| 194,811 (2010)|
| Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Kaye Academic College of Education|
Beersheba ( Hebrew: ?????? ??????, Beer Sheva Greek: ; Latin: ; Arabic: ? Bi?r as-Sab? , ) is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the seventh-largest city in Israel with a population of 197,269.
Beersheba grew in importance in the 19th century, when the Ottoman Turks built a regional police station there. The Battle of Beersheba was part of a wider British offensive in World War I aimed at breaking the Turkish defensive line from Gaza to Beersheba. In 1947, Bir Seba (Arabic: ?), as it was known, was envisioned as part of the Arab state in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Following the declaration of Israels independence, the Egyptian army amassed its forces in Beersheba as a strategic and logistical base. In the Battle of Beersheba waged in October 1948, it was conquered by the Israel Defense Forces.
Beersheba has grown considerably since then. A large portion of the population is made up of the descendants of Sephardi Jews and Mizrahi Jews who immigrated from Arab countries after 1948, as well as smaller communities of Bene Israel and Cochin Jews from India. Second and third waves of immigration have taken place since 1990, bringing Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, as well as Beta Israel immigrants from Ethiopia. The Soviet immigrants have made the game of chess a major sport in Beersheba. The city is now Israels national chess center, with more chess grandmasters per capita than any other city in the world.
Human settlement in the area dates from the Copper Age. The inhabitants lived in caves, crafting metal tools and raising cattle. Findings unearthed at Tel Beer Sheva, an archaeological site east of modern day Beersheba, suggest the region has been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt many times over the centuries.
Beersheba is located on the northern edge of the Negev desert 115 kilometres (71 mi) south-east of Tel Aviv and 120 kilometres (75 mi) south-west of Jerusalem. The city is located on the main route from the center and north of the country to Eilat in the far south. The Valley of Beer Sheva has been populated for thousands of years, as it has available water, which flows from the Hebron hills in the winter and is stored underground in vast quantities. The main river in Beersheba is Nahal Beersheva, a wadi which floods in the winter. The Kovshim and Katef streams are other important wadis which pass through the city. Beersheba is surrounded by a number of satellite towns, including Omer, Lehavim, and Meitar, and the Bedouin localities of Rahat, Tel as-Sabi, and Lakiya.
The largest employers in Beersheba are the municipality, Israel Defense Forces, Ben-Gurion University and the Soroka Medical Center. Numerous electronics and chemical plants, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, are located in and around the city. A large high-tech park is being built near the Beer Sheva North Railway Station. A major Israel Aerospace Industries complex is located in the main industrial zone, north of Highway 60. Three industrial zones are located on the southeastern side of the city – Makhteshim, Emek Sara and Kiryat Yehudit – and a light industry zone between Kiryat Yehudit and the Old City. A high-tech park is located near Omer. A Science Park funded by the RASHI-SACTA Foundation, Beersheba Municipality and private donors was completed in 2008. In addition, Elbit Systems is planning to build a research and development center in the city, which will employ 100 workers.
Beersheba is the home base of the Israel Sinfonietta, founded in 1973. Over the years, the Sinfonietta has developed a broad repertoire of symphonic works, concerti for solo instruments and large choral productions, among them Handels Israel in Egypt, masses by Schubert and Mozart, Rossinis "Stabat Mater" and Vivaldis "Gloria." World-famous artists have appeared as soloists with the Sinfonietta, including Pinhas Zuckerman, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Shlomo Mintz, Gary Karr and Paul Tortelier. In the 1970s, a memorial commemorating fallen Israeli soldiers designed by the sculptor Danny Karavan was erected on a hill north-east of the city. The Beersheba Theater opened in 1973. The Light Opera Group of the Negev, established in 1980, performs musicals in English every year.
Landmarks in the city include Abrahams Well and the old Turkish train station, now the focus of development plans. The Artists House of the Negev, in a Mandate-era building, showcases artwork connected in some way to the Negev.
In 2009, a new tourist and information center, Gateway to the Negev, was built.