Parks & Promenades

In general, Be’er-Sheva blossoms anew every Fall and Spring after the rains (though we always pray for more rain than we usually get here in the desert).  Many of the main shady-lane-in-neot-lonstreets and boulevards are tree-lined and more shade trees are being planted with each passing year. Each neighborhood has its own public park, some larger, some smaller, most with grass, benches, shade trees and a children’s playground equipment, and there are also a few groves of shade trees, such as in Ne’ot Lon.

In 2019 (following the example set in 2015 by “Earth’s Promise” behind the Kalisher Absorption Center in Gimel), typically barefoot Nilo Peleg (b.1984-) and a group of fellow eco-activists planted the second urban food forest within the Be’er-Sheva city limits, located at one edge of the newly renovated Sofrim Park in Bet neighborhood. Such planned, man-made forest gardening provides sustainable eco-agriculture while restoring natural local habitats and ecosystems.                                

The city’s academic campuses are beautifully landscaped and have well-kept gardens, where it’s bgu-campus-6pleasant to sit or walk about. Some special walking and biking paths already exist, that span the city’s width and height, and more are being developed. Be’er-Sheva also has a 42-kilometer green path, the “Be’er-Sheva Ring Trail,” for hiking and learning about local nature & history; guided tours are available via the Desert vegetationlocal Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). Every year come Spring (in March) the city holds an “Urban Nature Week,” full of free outdoor events, nature tours, bird-watching, etc.Outdoor rest-stop parlors

The first public park in 20th century Be’er-Sheva

Allenby Park, located in the center of the Old City, was one of the first public parks in Allenby Park 1917Israel, originally created by the Ottoman-Turks in 1902 following a round, axial French-garden design. Later on, after the British conquest of the Holy Land under the command of Field Marshall, Lord Edmund Henry Allenby (1861-1936), this park was named in British Imperialgeneral-allenbys-statue Governor Allenby‘s honor. His bust was commissioned and sculpted by Abraham Melnikov and situated at the hub of the park, atop a high pedestal, but was later damaged during the Arab rebellion of 1938. With the restoration of the park in 2015, the damaged bust was replaced by another sculpted by Etienne Millner, situated on a lower, broader column. In his diary, Allenby wrote: “Beersheba is a lovely place, in which it’s pleasant to be.”

The first public park in Israeli Be’er-Sheva

“Gan ha-Rishonim” (lit., the park of the first ones) is located in the Aleph neighborhood along Rager Boulevard, facing the Rassco Commercial Center

Landscapped urban-desert parks near seasonal watercourses

Yud-Aleph Park is a lovely example of successful urban-desert landscaping, pleasant by day and night. It’s a parkpark-yud-aleph running along both sides of the Nahal Olim seasonal watercourse for several kilometers (in sections interrupted by roads) with paved walks, shade trees, benches, playground areas, several different kinds of bridges, and night lighting. It’s enclosed byPark Yud Aleph1 gardened stone terraces. The local lizards often sun themselves in the mornings on the dry, rocky riverbed and it’s a haven for many types of birds. It’s also a favorite spot of Park Yud Aleph2mothers with baby-carriages and preschool children – in the warm mornings, of senior citizens towards sunset – in the cooler evening air, and of young couples – for romantic strolls at night.

The Be’er-Sheva River Park, when it is completed, will cover ca.5261 dunams (=1,300 pipesbridgepedestrianpath-12-11acres) alongside Nahal Be’er-Sheva (the Be’er-Sheva seasonalRiver Park Walk watercourse) – a distance of ca.8 km (=5 miles). It already has 3.25 km (=2 mile) promenade and bike paths that also cross the watercourse on the unique Pipes Bridge (opened 2011); a free public park – Bell Parka large outdoor amphitheater that can seat ca.12,000 and has a special ‘Light-Sail’ that produces spectacular Amphi Light Sail Beer-Shevalight shows at night; a children’s playground, and the Beit Eshel (1943-1948) pre-Israel independence historic site. Soon, it will also have a sizable ca.81-dunam (= 20-acre) man-made lake with water-sports facilities, surrounded by restaurants, cafes, picnic grounds, a bird sanctuary. Finally, 2 Chalcolithic archaeological sites will be developed for public viewing, one at each end of the park. 

