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Modern city of Beit Shemesh
|Name meaning||House of the sun|
|Also spelled||Bet Shemesh (officially)|
|Area||34259 dunams (34.259 km2; 13.227 sq mi)|
Beit Shemesh (Hebrew: בֵּית שֶׁמֶשׁ, officially also spelled Bet Shemesh, also spelled Beth-shemesh; Arabic: بيت شيمش; Greek: Βαιθσαμυς; Latin: Bethsames) is a city in Israel's Jerusalem District, with a population of 72,600 people. The modern day city was founded in 1950, although settlement has been on the site since pre-Biblical periods.
The ancient city of Beit Shemesh ("house of the sun" or "temple of the sun" in Hebrew) was originally named after the Canaanite sun-goddess Shemesh, which was worshipped there in antiquity. The ruins of the ancient biblical city can still be seen in the tell of Beit Shemesh, located near the modern city.Several important and unique archaeological discoveries have been made in recent digs at the tell. The most ancient iron workshop in the world was discovered here in 2003. The only remnants of a fortified city with an advanced water system, from the time of the early Kingdom of Judah was found here. In all layers from this period, the bones of animals were all of kosher animals, in contrast to nearby ancient fortresses and settlements of that period such as Maresha, Azeka or Lachish, suggesting an early Jewish settlement and advanced kingdom in the early biblical "kings" period.
During the destruction of Judea by the Babylonians, the waterworks of Beit Shemesh were sealed and covered, and were not uncovered until 2004. Thus during the first Jewish return, known as the Second Temple period, there was no revival of the city, as opposed to many other places in the vicinity such as Beit Guvrin, Maresha, and others. Consequently, the small towns of Dayr Raban and Dayr Rafat had used secondary rocks for building, from this very ancient source. Also found nearby is a prehistoric Megalith circle, probably the structure responsible for the name Beit Shemesh.
Beit Shemesh is first mentioned in the Book of Joshua 15 as a city in the territory of the tribe of Judah on the border between their territory and that of the tribe of Dan. Later in Joshua 21 Beit Shemesh is mentioned as having been set aside a city for the priests of the tribe of Levi, the Kohanim.
The city is mentioned notably in chapter 6 of the book of Samuel I as being the first city encountered by the ark of the covenant on its way back from Philistia after having been captured by the Philistines in battle.
From the War of Independence
During the 1948 war of independence, the Egyptian army invaded the area and set up a fortified post ("Mishlat") on the hill that would later become Beit Shemesh. The post changed hands several times during fighting. The Harel Brigade occupied part of the post for several months giving rise to the name "the joint post" or the "Mishlat HaMeshutaf" with a mere 60 meters dividing them and the enemy forces. The Mishlat was finally taken by the Harel force in the "HaHar" offensive during the night of 19–20 October 1948. The site of the Mishlat is that of the modern HaMishlat St. in old Beit Shemesh
Beit Shemesh is the point from which the famous Convoy of 35, or Lamed Heh, set out to relieve the besieged Gush Etzion. On 15 January 1948 a group of 38 Palmach volunteers set out from the Hartuv area near Beit Shemesh. Soon after they set out, one of the soldiers sprained his ankle and the convoy of 35 continued on towards the besieged kibbutzim. Their presence was discovered after they met with an Arab shepherd and they were all killed in an ensuing battle.
On December 6, 1950, the Hartuv displaced persons camp "Ma'abarat Har-Tuv" was established on the site of the current-day Moshav Noham. The first inhabitants were Jewish Bulgarian immigrants. They were joined by more Jewish immigrants from Bulgaria, Iran, Iraq, Romania, Morocco and Kurdistan. In 1952 the first permanent houses were built in Beit Shemesh.
Prior to 1948 the Ramat Beit Shemesh neighborhood area was the site of a large Arab town called Beit Natif. Parts of this village's outskirts still remain in the Kibbutz Netiv Halamed Heh. The Arab town itself was built on remnants of an ancient Judean town, with various remnants of Jewish settlement from the time, such as a mosaic floor, wineries and other remains, especially from the period of the Hasmonean kings and earlier. This area is currently under dispute about preservation, having been subject of a grassroots campaign.
In its early years, Beit Shemesh came to typify the "Development Town" with a largely North African immigrant population. In 1977, following a writeup in the Haaretz newspaper, Beit Shemesh was perceived as the main outpost for Menachem Begin's Likud party. He promised to "rehabilitate neighborhoods" - and when reaching power in what was called "the revolution" that year, money began pouring in to the city and it immediately began to grow although its image as a backward, undeveloped town still remained.
With the large-scale immigration from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, new neighborhoods were built at an accelerated rate in the city as the population grew rapidly. One particular group who settled in Beit Shemesh was made up of Jews who had converted to Judaism in two villages two centuries prior, and kept the religion in secret under the Soviet regime. Also in the 1990s, a large number of Ethiopian Jews started arriving in Beit Shemesh together with affluent new immigrants from English speaking countries. Later, in 2002, a large congregation of Ethiopian Jews of the Falashmura reached Beit Shemesh.
