A little information about Ofakim
Photo: Ancho Gosh
The town of Ofakim, which was founded in 1955, lies some twenty kilometers to the north-west of the city of Beersheba, and its name, which means “Horizons,” accurately reflects the flat landscape that surrounds it. The town was originally settled by immigrants from North Africa, who were later joined by new arrivals from a wide variety of other countries. In the 1990s, Ofakim absorbed large numbers of immigrants from Ethiopia and the countries of the former Soviet Union, and today the town has a population of over twenty-five thousand people.Ofakim Park looks toward the future
As part of the almost completed Heart of the Park project, KKL-JNF is continuing to develop Ofakim Park with the intention of transforming it into a leisure center, a venue for cultural events and a site for recreational and sporting activities. In the future, the park’s trees will receive additional irrigation by reclaimed water from the new purification plant that will serve both Beersheba and Ofakim, and which will also supply water for the recreational lake that is part of the future plan for the park.
Ofakim’s new zoning plan allocates the park a central position within the town’s new boundaries, providing a green belt for local residents.Sites in the Park
The main recreation area and the bird sculpture
At the entrance to the park the visitor is greeted by a grove of Athel tamarisks (Tamarix aphylla), a variety of tree resistant to the high temperatures and aridity of the desert. A drive of some 300 meters along the paved road brings us to the lawn and the park’s main recreation area that extends at both sides of the road.
Al-Jarir cave. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik
At the edge of the lawn is a sculpture in the form of a large bird, which is of interest to local children mainly because of the two slides that descend from its neck. Children and adults alike can appreciate the sports and exercise equipment that KKL-JNF has provided at the site, together with the picnic facilities that enable visitors to enjoy a meal in the open air. The recreation area is suitable for people with physical disabilities. The bird sculpture is the work of artists Ruslan Sergeev and Igor Sereni, and the establishment of the recreation area was funded by a donation from the Hadassah Women’s Organization.
The main recreation area is a convenient departure point for visits to other sites in the park, which can be reached easily by a short drive along Derekh HaOfek (“Horizon Way”) or Derekh HaMeara (“Cave Way”).
The park was established with the help of the Israel National Insurance Institute’s Foundation for the Development of Services to the Disabled.Al-Jarir Cave (Maagora)
Once upon a time, the Ottoman governor lived here, protected by a division of soldiers, while he awaited the completion of Patish Fortress. Once completed in 1894, the fortress became the first local administrative center to be built by the Turks outside Gaza, and it helped to consolidate the policies of Sultan Abd al-Hamid II among the unruly Tarabin and Tayaha Bedouin tribes. At the entrance to the cave, which was used as a reservoir in ancient times, is a quarry that provided material for the buildings of the nearby Byzantine site whose stones were later recycled for the construction of Patish Fortress. The quarrymen left stone columns standing to prop up the ceiling of the cave.Patish Fortress
Patish Fortress. Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik
The Patish fortress (Qal‘at Futis in Arabic) was built by the Ottomans in 1894 in order to impose order in the northern Negev, where deadly feuds had broken out between the Bedouin tribes. In nearby Nahal Gerar, in 1917, the British successfully executed one of the great disinformation tactics of the First World War – the “haversack ruse,” which is attributed to Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, an intelligence officer on General Allenby’s staff.
During this period a battle of wits was underway in the Negev as the British strove to break through the Ottoman line of defenses between Gaza and Beersheba. After two British defeats in the Gaza area, Colonel Meinertzhagen, a British officer sympathetic towards Jewish aspirations and the Zionist cause, formulated a scheme to outflank the Turkish force in Gaza and launch a surprise attack on Beersheba. This plan included a deliberate “plant”: a haversack containing personal documents that a British officer would appear to drop accidentally in the course of a clash with a Turkish patrol. The documents were deliberately fabricated to suggest that the British were planning a third attack on Gaza.
Photo: Yaakov Shkolnik
Colonel Meinertzhagen set out alone on his horse and deliberately provoked the Turks, who fired upon him, injuring his horse. As he fled he dropped the bag of documents, whose contents were a masterpiece of intelligence disinformation. The Turks were delighted by the unexpected bounty that had fallen into their hands, and were therefore greatly surprised when, on October 31st, the British launched a major attack on Beersheba and thus paved the way for their conquest of the Land of Israel in its entirety.
Four arches were constructed from the long stones of the Patish fortress. The mound prominently visible on the far side of the river, around a kilometer to the south east of the fortress, is Tel Manoah, where archeologists have uncovered evidence of human settlement from the Israelite period until the Persian period (i.e., between the 11th and 5th centuries BCE). In 2004, KKL-JNF restored the fortress in conjunction with the Drainage Authority, and in the future it will probably be used for business enterprises.