A couple examples of children’s themed playgrounds/parks

The newest (opened in August 2020), and among the largest (60 dunams = almost 15 acres) play-parks in Be’er-Sheva is located in the Ramot neighborhood and includes something for children of all ages and physical abilities, even some extreme sport facilities, most of them well shaded, like the sitting areas.

The commemorative Ilan Ramon Rocket Park is located on Yehudah ha-Levi Street in the Daledilan-ramon-rocket-park neighborhood. It’s dedicated to the memory of Israel’s first astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon (1954-2003), who grew up in Be’er-Sheva. He was one of the pilots who flew the mission that successfully bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. He perished in the Columbia space shuttle disaster that occurred during the attempted re-entry to the Earth‘s atmosphere on February 1st, 2003.

The free public Children’s Park (opened in 2017) adjacent to the Lunada” Interactive Science Museum, has a nautical theme and is located between the Neveh Menahem andChildrens Park Beer-Sheva Nahal Ashan neighborhoods, at 35 Egoz St. It’s a very large (60 dunams = ca.50 acres) area, at the center of which there is a small artificial lake (5,500 sq m = ca.59,200 sq ft) with a big pirate ship, ducks and aquarium fish. The park also includes a waterfall, a cable slide, walking & biking paths, benches, a kiosk, and other activities. 

Other theme parks

The Hadassah Women & JNF Ceramics Park, located just off Rager Boulevard at the Hadassah Ceramics Parknorthern edge of the city, was planned by Israeli landscape architect Zvi Dekel for the First International Biennale of Ceramics held in Be’er-Sheva in 1995. This park displays artist Israel Hadany‘s ceramic creation, a large outdoor installation, entitled: “Oasis environmental sculpture.”  

The Park of the Australian Soldier (opened 2008) is located at the corner of Sha’ul ha-lighthorse-charge-statueMelekh and Abba Ahime’ir streets in Yud Aleph. It tells the full story of the liberation of Be’er-Sheva from the Ottoman-Turkish Empire during WWI by the horse-ridden British Commonwealth & ANZAC forces on October 31, 1917, featuring a marvelous life-like bronze statue of a soldier in the “Lighthorse” Regiment charging the city. This park also has playground equipment that is especially suited to use by disabled children. Annual, international commemorative ceremonies are held in this park with the participation of dignitaries from Israel, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. 

Parks and groves OKed for barbeques

Bell Park; Ne’ot Lon Grove; and soon the River Park area near the man-made lake.

Dog parks

Thus far, there are special dog parks in the following neighborhoods: Aleph, Bet, Daled, Dog care signHey, Tet, Yud-Aleph and Ne’ot Lon. These a places where the dogs may be loosed to run around freely and do their ‘business’. The dog-poop-laws1municipal regulations that apply to the dog owners are clearly posted at the entrances.

Ecology & “Greening” Beer-Sheva

Plant life in Be’er-Sheva

There is a prevalent misconception that semi-arid desert areas are ‘baren’ and ‘lifeless’, but nothing could be farther from the truth! Be’er-Sheva is teeming with self-sustaining, Desert landscaping 2indigenous plant life and non-indigenous, climate-appropriate vegetation, as well as some invasive, alien species of flora. In fact, as of the 2016 Survey, entitled Be’er-Sheva Municipal Nature Survey, at least 578 species of plants (grasses, bushes and trees) were observed in the Be’er-Sheva metropolitan area (all of which are able to withstand the desert’s extreme temperatures, high solar radiation & saline soils, and Desert vegetationsurvive on low water consumption), plus ca.20 more rare, protected & endangered, speciesbringing the total number of plant species to 598

Presently, of all the 598 local plant species, there are about 45 alien (non-invasive & invasive) species of plants found in the Be’er-Sheva metropolitan area, some that arrived by acccident and others by design.

