The WWI Commonwealth Cemetery is located just above the Old City and contains 1,238 well-kept graves marked by crosses for the Christian ANZAC soldiers (British, Australian & New Zealander) who died during the battles against the Ottoman Empire (Turks) at Be’er-Sheva and in the Negev Region between 1914-1918. In the last row on the right one can see the gravestone of Major Alexander Lafone (1870-1917), who was a recipient of the highest British award for bravery, the “Victoria Cross.” There is also one unusual group gravestone, marked with the British Airforce symbol in memory of 8 British pilots who had also perished in the region during WWI. Oddly, this memorial had actually been prepared out of a respect for their fallen peers by some German pilots who had fought for the Ottoman ‘enemy’; it was later found and added by the British to the Commonwealth Cemetery in Be’er-Sheva.
The large Ottoman-Turkish house (originally built in 1903 on ha-Avot St. in the Old City), now known as the “Mission House” was first rented (1911) and then purchased (1913) by the American Christian and Missionary Alliance, serving as a pioneer center for missionary work with the region’s Bedouins and Arabs. Those missionaries were forced to leave temporarily during WWII, but the property was later restored to its rightful owners by the government of the State of Israel. From 1957, the “Nachalat Yeshua” (lit., Jesus’ legacy) Messianic Congregation in Be’er-Sheva resided in another privately-owned building in the Old City (on Rambam St.) known as “The Bible House” and as “Ha-MaKoM” (lit., the place or God). However, since 1995, this congregation has been using and preserving the historic Mission House building – 08-6277022.
To date, there is a small, international Catholic community that holds services on Sundays and Christian holidays, meeting in the Gimel neighborhood (51 ha-Shalom St.), under the auspices of Rev. Piotr Zelazko – 054-8061440.
Since “Our future is inspired by our past” – join the Society for the Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites – http://www.shimur.org.il. Call: Michal Montal – 054-4606496.