You don’t hear as much about Beersheva as you do Israel’s other cities, such as Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. However, it is a thriving place that deserves far more attention than it gets. The city is packed with interesting things to see and do, and it is well worth a visit while on your gap year.
Modern Beersheva is over 100 years old, but its roots can be traced all the way back to the bibles. In fact, the name comes from the Hebrew for “Well of the Oath”, as it is supposedly the location where Abraham and Avimelech agreed their peace treaty.
If you are interested in the arts then modern Beersheva has plenty to keep you occupied. It is home to the Kamea Dance Company, the Israel Sinfonietta Orchestra, the Fringe Theatre, and the Light Opera Group of the Negev.
The Kamea Dance Company is hugely respected and performs across the world. Its members are also from around the world, and include dancers from England, France, Canada and Argentina. However, all of the dancers now live in Beersheva as they seek to represent the spirit of the city in their work. If you visit the city, you can go on an English language tour of the centre and hopefully catch a performance. You can also hear the Sinfonietta perform most Saturday nights, and they often collaborate with some of Israeli’s biggest popstars.
If you are looking for a bit of history then you should make the effort to visit Beersheva’s Old City. It has been undergoing a revolution in recent years and is now a true tourist attraction. You can tour the Ottoman era buildings while enjoying bars, coffee shops, art galleries, museums and more. There are regular fairs and festivals in the evenings, including an International Fringe Festival, and the market is also worth visiting.
While you are visiting historical sites, you can stop by the old Turkish Railway Station that was built in 1915 as one of the stops between Cairo and Damascus. It has now been fully renovated as a cultural and entertainment venue. It is home to a gallery of historical photos of Beersheva, and you can also take a look at some authentic carriages and a steam engine.
If you need to get inside to escape the desert sun then you can pay a visit to one of Beer Sheva’s many museums. If you are interested in art, you can visit the Negev Museum of Art, where you will find three galleries with a lot of work by local artists. Those interested in war history can visit the ANZAC Museum and Memorial Center to learn about the capture of Beersheva from the Ottomans by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in 1917.
If you want to learn more about the city’s role in the bible then be sure to visit Abraham’s Well International Visitors Center. It is a high-tech tourist attraction that teaches you about Beersheva through the story of Abraham.
In short, while Beersheva is a small city (but rapidly growing), there is plenty to do there and it is definitely worth spending some time getting to know it.