Certain specific non-indigenous but climate-appropriate plants were deliberately brought to Be’er-Sheva, relocated from across Israel and/or imported from places all over the world that share similar climatic conditions: Australia, Latin American, South Africa, etc. Indeed, now, thanks to innovations such as: computerized drip-irrigation systems (originating from “Netafim” at nearby Kibbutz Hatzerim); excellent eco-Netafim drip irrigationfriendly fertilizers (originating from the nearby Dead Sea Works); water desalination and/or purification & recycling (by local and nearby water-conversion plants); and plant-species’ hybridization or genetic modification (based on research done at the BGU French Associates Institute for Agriculture and Biotechnology of Drylands)–even nonindigenous plants and trees that used to grow only at higher altitudes or under Evergreen in Beer-shevamore gentle climatic conditions may grow and thrive in Be’er-Sheva given basic care. 

A certain number of non-indigenous, invasive species of flora that have made themselves at home here, with or without human help, are welcome, but some are nuisances or pose threats to the local habitats; hopefully, they will be dealt with sooner, rather than later…  

Indigenous flora include flowers, such as: the lilac or white-colored sand flower Colchicum ritchii R.Br.; the red Tulipa systola Stapf; the pink Dianthus judaicus BoissTsabar cactus (clove); the white Salvia dominica L. (sage); the red Anemone coronaria (Asian buttercup); also thistles & briars, like the common Centaurea; and cacti, like the Opuntia cactus (Heb., tsabar; Prickly pear); and desert-briarsvarious Middle Eastern herbs & spices, such as: Summer savory (Heb., za’atar); savory-rosemaryRosemarinus officinalis (Rosemary); and lots of others. There are also numerous other shrubs, bushes & vines, such as: all-season, many-colored Bougainvilleas; and the white or yellow Jasmine; and grapes galore, to name just a few. And indigenous trees (some even mentioned in the Hebrew Bible), for instance: Acacia, Carob, Date palm, Ficus, Fig, Jubjube, Olive, Tamarisk, Terebinth, and the reinstated pinkflowered Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree); etc.

Some illustrations of flowers, bushes & vines:

 a-rose-from-my-gardendesert flower gardenfresh-flower-on-vinedesert-garlic-plantnegev-flowers3morning-glory-in-my-gardenbougainvilleas1negev-flowers5

varied-desert-gardeningtree_flowers

surinam-cherry bushflowery-dividersyellow-hibiscus-rosa-sinensis

Some illustrations of trees:

tamarisk-treebgu-campus-walkbgu-campus-6pink blossoms1olive-grove-at-bgu2shady-lane-in-neot-lontrees-on-weizman-st-octoberFicus tree in Neveh NoyMature tree2

Alien flora include imported vines like: the Australian Einadia nutans (Climbing saltbush) with its red fruits (a delicacy for birds) and redred bottlebrush at BGUflowered Callistemon phoenicus (Scarlet Bottlebrush); and the exotic Latin American climbing purple Passiflora (Passionfruit) and Mexican Passiflora flowerpurple Tradescantia pallida (Wandering Jew, Purple queen, heart or secretia), as well as relocated Israeli trees, such as: Cypress, Eucalyptus, Pine & Citrus, and imported onespurple-succulent-wandering-jew like: the Brazilian Jacaranda mimosifolia (which sheds beautiful ‘carpets’ of lilac-colored blossoms come the summer heat); and various Asian berry and pink/red/orange-blossomed silk-cotton (charming Bauhinia & prickly Bombax ceiba) trees, as well as the tall, bright-red-flower-crowned Royal Poinciana shade trees–to name just a few examples.       

