Glimpses of Israel - Beersheba

Four thousand years ago Abraham journeyed south through the land of Canaan with his herds of cattle, sheep and goats. At that time Abimelech was king of the Philistine empire which extended from the Mediterranean coast into the wilderness of the Negev desert in the south.

It was in this wilderness that Abraham dug a well which was forcibly taken over by the servants of Abimelech: "Then Abraham reproved Abimelech because of the well of water which Abimelech's servants had seized. And Abimelech said, 'I do not know who has done this thing; you did not tell me, nor had I heard of it until today.'

"So Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a covenant ... Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because the two of them swore an oath there" (Genesis 21:25-27, 31).

Beersheba was a city of importance during the reign of King Solomon, and for centuries was the city which marked the southern boundary of the kingdom, as indicated by the expression: "from Dan to Beersheba" (2 Samuel 3:10).

During the First World War, Beersheba became famous as the first town captured from the Turks by the British, and for the encounter between the Australian Light Horse and the Turks, as evidenced by the extensive Australian War Cemetery there.

In 1948, Beersheba was still little more than a trading post for Bedouin tribesmen, but since then its growth has been rapid, and it is now referred to as the capital of the Negev, being about halfway between Tel Aviv and Eilat. It has a population of 130,000 and is home to the famous Ben Gurion University with its modern buildings, and world-renowned technology.

But even in these days, the weekly Beersheba Bedouin market is a colourful and interesting event that reminds us of a way of life that is part of the past, when the tribesmen bring their produce to market and then drift back to the silence of the desert.

Beersheba is but one of many places in Israel fulfilling Ezekiel's prophecy: " I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings" (36:11).