Tel Beer Sheva National Park

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Tel Be'er Sheva, the area in which the forefathers of the Jewish nation (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) lived and worked, is an important biblical tel - one of three from the days of the Bible that UNESCO has included in its list of world heritage sites.

 From the mound, there is a beautiful view of the modern city of Beersheba.

Main points of in​terest

  • The altar: a stone altar used for making sacrifices. The altar was found during the excavation, in pieces, its stones incorporated in the walls of the storehouse. Today, the original altar (with its four horns) is on display in the Israel Museum, and a reconstruction stands at the entrance to the national park. The altar was apparently taken apart at a time of religious reform. According to the finds, archaeologists attribute dismantling the altar to the time of Hizkiyah, king of Judah at the end of the 8th century BCE.
  • The well: one of the deepest in Israel (69 m), going down to the level of the groundwater. The well was dug outside but close to the city gate.
  • The city gates: the outer gate stands next to the well, and behind it is the main gate. Two tall towers guarded the main gate. The towers have not been preserved, but the remains of the first floor of a watchtower can be seen, with stone benches inside.
  • The "Governor's Palace": a prominent building with an entrance corridor, paved ceremonial halls, residential units, a kitchen and a storeroom.
  • The storehouse: one of the largest buildings in the city, with three storerooms, on an area of 600 m². The storerooms are divided into long halls, which were found to contain hundreds of pottery vessels.
  • The water system: a large and impressive water system, incorporated in the fortifications of the city. The water system is in three parts: a 20 m deep stone-faced shaft, with a flight of stairs set into its wall; a 700 m³ reservoir hewn in the chalk rock; and a feeder channel carrying the floodwaters from Hebron Stream to the reservoir. The water system fell out of use at the end of the Hellenistic period, apparently because of an earthquake that blocked the channel.

The walls of the reservoir are straight. They were built to serve as support walls for the ceiling after the reservoir was quarried out, and the plaster and the fingerprints of the plasterers can still be seen.

Geographic loc​​​ation

Tel Be'er Sheva National Park is to the east of the city of Beersheba. Access is from Tel Sheva Junction on Road 60 (between Beersheba and Omer). Turn towards the town of Tel Sheva, and before the entrance to the town, turn right to the national park.

Look​​out point

On top of the tel (at an elevation of 307 m) is a modern watchtower, from which there is a view of the city of Beersheba and the towns of Omer, Tel Sheva and Segev Shalom, Emek Sara, the south of Mt Hebron, the route of Road 60, Lahav Forest, Gva'ot Lahav-Goral, Giv'at Hablanim, and the hills of Dimona. From this point it is also possible to see most of the excavation areas of the tel. The view is particularly impressive thanks to the height of the mound, the only hill in a very flat area. At the foot of the tower are the remains of a fortress, built in Roman times, and restored in the early Arab period.

Identity c​ard

Tel Be'er Sheva National Park is 5 km east of the city of Beersheba, by the access road to the town of Tel Sheva. The tel commands the confluence of the Hebron Stream with Beersheba Stream, and the easy passage from Beersheba-Arad Valley to the western Negev. The tel is on the southern boundary of the civilized world, and is one of the chain of tels of south Canaan (running west from Tel Arad, through Tel Malhata, Tel Ira, Tel Mashush and Tel Be'er Sheva to the Bsor Stream) - the dividing line between the cultivated areas (in the north) and the unsettled desert to the south, where there had not been continuous permanent settlement for many generations. The national park was declared in December 1986, and covers an area of 180 dunams.

Reasons for declarati​on

At Tel Be'er Sheva the remains of an ancient biblical-era city were uncovered, which was an important administrative center in the northern Negev. (The expression "from Dan to Beersheba" describes the borders of Israel in the time of the Judges.) In 2005 UNESCO declared Tel Be'er Sheva, along with the tels of Hatzor and Megiddo, to be world heritage sites because they faithfully represent the biblical cities of the land of Israel, and the two prominent cultures of this period: the Canaanite towns of the Bronze Age, and the biblical cities of the Iron Age, with town planning, fortifications, palaces, and ancient water systems.

Activities of the Nature and Pa​rks Authority

  • There have been extensive archaeological excavations in the national park by the Tel Aviv University Institute of Archaeology. Following the main excavations, the Nature and Parks Authority carried out restoration work before opening the site to visitors. In the 1990s, excavations were renewed in order to complete exposure of the water system, and after wide scale conservation work, it was opened in 2003.
  • To establish refuge populations for a species in danger of extinction in Israel, a population of Gil'ad irises was planted in the area of the site.