Several examples of local, invasive flora are: the Acacia victoriae and EucapylptusWashingtonia filifera - invasive calmaldulensis trees (mistakenly planted by the JNF); the Washingtoniaacacia-tree - invasive filifera (Desert fan) palm tree; the Bassia indica (Indian bassia) bush; thelantana-camara-invasive-bush prolific weed Conyza bonariensis (hairy fleabane); and the pretty, but toxic, prickly, sticky two-tone yellow/pink flowered Lantana camara shrub that  spreads like wildfirea favorite of the humming birds 

Six rare & endangered plant species in the Be’er-Sheva metropolitan area are: the purple Allium kollmannium (Kollmann garlic); the brown Iris atrofusca (Dark-brown iris); the yellow Astragalus caprinus (Be’er-Sheva milk-vetch); the Allium papilare (Negev garlic), which is white with a purple stripe; also the very rare beige Garhadiolus angulosus (Desert gradiolus); and the whiskered yellow green Onosma aleppica (Aleppo onosma).

Mature trees

In Be’er-Sheva (where there are never enough trees and never enough shade), ‘mature trees’ (legally defined as trees over 2 meters tall with a trunk width of at least 10 cm, measured at the height of 130 cm) are protected and may not be chopped down unless deemed dangerous to the public at large. The 2016 Be’er-Sheva Municipal Nature Survey identified ca.132 mature trees within the city limits. Some of these trees are hundreds of years old, like the ca.700-year-old Olive tree at the Sami Shamoon College of700-yr-old-olive-tree Engineering. 

A couple illustrations of mature trees:

ethelea-tree-huggerMature tree4Mature tree2Mature tree 4

“Greening” Be’er-Sheva          

In the Hebrew Bible (Genesis II:15), the first commandment God gave to Adam in the Garden of Eden was “to care for and protect the Garden.” Nowadays, if Humanity is to survive on Earth, we too must not remain passive, but rather act in eco-friendly ways.Beer-Sheva City Hall

The “2020 Metropolitan Be’er-Sheva Plan” intends to complete the renovation of the old neighborhoods and infrastructures, to fill in empty lots with highrises, playgrounds & parks, to develop urban ‘green lungs’ Skyscrapers1and provide more shade & cover for pedestrians, while not destroying the unique loess habitat within the Be’er-Park Yud Aleph2Sheva metropolitan areaAmen to that!

The Statutory Municipal Committee for the Environment includes 2 representatives of the local citizenry and 1 delegate from each local green organization, in addition to members of all the relevant municipal departments and environmental agencies and meets at least 3 times a year. The State of Israel holds an annual Israel Week of Love for Nature, Water & the Environment” at the end of March or beginning of April.

The Municipal Unit for the Environment deals with local problems and provides research and consultation to the Municipality – 08-6463987.

Green” organizations (NPOs)

The Moshe Dadon Municipal Pedagogical Farm (founded 1990) is located on the Batz Compound found between the Airforce Technological College, Kfar Rafael Remedial Community & the NegevZoo above the Ne’ot Lon neighborhood. The farm has instructional classrooms as well as fields, orchards, hothouses and plant nurseries for practical hands-on experience. Eight teachers teach agriculture and environmental sciences to ca.46 elementary-school classes from various local schools, run joint projects with the JNF, and supervize high-schoolers majoring in agriculture or ecology – 08-6419519;  Manager, Rafi Haddad, 053-7955652.

The Be’er-Sheva Green Association (founded 1999) consists of volunteers who initiate haim-adiri-portrait-12-2011various projects to improve the environment and quality of life in the city: neighborhood clean-up campaigns; helping the elderly & needy with repairs & renovations; teaching environmental awareness & proper nutrition in the schools; sometimes representing Be’er-Sheva at relevant Knesset meetings in Itsik HelmanJerusalem; etc. Founder Haim Adiri – 08-6424806; Itsik Helman – 052-6620300; Ethelea Katzenell – 077-4180008.

