Beersheba

Travel Guide Middle East Israel Beersheba

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Introduction

Beersheba is the biggest city in the Negev desert in the south of Israel. It is well known to readers of the Bible, but the modern city was only founded in 1900. Beer Sheva can appear underwhelming at first glance. As you enter the city, the oversized avenues and partially run down residential building blocks from the 1950s and 1960s make for an unimpressive welcome. However, Beer Sheva can be of interest for any traveller who wishes to experience Israel off-the-beaten-track and there might be no better place to do this, since not even most Israelis are aware that Beer Sheva can be much more than only a stopover on the way to Eilat. The old Turkish town, as run down as it might be, has a very distinct feel and is hugely underrated: it is the only planned Ottoman city in the entire region, erected in 1900 for strategic reasons in order to secure the Negev region and to control the restive Bedouin population. Today, the architectural and historical jewels, culinary highlights, highly welcoming people and the provincial atmosphere of Beer Sheva allow for the visitor to explore the "normal" and "unpretentious" Israel beyond Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. In addition to that, Beer Sheva offers a vibrant student community - based around the university - which has developed a great nightlife one would never expect at first sight.

Beer Sheva and its surroundings give a feel of Israel's strength. On the way down from the north, endless fields with agriculture have replaced desolate dessert; as Isaiah prophesied: "Thirsty deserts will be glad; barren lands will celebrate and blossom with flowers". Also, like Tel-Aviv, a modern skyskraper city has been created out of virtually nothing. Yet, an exciting feel of desert has remained, as Beer Sheva looks with one side right into the Negev desert.

The city is spread out by Israeli standards, as there is no shortage of land in the desert, and there isn't much of a downtown, except for a few streets in the old Turkish quarter. Some modern/experimental architecture was built in the 1960s. Today, this is found mostly in government and public buildings, including the Ben Gurion University and Soroka Hospital buildings.

Beer Sheva's importance is its function as a central place for the entire Negev. Historically it developed because of the many wells, the most famous being "Abraham's Well".

According to the Bible, the site of Beersheba is where Abraham and his son Isaac made oaths of non-aggression with the Philistines, represented by a king named Abimelech. Abraham lived in the city for 26 years and his son Isaac lived there for many years as well. It is also from there that Jacob is said to have set out on his journey to "Haran", the birthplace of his mother, to flee from his brother Esau.

Beersheba is also mentioned in Joshua 19:2. It was the southernmost city of Israel in Biblical times - hence the expression "from Dan to Beersheba" was sometimes used to describe the whole kingdom.

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Getting There

By Plane

The closest airport is Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV IATA), located outside Tel Aviv near Lod. Eilat airport (ETM) is to the south.

By Train

Israel Railways runs very comfortable trains from Tel Aviv, Haifa, Netanya and Nahariyya, with hourly departures. Trains also runs from Dimona, the railway network's southern terminus. Beer Sheva has two train stations, Beer Sheba Center, located just south of the city center, and Beer Sheba North. All trains stop at both stations, except for those to/from Dimona which only stop at the north station.

By Car

From Tel Aviv: Use Highway 20 (Ayalon) to connect to Highway 4 towards Ashdod, then turn to Highway 41 in order to connect to Highway 40 south. Straight to Be'er Sheva approximately 1½ hrs.
From Jerusalem: Highway 1 towards Tel Aviv, Pick up route 3 at Latrun interchange, follow for 20 minutes to Route 40 at Re'em Junction. Straight ahead to Be'er Sheva. Total about 1 hr 40 min.

By Bus

Intercity buses begin/end their routes at the Beer Sheva 3 Central Bus Station, which is next to the central train station, near the city center. Buses also make several stops along the road leading in/out of the city.

From Tel Aviv: Take line 380 from Arlozorov Terminal, or line 370 from Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. The trip costs only ₪16.5. Both take about 1½ hours.
From Jerusalem: Take lines 470 or 446 from the central bus station, costing ₪32.5. Line 470 is direct and takes 1½ hours, line 446 has intermediate stops and takes 1 hour 50 minutes.
From Hebron: There are also a few buses coming from the north. Since Hebron is mostly Palestinian, ask the locals how to get on a bus south. You might have to cross to an Israeli town around Hebron first.

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Getting Around

Beer Sheva is served by buses (₪3.80). Most of these depart from behind the central bus station (on your right when getting off from an inter-city bus). If coming in by train, these will be on your left when coming out of the train station. For details, see the bus map for Be'er Sheva. Pay attention that you can't pay the driver with cash on the buses.