 

History and arche​ology

Settlement at the tel began in the fourth millennium BCE (in the Chalcolithic period). After a break of over 2000 years, settlement was renewed in the Iron Age (the Israelite period), and continued unbroken for 500 years. Pits were dug for storing grain, and stone houses were built. In the 10th century BCE a new settlement was established, with some 20 houses. At the beginning of the 9th century BCE a fortified city was built, surrounded by a 4 m wide wall. This city was an important administrative center in the Kingdom of Judah, and had a water system. It was destroyed (apparently in an earthquake) and rebuilt in the 8th century BCE. At the end of this century the temple that stood here was dismantled, and the stones of the altar were buried in the walls of the storehouse building. The biblical city was destroyed in a fierce fire, apparently in the campaign of destruction waged by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in 701 BCE. After a brief attempt at reconstruction, it was left in ruins until the Persian period. At this time a small fortress was built here, and granaries to store grain for the soldiers. Later a Hellenistic temple was built, while during the Herodian period (1st century CE) a large fortress and bathhouse were built at the tel. In the Roman period a fortress was built at the site, and this was renovated in the Early Arab period, but the civilian community moved to the area of modern Beersheba (which was later abandoned, and only inhabited again in the Ottoman period, in 1900). During the First World War, Tel Be'er Sheva served as an assembly point for the Ottoman army to attack the Suez Canal, but with the British advance into the land of Israel, the Ottomans built a fortified cannon position at the top of the tel. At the end of October 1917, Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) cavaliers captured it on their way to taking the town of Beersheba.

Geology and geomorpho​logy

Tel Be'er Sheva is enclosed in the intersection of the lateral (east-west) valleys - the western Negev and Beersheba Valley - and the (north-south) hilltop ranges– the Yattir hills, Gva'ot Lahav to the north of Beersheba Stream, and the area of the Hablanim and Yitnan hills to the south of Beersheba Stream. The lateral valleys are built on loess soils, while the hills are chalk rock of the Avdat formation.

Hydrol​ogy

The mound commands the confluence of the Hebron and Beersheba streams. These streams drain extensive areas to the south of Mt Hebron (Hebron Stream) and northern Negev (Beersheba Stream), and therefore it could be expected that the level of the groundwater would be relatively high, and yet the well that was dug on the mound through to the groundwater goes down to a depth of some 70 m, more than twice the height of the mound itself. The water system on the outskirts of the city stores surface run-off from flooding in the Hebron Stream.

From the meeting point of the streams, Beersheba Stream flows into the Bsor Stream, which flows into the Mediterranean to the south of the city of Gaza. The Bsor Stream is the largest of the coastal streams of Israel, and its drainage basin is in excess of 3000 km². In the Bsor basin, and especially in Beersheba Valley, many wells have been dug in order to take advantage of the high groundwater.

Flor​​a

The tel stands on the loess hills on the outskirts of Beersheba. The dominant vegetation here (outside the excavation site) is the thorny saltwort bush (Noaea mucronata), and in the surrounding cornfields there is a large concentration of Egyptian meadow saffron (Colchicum ritchii), which flowers at the height of winter. In the area around the mound, a refuge population of Gil'ad irises (Iris atrofusca) has been planted, and in the water course of Beersheba Stream are tamarisks (Tamarix) and tobacco trees (Nicotiana glauca).

Wildl​ife

Rock doves (Columba livia) (now interbred with domestic pigeons (Columba livia domestica)) take advantage of the underground spaces in the well and the water system for nesting.

How to get here: Off the Beersheba – Shoket Junction road.

South of Omer, and next to the Bedouin community of Tel Sheva. 10 minutes from Beersheba.

Length of visit: 1 – 2 hours

 

Best season: All year round

 

Don't miss: The tower in the center of the site, affording visitors an impressive 360° view. 

 

Other attractions:

Activities by prior arrangement: Reconstructing and painting jars, pitot in the taboun oven, and more… 

Opening hours

Last entry to the park is one hour before closing time 

Summer:

Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 5 pm

Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 4 pm

 

Winter:

Sunday - Thursday and Saturday – 8 am – 4 pm
Fridays and the eve of holidays – 8 am – 3 pm

On the eves of New Year, the Day of Atonement, and Passover: 8 am – 1 pm

 Contact us

Telephone: 08-6467286 

Entrance fee

Individuals:  Adult - NIS 14, child – NIS 7

Student: NIS 12

Group (over 30):  Adult - NIS 13, child – NIS 6

Further information

Click here for site pamphlet


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    Content under construction, the information apears soon.
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    Tel Beer Sheva National Park