Earths’ Promise (founded 2007) is an eco-social, educational NPO, located in the Gimel neighborhood at the KalisherKalisher Garden - new corn 2011 Ethiopian Absorption Center, that created and manages the לאה קצנל בחנוכת גינה קהילתית בקלישר 2008successful Kalisher Kalisher Garden--planting bougenvilia 2011Community Garden; the Community Composting Network; the Food Forest Projectthe Gimel Produce Urban Organic Farm; the Green Van Project; and develops & oversees community gardens across the Negev Region. It serves as a ‘green‘ consultant for the Municipality regarding self-sustaining urban agriculture, local produce, composting, etc. http://www.earthspromise.org, Michal 054-8339449.

Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI, founded 1953), Be’er-Shevabeer-sheva-marathon-trail Community offers educational outdoor activities, has field schools and leads Nature hikes for school Clean-up campaignschildren and the general public. It was instrumental in establishing the Be’er-Sheva Ring Trail; is also active in several community gardens; and provides valuable SPNI logoresearch and surveys of the flora, fauna & natural habitats in the Be’er-Sheva metropolitan area, serving as an ecological consultant to the Municipality for purposes of urban planning and ‘greening’ the city – 08-6230555, http://www.teva.org.il.

Eco-education and promotion of environmental awareness

In 2014, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Marcus Family Campus was internationally recognized as a green campus” rated no. 24 (among 362 “green” universities around the world) by UI GreenMetric. BGU has a dedicated Green tamarisk-shade-3Council. For example, BGU offices use both sides of each leaf of paper before recycling it; climate-appropriate grass & gardens that are not watered midday; lighting that is mostly energy-conserving LED; and accessible recycling bins. BGU offers a B.Sc. in Environmental Studies and a M.Sc. in Energy Engineering, as well as many other green” courses. Some student eco-activists also belong to the Be’er-Sheva “Green Trend” Cell (founded 1997).

The Sami Shamoon College of Engineering (SCE) has a special Green Processes adi-wolfsonCenter (founded 2004) that educates for sustainable development, clean technology, “green” engineering & chemistry and also runs an awareness-building Green School for children. SCE Prof. (and poet) Adi Toward sustainabilityWolfson developed the first “green” preschool curriculum in Israel and published books on the environment in Hebrew & English, most recently a Hebrew book entitled: Toward sustainability (2016; that I hope to translate into English before the end of 2018, God willing). SCE was chosen in 2008 by the Ministry of Environmental Protection (from among 60 Israeli colleges and universities) to get the national “Green Campus” Award

The “Magen” Special Education School for developmentally mentally disabled young people (ages 6-21), located in the Vav neighborhood, has a therapeutic greenhouse – 08-6277126. Natural surroundings and gardening are known to be very soothing and therapeutic. 

For more eco-education and environmental awareness, please go to the “Climate Reality Project” Internet website.

Eco-activism and eco-friendly behavior

Planting Every year in the spring, Jews in Israel celebrate Tu bi-Shevat (the 15th dayplanting-trees1 of the Hebrew month of Shevat, usually in February) as New Years Day for the Trees; this is primarily done by the planting of trees. Everyone can take part in thegreening” of  Be’er-Sheva. Residents who live in apartments, but would like to plant a garden, may turn to City Hall and join the “A At Earth's Promise with grandson Rongarden for every resident” Project; the city has reserved an area in the Ne’ot Lon neighborhood for the cultivation of personal gardens on request. If every Be’er-Sheva resident with a garden plants only climate-appropriate, non-invasive greenery and/or herbs, spices, fruit trees, etc.; if every building that has its own plot of land (kindergartens, schools, old age homes, public institutions, residential highrises, etc.) fills it with colorful, shade-giving trees; if citizens continue to lobby the Municipality to development more public parks and ‘green lungs’ in the city and to plant more shade-trees along the sidewalks … Every green deed, even small eco-actions make Be’er-Sheva more beautiful, more comfortable, and more self-sustaining! 