Most taxi cabs in the city will take you anywhere else in the city for around ₪20.

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Eat

24-hour dining at Nafis located at the BIG mega shopping compound. There are also Chinese, Italian, French, Ethiopian, Argentinean, Brazilian, Indian, Bulgarian, Moroccan, Yemenite, Russian, Japanese, Spanish and many Middle Eastern restaurants in town which are moderately pricy. Beer Sheva's culinary offer is spectacular and reflects the cultural backgrounds of the inhabitants of this multi-ethnic city. Locations do change frequently and the restaurants are sometimes located in residential neighborhoods, so advice from locals (and especially students) can be essential.

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Sleep

Despite its size and university location, Beer Sheva does not offer budget options for light travellers and families. Therefore, your best bet would be to head to Arad and stay there. Arad is less than an hour away, has dorm accommodation and is only ₪8.70 by bus one way. However, you may try BeWeclome, HospitalityClub or Couchsurfing if you comfortable it.

View our map of accommodation in Beersheba

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Learn

The Ginsburg-Ingerman Overseas Student Program at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev offers a wide array of short and long-term Hebrew language and academic studies. For German speaking students the German Language Summer University is organized yearly.

The Medical School for International Health at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev offers an MD program for North Americans.

The MAPMES (Master of Arts Program in Middle Eastern Studies) offers an English-language M.A. program to international students.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Israel is a technologically advanced society, and internet cafés are widely available in most cities and towns. The regular price for paid internet cafés is about 15 shekels per hour but you can get it for about 10 shekels in some of the more local places. Free Wi-Fi access is common in cafés (check individual articles). All branches of 'Aroma Espresso Bar', 'Arcaffe', 'Café Café', 'McDonalds' and 'Yellow' convenience stores have free Wi-Fi access, though in some you will have to approach the staff for a password.

Recently, the "Jerusalem Wi-Fi" project started. This government started project aims to cover the entire Jerusalem area with Wi-Fi although at the moment the only areas covered are in the city center. A similar project has started in Tel Aviv and in Karmiel in the north. Some other cities are following suit.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The international country code for Israel is 972. Emergency numbers include 100 (police), 101 (ambulance) and 102 (fire). 112 is supported in mobile networks.

Currently Israel offers support for all the available networks including GSM/UMTS (Pelephone, Cellcom and Orange), CDMA (Pelephone) and iDen (Hot Mobile). In any case, you must check with your carrier about the roaming option and the compatibility of your device in advance. A valid suggestion otherwise is to turn off data services.

You can rent a cellphone for use in Israel either before your trip or once you arrive from several firms. You can also rent smartphones with sim cards included sometimes for lower than the cost of renting just a sim card. Vendors such as Israel Phone Rentalsoffer the advantages of a sim card rental without having to worry about bringing your own phone to Israel. If you have a GSM cellphone without a SIM-lock, you can buy a SIM-card. Prepaid SIM cards are available at Pelephone (Talk & Go), Cellcom (Talk Man) and Orange (Bigtalk) phone stores throughout Israel. Almost all shopping malls will have a Pelephone, Cellcom or Orange kiosk or store.

There are many public phones scattered around. Public phones can be always found at hotels, post offices, central bus stations and train stations. These phones use a Telecard, which, today, is a pre-paid calling card that works only with pay phones and can be purchased at post offices and some stores, as well as ordinary calling cards. Some phones also accept credit cards, usually those in hotels and post offices.

Post

The Israel Post is the national postal service of Israel and generally has fast, reliable and affordable services. Efficiency means that letters and postcards send by airmail just take about 3-7 days within Europe, a few days more to the USA and Australia. Express Mail Services (EMS) is available, with which you are guaranteed to have the postcard or letter delivered within 72 hours anywhere in the world. You can buy stamps at post offices, or newspaper stands/kiosks or some souvenir shops and hotels. The main post offices are usually open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Sunday to Thursday and 8:00am to 2:00pm on Friday, though some might keep longer hours. Branch offices and post offices in smaller towns keep shorter hours, usually with a break from 12:30pm to 3:30pm, and on Wednesday and Friday only during the morning. Parcels can be send by the regular post offices or with companies like TNT, UPS, FedEx and DHL.

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Accommodation in Beersheba

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Beersheba searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

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This is version 4. Last edited at 14:34 on Jul 1, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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