Be'er Sheva, the modern-day capital of the Negev, has a history going back all the way to Abraham, father of the Biblical Israelite people and a spiritual father to the three major monotheistic religions.
The capital of the Negev, the Old City, the university, the Turkish railway station, and the Bedouin market represent only a part of the colourful mosaic offered by the city of Beer Sheba, a city full of life and proud of itself, as you will be told by any of its 185,000 inhabitants.
Beer Sheba, spelt Beersheba in most English translations of the Bible, is a major crossroads whose potential was felt by Abraham, father of the Israelite people, who, according to traditional understanding of the Bible, arrived here 3,700 years ago. He dug a well to water his flock, made a covenant of peace with Abimelech, the king of Gerar in those days, and the two swore allegiance to one another. “Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because there the two of them took an oath" (Genesis 21, Verse 21). To symbolize his ownership of the well, he planted a tamarisk tree.
Beer Sheba is located at the intersection of two ancient important international road junctions: The "Way of the Sea" (Via Maris) which extended along the shoreline in the west, and the King’s Highway (the Valley Route) in the east. As a result, the city is mentioned throughout biblical times as a wayside station, as a resting spot, as a border point and as a ritual centre.
Tel Beer Sheba, five kilometres east of the city, is usually identified with biblical Be’er Sheba. The site is fascinating, and contains the ruins of a walled city from the Israelite monarchic period. Due to the superb finds there, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 2005. In the Roman Period, the settlement spread to the area of present-day Beer Sheba, and was located in the centre of the Limes Palestine, the Roman defence layout from Rafah (Rafi’akh) to the Dead Sea, which mainly consisted of fortresses built the borderline. When the Romans converted to Christianity, it served as the Episcopal residence (the residence of the Bishop) and several churches were built there. The Crusaders also built a fortress in the city, but when it was destroyed it remained deserted for a long time.