Watering – Know that, as part of the effort to conserve drinking water, most of the water being used in the many water features across the city and to irrigate the public parks is water-welling-up-in-2010tertiary-treated water from the local sewage recycling plant (and is NOT fit for drinking). Individuals and institutions that wish to garden and conserve water should invest in a computerized drip-irrigation system (from “Netafim”), set to water the appropriate amount only at night (in accordance with conservation laws). Also, cars, sidewalks, etc. should NOT be washed wastefully using water hoses, but rather by using a pail of Waterworks - Old City squarewater and a long mop (in accordance with Municipal regulations, unless a high-pressure hose & tertiary-treated water are being used, as in the car-washes and industry). Water can be saved at home by installing “Haskhamim” (water-saving devices) on all water faucets – available at ‘do-it-yourself’ & home improvement stores. 

Keeping the city clean and recycling Please throw all trash in trash cans or waste bins. Recycle everything you can at the neighborhood recycling centers: plastics (holey metal bins),plastic-recycling paper & carton (blue bins), non-refundable glass (purple bins), packaging (orange bins); used clothing (gray bins), etc. Used batteries can be recycled at the post offices or at the BGU Aranne Library. Used clothing can also be donated to Wizo (corner of Rager Blvd. & Weizman St., 08-6277714) or the used-clothing bazaar on the paper-recycling-2011BGU Campus in the Gorovoy Building (#30). Useless electronic equipment can also be recycled on the BGU Campus in a special bin at the left rear corner of the Zlotowski Student Center (#70). Construction debris/building materials are removed by “Veolia” Services; order their ‘bigbags’ or a container when you do building or renovations – 08-6274575, 08-6282890. “International Cleanup Day” is on October 31st every year. The first neighborhood cleanup competition in Be’er-Sheva was organized by one of its first “green” activists,Cleanup campaigns 2 Ethelea Katzenell, in 1972 in the Aleph neighborhood, who also later promoted the plastic & paper recycling with Joan AvigurI was alsoJoan Avigur among the first people in Be’er-Sheva to put solar-panels on the roof of my home, to become a producer of “green” electricity.photovoltaic system - solar energy

Harvesting – Every year in the fall, right before the Sukkot (Tabernacles) holiday, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev crops all itsBGU date palm grove date palms, and all are welcome to carry off large fronds, rife with ripe dates. Also, every year at the start of winter, Earth’s Promise gathers volunteer olive pickers to cultivate bgu olive grovethe olives from more than 1,000 trees found in small groves across Be’er-Sheva (notably in front of City Hall and on the BGU Campus). The pickers are later awarded a small bottle of very good, locally pressed olive oil from the crop. Volunteers to work at the Organic Produce Farm in Gimel at Kalisher are welcome all year round; the organic produce is sold there every week – http://www.shadama.org.il, www.earthspromise.org.

Reporting – ‘Good Samaritans’ are asked to report if they happen to recognize an endangered plant, to please immediately call and notify the SPNI of its location –  08-6230555. Moreover, eco-active citizens are asked to help out in maintaining a safe, healthy environment by monitoring and reporting dangers, infractions, etc. observed in Be’er-Sheva to the Municipal Hotlinedial 106. For example, dangerous pits in the streets or sidewalks; pools of stagnant water (that breed mosquitos); foliage or other things blocking sidewalks and passages (causing people to go into the traffic or blocking traffic); downed electric lines; rusty fences, abandoned cars & other objects in public places (e.g., schools, playgrounds, that can cause tetanus); public facilities that are NOT handicapped-accessible; endangered buildings with large cracks; bad smells in the air; very loud noises; unmuzzled loosed or wild dogs (may be rabid); rat infestations; and so forth and so on… Everyone can participate in ‘tikun olam’ (Heb. repairing the world) to make it a better place.  

To learn more about becoming an eco-activist and helping to bring about actual change, please go to the “Climate Reality Project” Internet website.

“Green” architecture

Be’er-Sheva‘s first resident “green” architect, Matti Konesand his firm “Kones Architects,” plans “green” architecture and settlements, using eco-friendly materials. He won the Jeffrey Cook Prize for Desert Architecture in 2012 – 08-6277126. e’er-Sheva‘s first “green” building, the Makleff House, was completed by bet-maklef-green-bldg the Delouya Group in 1963 to house the offices of Bromine Compounds.

