Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Be’er Sheva 100 Years Ago – On the Eve of World War I

Be'er Sheva (circa 1900). See also here
For centuries, Be’er Sheva was little more than a desert oasis surrounded by scattered Bedouin tribes.  In the 19th century the Ottoman Empire established a garrison in the village (“town” would be an exaggeration), and as war clouds gathered in the early 1900s, the Turkish army presence grew.
Be'er Sheva well (circa 1900). See
also here

The American Colony photographers recorded scenes of the town, showing it sparsely populated and almost barren. 
Army tailors 1917.  See boot-makers here
The photographers took pictures of some of the services that were established for the army – a tailor shop for uniforms, cobblers for the army boots, a mill for flour, etc. 
Be'er Sheva, 1917, on the eve of the war. Note the army
encampment on the right. Click to view the serai, or inn.

The present day Be’er Sheva municipality reported that Jews arrived in Be’er Sheva during this period to work in some of these services and to work on the railroad line and bridges to Be’er Sheva.
The largest building in Be’er Sheva was the serai, an inn.  The wells of Be’er Sheva were the only source of water in the region.
The arrival of the first train in Be'er Sheva, 1917. Note the large
contingent of soldiers. Turkish railroad lines were built
throughout Palestine to support the war effort.
During World War I, Be’er Sheva was a supply center for the Turkish army and an anchor for Turkish-German defense line between Gaza and Be’er Sheva blocking the British army’s advance north from Sinai.  The British attempted to break through the line at Gaza twice in March and April 1917, and they failed disastrously, losing thousands of men. 
Watch for these two features here in coming days: The Battles for Gaza and The Battle for Be’er Sheva, October 31, 1917

Click on the photos to enlarge. Click on the captions to see the originals.

Aerial photo, Be'er Sheva, 1917. (Source Australian Light Horse
Studies Centre.) Note army tents located around the village.
Be'er Sheva today. (Source The Marker)
population 200,000.

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