Re-living History in Beersheva's Allenby Park

With the support of Friends of JNF Australia, the Beersheva Municipality and KKL-JNF will upgrade the historic Allenby Park in Beersheva's Old City, restoring the park to its former splendor during the Ottoman period.
History Repeats itself in Allenby Park in Beersheba
Yaakov Levy
The Beersheba Municipality and KKL-JNF will soon be starting upgrade work in Allenby Park in the Old City.  The upgrade plan, at a cost of two million shekels, is to include installation of modern lighting, garden tree planting and placement of benches and various monuments, which will turn the neglected park into an attractive one.

Allenby Park, 1917. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The Beersheba Municipality and KKL-JNF will be rehabilitating Allenby Park in the Old City, which has been neglected for decades, at a cost of two million shekels, in order to restore it to its original state from about a hundred years ago. The Economic Development Company announced last week that thanks to a contribution of two million shekels from the Jewish community of Australia, they will soon be starting work on upgrading the park. The contribution was obtained following a meeting between Australian representatives and the General Director of the Municipality, Avishag Avtovi, about a year ago.

The upgrade plan is to include the installation of modern lighting, the planting of garden trees, and the placement of benches and various monuments, which will turn the neglected park into an attractive one.

The Municipality says that the plan to upgrade the park is part of the city's investment in the museums route in the Old City, hoping to make the area prosper. The museums route is supposed to start from the visitors site at Abraham’s Well in the south of the Old City and end at the Madarom area located at the end of Haatzmaut Street passing the Negev Museum.

Allenby Park, which covers an area of 3.5 square kilometers, is named after the English General Edmund Allenby. The park that was constructed in 1902 included trees, an orchard and garden shrubs, and it served as a leisure site for those who came to the Ottoman government building in the city. The park was constructed without a surrounding wall, and within a short time it was destroyed by animals, such as goats and sheep, which ate the vegetation.

In 1915 the park was restored by Djemal Pasha, the military governor who worked on making the desert flourish together with Jewish graduates of Mikveh Israel. By their concerted efforts, they planted trees and shrubs in order to create a pretty, green area. In the middle of the park, a marble column was erected, which was engraved with an inscription lauding the victory of the Ottoman Empire.

After Beersheba was conquered by the British, the new rulers installed a statue of General Allenby, who had conquered the land of Israel from the Ottomans, on the column. During the riots that began in 1938, Arabs shattered the statue, and the British decided not to restore the image of the general on the column. About six years ago, a statue of the legendary General was restored in the park at a ceremony attended by his relatives.
Lately, as stated, the Beersheba Municipality and KKL-JNF decided on the preservation of the park, which will comprise an important link in the chain of cultural and tourism projects in the Old City. Development of the park will be executed through the Beer Sheba Economic Development Company.

Beersheba Mayor Ruvik Danilovic said, “Allenby Park is a milestone in the history of the land of Israel, from the moment it was established to make the desert bloom. Upgrading the park will constitute an important additional attraction in the Old City, which is developing as a focal point of culture and tourism.”