Be’er-Sheva‘s first “green” mall in Israel, the huge (160,000 sq m) red“Ofer Grand Canyon Beer-Sheva #1Grand Mall” was opened in 2013. It was designed and built by the very large Israeli firm of Moore-Yaski-Sivan Architects, and is considered the largest mall in Israel to date.

The eternal light, traditionally located above the Torah ark (housing the sacred scrolls of the Hebrew Bible), in the Eshel Avraham” Conservative Community Synagogue is solar-powered, so it’s always lit, even during ordinary power outages.

“Green” art

At the Soroka-University Medical Center (from 2017-) one can see an exhibit of mosaicsEcological art exhibit at Soroka on the subject of ecology in the corridor leading to the Medical Services Building.Ayelet Sela mosaic at SorokaRachel Navon mosaic at Soroka

Animals & Pets

Unique habitat Be’er-Sheva and its environs provide a rare, semi-arid loess habitat, harboring a number of unique species of desert animal life not found elsewhere onbeersheba-lizard1 Earth, such as the spotted desert lizard, Shnunit Be’er-Sheva (Lat., Acanthodactylus beershebensis) and a small mammal nonetheless called the Great Jerboa (Lat., Allactaga major). On hot summer days, you can stroll along a seasonal watercourse (e.g., Yud Aleph Park) and see lizards sunning themselves.desert-lizard2

Haggai Ein-Dor is a licensed snake catcher and breeder – 054-5293838, as is Itai Tessler – 052-3704297 – should the need arise. Back when Be’er-Sheva was still a tiny settlement, most bordering on open desert, quite frequently desert snakes, spiders and scorpions wandered into residential areas; this is quite rare now in the large metropolitan city. In any case, they are to be avoided and, should anyone be bitten, they should be rushed immediately to the Soroka ER, preferably along with the dead ‘biter’, so the right anti-venom can be used immediately.

A multitude of indigenous species

A surprisingly large number and variety of mammals, reptiles and insects are natural residents of Be’er-Sheva. As of the comprehensive survey done in 2016, entitled Be’er-Sheva Municipal Nature Survey, there are at least 256 indigenous species of animals in the Be’er-Sheva metropolitan area. To name just a few examples, they range from: moles, porcupines, badgers, desert turtles, mice & rats; to snakes, lizards, chameleons & snails; and to dragon-flies, butterflies, praying-mantises & bubble-bees. In fact, of butterflies alone 36 species were observed, as were 19 different types of local reptiles and ca.60 nesting species of birds!

mole-at-my-gate2Desert turtle SnailDragonflyBlack Swallowtail ButterflyBlack Swallowtail Butterfly larvaPraying mantisBee hives, honey farmDesert beetleMouse in Beer-Sheva

In support of the reality of the Hebrew Biblical plagues (carried on hamsin winds across the Sinai Desert from Egypt), I personally witnessed a brief demi-‘plague’ of small emerald-green frogs that appeared all over my yard sometime in the late 1980s. Then, locusts-in-the-negevthere was a short-lived ‘plague’ of flying locusts in the early 1990s, when I learned that locusts are kosher and that the poor Yemenite-Jews in 1950s Be’er-Sheva had sent their children out to catch them, to make locust soup, that apparently tastes somewhat like chicken soup. Another ‘almost plague’ was thwarted before reaching Be’er-Sheva in 2015. 

