 to 64, and 11.4% 65 years of age or older. The population growth rate in 2001 was 2.9%.


According to CBS, as of 2000, in the city there were 61,016 salaried workers and 3,010 are self-employed. The mean monthly wage in 2000 for a salaried worker in the city is ILS 5,223, a real change of 5.3% over the course of 2000. Salaried males have a mean monthly wage of ILS 6,661 (a real change of 5.2%) versus ILS 3,760 for females (a real change of 3.9%). The mean income for the self-employed is 6,533. There are 4,719 people who receive unemployment benefits and 26,469 people who receive an income guarantee.


According to CBS, there are 81 schools and 33,623 students in the city. They are spread out as 60 elementary schools and 17,211 elementary school students, and 39 high schools and 16,412 high school students. 52.7% of 12th grade students were entitled to a matriculation certificate in 2001. Beer Sheva is also the home of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, offering bachelor, doctor degrees.


The most popular sport in Beer Sheva is soccer, lead by the Hapoel Beer Sheva team. The club was formed in 1949. The team has a history of two league championships (1975 and 1976), one national cup (1997) and two Toto cups (1989 and 1996). The local arena is the Wassermill stadium with a capacity of 14,000. Beer Sheva is also the home of The Camels - a successful rugby team which has won national titles with its youth squad. Other sports in Beer Sheva are wrestling, tennis and basketball.

Other transliterations

External links

  • Beer-sheva Official website (http://www.beer-sheva.muni.il/openning.asp?Lang=1) (In Hebrew)



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