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Lunada Children's Museum and Abraham's Well Visitor's Center in Beersheba

Beersheba is located on the northern edge of the Negev desert and is often regarded as the “Capital of the Negev.” There are a number of worthwhile places to visit with the family including the Lunada Children’s Museum, which is a children’s museum of international caliber, and Abraham’s Well International Visitors’ Center. which brings alive this forefather of the Jewish people. A walk in Beersheva River Park will be reviewed in due course and also a hike close to the city. Tel Beer Sheva National Park is only a few Km from the city center and is a UNESCO world heritage site.

Beersheba is one of the fastest-growing cities in Israel and is the eighth-most populous city in Israel. It is the home of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Seroka Medical Center and has developed a reputation for high-tech.

 

Beersheba has a rich history due to its location along ancient trade routes and has been an important hub for trade and commerce. Human settlement dates from the Chalcolithic period between 5000 to 6000 years ago. Tel Be’er Sheva, now an archeological site some 4 Km from the modern city, was probably the town of the biblical Beersheba. Beersheba is mentioned in the Bible as being associated with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and it was an important city in the Israelite era. It was also a regional center during the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods. It lost its importance during the Muslim period. However, during the Ottoman period it served as an administrative center for the benefit of the Bedouin and had a military garrison. Until World War I it was a mainly Arab city. The city was allocated to the Arabs by the United Nations Partition Plan, but was conquered by the IDF. Following the War of Independence, the city experienced a population boom and thousands of Jewish immigrants moved in, many of whom had been displaced from Arab countries.   

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Abraham’s Well International Visitors’ Center

This center is the only place in Israel dedicated solely to the story of Abraham. This almost 4,000-year-old story s an important one within Judaism, since among other things it provides the justification for the creation of a Jewish state in this land. Abraham is also recognized as the spiritual forefather of the three great monotheistic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

 

The focus of this center are two wells and a tamarisk tree. The larger one is considered to be a well that Abraham constructed. They are located outside the main building but within the center. This building itself was erected in 2014, its design being inspired by Abraham’s desert tent. It is located by a bridge that crosses Nahal Be’er Sheva and on the edge of the Old City of Beersheba.

 

The story about this well is told in the book of Genesis. The servants of Abimelech, the king of Gerar, had taken over a well that Abraham had dug:

 

Then Abraham reproached Abimelech for the well of water which the servants of Abimelech had seized. But Abimelech said, “I do not know who did this; you did not tell me, nor have I heard of it until today.” Abraham took sheep and oxen and gave them to Abimelech, and the two of them made a pact. Abraham then set seven ewes of the flock by themselves, and Abimelech said to Abraham, “What mean these seven ewes which you have set apart?” He replied, “You are to accept these seven ewes from me as proof that I dug this well.” Hence that place was called Beer-sheba, for there the two of them swore an oath. When they had concluded the pact at Beer-sheba, Abimelech and Phicol, chief of his troops, departed and returned to the land of the Philistines (Genesis 21:25-32).

 

Sheva has the meaning in Hebrew of either an oath or seven, both words having the same three root letters. Hence, Beersheva could mean the “well of the oath” or “the well of the seven (ewes)’ or perhaps even both.

 

The well was described by Claude Reigner Conder, an English soldier and explorer, in 1838. He noted that the larger of the two circular wells was stoned up very neatly with solid masonry and was 44½ feet deep, the bottom 16 feet of which was excavated into solid rock. The water at the bottom was pure and sweet.

 

The tour arranged by the center is about ¾ hour. First is a short talk about Abraham and a review of a map of Abraham’s journey from Ur of the Chaldees. You then enters a walkway with a very impressive audiovisual presentation of biblical verses and scenes of the desert area. This leads to the second floor for a 3D presentation of the main highlights of Abraham’s life. The movie ends with an overlook of the wells and tamarisk tree.  One then goes outside. For the kids there is a small well from which they can draw water. There is also a walkway with photos about the historical development of Beersheba.

Directions: The address is Derekh Hebron 2. Enter “Abraham’s Well Visitor Center” into Waze. There is free parking in the parking lot outside the building. Their phone number is 08 623-4613.

Admission: Museum hours are Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visits need to be with a prearranged tour (without a tour all you can do is look at the well and tamarisk tree). You choose your language. Other times can be accommodated for groups, including on Friday and Saturday. Admission is 34 NIS for adults and 25 NIS for children and seniors. The phone number is 08 623-4613. This is their website

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Did Abraham really dig this well?

 

One could well ask - what is the likelihood that Abraham dug this particular well? Abraham certainly lived in this area. Plus, there are many wells in the Beersheba Valley, as there is a large aquifer. However, there is an Arab tradition of this being Abraham’s well and it is called in Arabic "Bir Al-Saba,” which means well of the morning or well of the dawn. However, to confuse matters, a discoverer in the late 19th century found that the masonry around this well is not particularly old. Inside the well is an inscription in Arabic dated to 505 AH or the twelfth century CE. The masonry of this well can therefore be dated to this time. Nevertheless, this does not negate the possibility of a redo of a considerably more ancient well. Hotever, there is no other archeological evidence dating this well to any specific period. So, we will never know.

 

Abraham planted a grove of tamarisk trees in Beersheba (Genesis 21:33), but this was not one of them. This is more in the way of a representation of the activities of Abraham. The trees he planted would have stood out in an area which otherwise had a paucity of trees, and this would attracted the attention of travelers. Why was Abraham so interested in travelers? This relates to his activities as a forefather of Judaism.

 

The greatness of Abraham is often considered to be his discovery of the One God, and thus being the originator of Judaism and then Islam and Christianity. But this is only partially true. The Bible itself makes clear that there were other monotheists at the time of Abraham, such as Malchizedek, the king of Salem, (although he may have been a disciple of Abraham).

 

However, what distinguished Abraham and differentiated him from say the monotheist Noah was his promoting the knowledge of God. This is why he planted a grove of tamarisk trees. He also went out of his way to be hospitable to guests, and this allowed him to discuss with them about the One God.

 

This is also why he relocated to Beersheba, since it was located at the convergence of well-travelled desert routes. Moreover, equally important as his monotheism was his discovery of Jewish ethics, namely justice, righteousness and the way of God (Genesis 18:19). Just as God is righteous and just, so we should endeavor to imitate Him. This is called in Latin “Imitatio Dei” and is the basis of Jewish and Christian ethics (but not Islamic ethics). These matters are not discussed in this museum.

Lunada Children’s Museum

The Lunada Children’s Museum is an incredible place, equal to the best of children’s museums anywhere in the world. It has three floors with over 50 play activities, plus outdoor areas, all of which will keep children occupied for many hours. There is also a project workshop. All activities are explained in Hebrew, English and Arabic.

 

There is a snack bar for hot and cold drinks, snacks, ice cream and pizza. There is indoor and lots of outdoor seating with picnic benches.

Directions: The address is Derekh Hebron 2. Enter “Abraham’s Well Visitor Center” into Waze. There is free parking in the parking lot outside the building. Their phone number is 08 623-4613.

Admission: Enter “Lunada” into Waze and click on “לונדע, מוזיאון עולם הילד, 25 דוד הראובני, באר שבע.“

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