Beersheba ( Hebrew romanization Be’er Sheva ) is the largest city in the Negev desert of Israel , and is often called the Capital of the Negev. In 2005 , Beersheba had a population of 185,500 making it the sixth largest city in Israel. 20 years before, the population was just 110,800. It is the administrative center for the southern region and home of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev , Soroka Hospital, and the Israeli Sinfonietta of Be’er Sheva. The city dates back at least to the time of Abraham . The city has expanded considerably since the founding of the state in 1948 . Today the town is inhabited mainly by Jews who originally immigrated to Israel from Arab countries and the former Soviet Union . Be’er Sheva is surrounded by a number of satellite towns: Omer , Lehavim and Meitar are mainly Jewish towns and there are a number of Bedouin towns around Beersheba; the largest are Rahat , Tel Sheva and Laqye.
Beersheba is divided into a number of small neighbourhoods that are mostly numbered. Shekhuna (Hebrew for neighbourhood) Alef (1), Bet (2), Gimmel (3), Dalet (4), Hey (5), Vav (6), Tet (9), Yud-Alef (11), Ramot, Neve Noy, Neve Ze’ev, Darom, the Old City, Nahal Beka and Nahal Ashan. (For no apparent reason there is no Shekhuna Zayin (7), Het (8) or Yod (10)). The Old City is somewhat run-down, and though it has a number of memorable buildings dating from Ottoman times, the municipality has done little to restore these gems. Some private organisations own these buildings and maintain them but most are ruins. North Dalet and parts of Gimmel have bad reputations for being populated by drug users, but the parts of these neighbourhoods that are closer to the University are full of students and are less affected by crime.