Migrating birds Many of the ca. 500 million birds that migrate over Israel annuallywhite-heron (passing between Asia, Europe & Africa) fly over or stop in our welcoming Be’er-Shevacrow oasis. For example, large white storks fly over every Fall and again when returning to Europe in the Spring, while smaller wintering birds, like the European stonechatstop here for the duration, before flying back to Europe and northern Asia. Summering birds, such as the European turtle dove, arrive in the Spring and return to Africa and Asia come the end of July-August. In 2017, 117 bird species were sighted in Be’er-Sheva by local ornithologists (8th place in Israel sightings). The Negev Birdwatching Center offers guided bird-watchingkingfisher-visiting outings – 08-6414470/77. One year, a large orange & turquois kingfisher passing through ate all the tiny goldfish in my garden pond before I caught on … ; a propos, a nice goldfish pond may be seen at the Druyan Plant Nursery.gold-fish-pond

Endangered indigenous birds include: the Lesser kestrel, the Red falcon, the Houbara bustard and various types of bats, eagles & owls.

Israel’s nathoopoe-the-national-birdional bird, the striking red-combed, black & white-striped Hoopoe, also resides in Be’er-Sheva.

Native birds that nest in Be’er-Sheva include: doves, starlings, hoopoes, bulbuls, humming birds, white desert owls, bats andmigrating-bird-2 others. Often at dusk, flocks of starlings may be seen swirling above theflocks-of-birds1 City Hall.

Pets As for pets, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is a ‘cat haven’. It keeps itsResting with my cat in my yard Campus cats innoculated, spayed and very well loved and fed by the students, some of whom also care for and train seeing-eye dogs. Seeing-eye dog at BGUA propos dogs, the Be’er-Sheva Municipality Dog care signhas strict regulations (and stiff fines) for dog owners: dogs must be vaccinated; may be loosed only in home enclosures or dog-poop-laws1leashed or muzzled in public areas; any dog poop on public paths must be collected and disposed. There are now 4 designated “dog parks” around the city, and more are being prepared.

Dangerous dogs, such as: Amstaffs, Bull Terriers, Argentine Dogues, Japanese Tosas, Fila Brasileiros & Rotweilers, require annual licensing, neutering at 6 months, a closed yard, a warning sign in the entrance, an adult walker and a muzzle. Any wild dog sighted should be reported immediately to the Municipal Veterinary Dept. – 08-6270099 or 052-4377998. Hagar Rubin is a professional dog trainer – 054-6814885. There are pet shops galore; some even deliver pet food to your home for free!

Medical care Be’er-Sheva has professional veterinarians (Dr. Tatiana Vaisman even makes house calls – 054-7699071), a veterinary clinic Mirparinaria – 08-6279010, and a nearby Veterinary Hospital just off Hebron Road at the Tel Sheva junction – 08-9953681. The district office of the Ministry of Health treats animal and insect bites – 08-6263553. The Be’er-Sheva S.P.C.A. (founded 1976) should be contacted to pick up strays and to adopt adorable pets – 08-6232894, 08-6238118, 08-6281808. Pets may also be adopted via the “Be’er-Sheva Loves Animals Society” – 052-4377998 or beer7la@gmail.com.

Ruvik Danilovich - MayorSpecial recognition of Be’er-Sheva as the paragon of animal rights & welfare – In 2018, the Israel Knesset’s Animal Rights Coalition chose the City of Be’er-Sheva as the Israeli city best exemplifying animal rights and welfare, and invited Mayor Ruvik Danilovich to speak about the many enacted & functioning pro-animal projects.

Annual pet-related events For information on the CAC Chinese Chou ChouInternational Dog Show, with over 100 breeds shown, judged & sold or the Junior Dog Groom Championship – 03-6727174, http://www.ikc.org.il.english-terrier-21 japanese-dog-shitsu

As strange at it may sound, fish lovers from all across Israel gather at the Reef Center in the Ramot neighborhood once a year, here in the Negev Desert, to discuss raising pet-fish in gold-fish bowls and aquariums – 077-200-2012.desert-fox-at-zoo

All year round The Be’er-Sheva Municipal Zoological Garden (1964-), better known as the NegevZoo, has a wide variety of weasel-at-the-zoonative, exotic & rare creatures and a petting zoo for the little ones – 08-6414470/77, http://www.negevzoo.co.il. A mobile petting zoo – Teva-taf – brings animals to educational events and parties. 072-3212477; 052-6768422.ibex-feeding