Beersheba bērshēˈbə, bērˈshēbə [key] [Heb.,=seven wells or well of the oath], city, S Israel, principal city of the Negev Desert. It is the trade center for surrounding settlements and for Bedouins, who hold a weekly market in Beersheba. Construction is the city's main industry. Manufactures include chemicals, textiles, ceramics, glass, diamond cutting, plastics, and food products. Beersheba is an important rail and road hub for S Israel. The city was one of the southernmost towns of ancient Palestine; hence the expression “from Dan to Beersheba,” meaning the whole of Palestine. It is especially connected, in the Bible, with Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, and Elijah. A well believed to have been dug by Abraham when he made his covenant with Abimelech is in the city. Beersheba flourished during the late Roman and Byzantine eras but was deserted soon thereafter. It was merely a group of wells for Bedouin flocks when the Ottoman Turks reestablished it c.1900 as an administrative center for Negev tribes. Beersheba was the first city taken by the British in the Palestine campaign (1917) of World War I. Under the British mandate (1922–48) it was a city (Bir-es-Seba) inhabited by about 4,000 Muslim Arabs. Given to the Arabs in the partition of Palestine (1948), it was retaken by Israel in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Its population and economy have grown considerably since 1989 as a result of immigration from Russia and other countries that formerly constituted the USSR. Beersheba is the seat of the Arid Zone Research Institute and the Ben-Gurion Univ. Remnants of a fortress and shards of the Bronze Age have been found nearby at Tell el-Sheba, the most ancient site of Beersheba.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Israeli Political Geography