The significance of Be'er Sheva during WWI
The city of Be'er Sheva itself is the tenth and final stop on the ANZAC Trail.
During the Ottoman period the Beersheba area was known for its many wells and as an important meeting place for the Negev Bedouin. At the beginning of the 20th century the Ottoman regime wanted to strengthen its control in the Negev and built a well-planned city here. Modern Beersheba was inaugurated in 1907.
During World War I, Beersheba became an important military base and logistical center, as the desert city had 17 abundant wells. The Turkish forces defending the city numbered around 4,300 soldiers and 1,000 mounted troops.
The Be'er Sheva River Park and Turkish Bridge
The area between Tel Be’er Sheva and the Turkish city is now a large park that runs along the Beersheba streambed for some eight kilometers. The Beersheba River Park
(Park Nahal Be'er Sheva)was built with the support of Friends of KKL-JNF from around the world, in cooperation with the Shikma-Besor Drainage Authority, the Beersheba Municipality and the Environmental Protection Ministry. In the heart of the park you will find the restored structures of the Beit Eshel Lookout
Around a kilometer west of Beit Eshel are the impressive remains of the Turkish railroad bridge that spanned the Beersheba streambed.
At 4:30 p.m. the 4th Australian Light Horse Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General William Grant, proceeded toward the Turkish positions, which were in the area of Beit Eshel (now in the heart of the Beersheba Stream Park). The Turks expected that, as usual, the Australian horsemen would advance until reaching the range of the defenders’ rifles, and then dismount and charge on foot.
But there was a surprise awaiting them. At the signal, the Australians galloped directly into the defenders’ positions and overran them with lightning speed. The 12th Regiment exploited the breach and its horsemen galloped without delay into the center of the city to capture the wells.
Beersheba had been taken, wells intact.
Allenby Park was planted in 1902 and was one of the country’s first public gardens. It was located near the Turkish Government House (the Saraya building) and was used for public assemblies.
In 1915, at the order of Jamal Pasha, the Turkish Army commander, the park was refurbished. The gardeners, most of them graduates of the Mikveh Yisrael Agricultural School, created a symmetrical garden, with four entrances from which four paths lead to the centre of the park where a marble pillar bore a commemorative inscription.
After the British conquest, a statue of General Edmund Allenby was placed on the pillar. The park has gone through numerous permutations, and the Beersheba Municipality plans to rehabilitate it.
To get there: Located at the corner of Herzl and Ha’atzmaut Streets, in the middle of the Old City.
Commonweath War Graves Cemetery
The Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery was established after the conquest of Beersheba in 1917. There are 1,239 soldiers buried there, among them members of the ANZAC Corps that fell in battle in the region stretching from the Besor stream to Beersheba and north to Yavne. The ANZAC fallen buried in Beersheba include 173 Australians and 31 New Zealanders.
To get there: Located in Ha’atzma’ut Street, at the corner of Hertzfeld Street.
The Park of the Australian Soldier
The Park of the Australian Soldier is a memorial park and public playground with special facilities and equipment for children with various types of disabilities. The park aims to promote the integration of special needs children into the community.
The Park of the Australian Soldier commemorates the ANZAC Mounted Division that captured Beersheba. In the centre of the park is an impressive bronze statue of an Australian horseman. A memorial ceremony for those who fell in the Battle of Beersheba is held near the monument every year on the 31st of October, with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Turkey and Israel participating.
The Park of the Australian Soldier was built with a donation from the Pratt Foundation, in conjunction with the Beersheba Foundation, the Beersheba Municipality and Keren Hayesod.
To get there: Located on Ahimeir Street, between Masada and Shaul Hamelech Streets