In the 1990s, new neighborhoods and districts were added to the city. A Haredi neighborhood, Nahala UMenucha was constructed adding yet another facet to the changing demographics of the city, whilst in 1998, two new sections of the city were established - Ramat Beit Shemesh A and B - which doubled the size of the city and further changed its demographics. Furthermore, in 2002, following tensions between the Haredi and non-religious population, concerning who should be populating Ramat Beit Shemesh, plans were drawn up to build an extra secular neighborhood called HaShachar, as a separate city. Work began at the entrance to Ramat Beit Shemesh, but because of legal problems and a continued dispute over the population of this new city, the plan was abandoned.
On March 13, 1997, seven 11 year-old girls from Beit Shemesh's Feurst School were killed on a class trip to the Jordan Valley, visiting the "Island of Peace", a joint Israeli and Jordanian tourist resort, under Jordanian rule. A Jordanian soldier opened fire on the schoolchildren. King Hussein of Jordan came to Beit Shemesh to extend his condolences and ask forgiveness in the name of his country, a step which was seen both as touching and courageous.
Directly adjacent to the main part of Beit Shemesh lies the mostly Orthodox Jewish Ramat Beit Shemesh, which is often regarded as a separate town, even though it is a neighborhood of Beit Shemesh. Its name means "Beit Shemesh Heights", as it located on a mountaintop above the original city, approximately 18 kilometres (11 mi) west of Jerusalem. Its population mainly consists of Orthodox Jews with many different outlooks and opinions.
The neighborhood has two sections, Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef and Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet (Alef and Bet signifying 1 and 2, respectively), often called RBSA and RBSB. The former area has a more mixed population of secular, religious, and (mainly American) Haredi Jews, while the latter is populated almost exclusively by the more fundamentalist Haredi Jews. RBSB is located between Beit Shemesh and RBSA, sometimes causing confusion and/or clashes of cultures and religious beliefs for people attempting to navigate their way through RBSB between RBSA and Bet Shemesh. Currently, a great deal of religious conflict has manifested itself in various areas of Ramat Bet Shemesh. The conflicts are not only between the Haredi (Ultra Orthodox) Jews and the Religious Zionist Jews, but within the Haredi and Chassidic Jewish groups themselves. See the following newspaper article that documents some of the 'issues'.
Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef as well as neighborhoods within Beit Shemesh have become home to a growing number of American, British and other English-speaking immigrants to Israel during the past decade.
According to CBS, in 2003 the ethnic makeup of the city was 100.0% Jewish and other non-Arab, with no significant Arab population. There are thousands of Jewish immigrants. See Population groups in Israel.
According to CBS, in 2005 there were 32,900 males and 33,000 females. The population of the city was spread out with 51.7% 19 years of age or younger, 15.3% between 20 and 29, 17.4% between 30 and 44, 9.6% from 45 to 59, 1.4% from 60 to 64, and 4.6% 65 years of age or older. The population growth rate in 2005 was 6.4%.
From the time when the city was started in 1952 the poluation of Beit Shemesh comprised a mixture of Olim from Iran, Iraq, Romania, Morocco and other North African countries and Kurdistan. Later in the 1990s new arrivals came from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopia and the affluent Western English speaking countries.
From the 1990s onwards, Beit Shemesh has had a considerable Orthodox Jewish population, including a sizable Chareidi (ultra-Orthodox) segment, that continues to expand and grow as religious families look beyond the more central areas of Jerusalem for available housing suited to large families. Many synagogues and yeshivas have been built in the community. Movements represented in Beit Shemesh include Ger, Belz, Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok, Satmar and Neturei Karta.
In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of English speaking Israelis who have moved to Beit Shemesh. Considerable numbers have come from North America, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia. This population tends to be Orthodox, educated and from middle income groups. The main areas of "Anglo" settlement are the Dolev area of RBS, Sheinfeld, Nofei Aviv and Migdal HaMayim. The Anglo immigration wave has seen real estate prices skyrocket in Beit Shemesh in general, and in the Anglo neighborhoods in particular.
According to CBS, there are 56 schools and 14,148 students in the city. They are spread out as 41 elementary schools and 10,716 elementary school students, and 20 high schools and 3,432 high school students. 40.3% of 12th grade students were entitled to a matriculation certificate in 2001.
Beit Shemesh has two industrial zones containing mainly small industry. This is especially true of the Northern industrial zone which is typified by carpentry and metalwork workshops, garages and wholesale and retail outlets. The Western industrial zone contains several larger companies including Beit Shemesh Engines Ltd. (BSEL) which manufactures and repairs jet engines and jet engine components, Barzellan and others. Nearby in the Noham industrial zone are situated various other factories and offices.
Since the hi-tech boom of 1996-2001 it has been host to several hi-tech startups.
According to ICBS, as of 2005, in the city there were 15,321 salaried workers and 1058 are self-employed. The mean monthly wage in 2005 for a salaried worker in the city is ILS 4,896, a real change of -1.9% over the course of 2005. Salaried males have a mean monthly wage of ILS 6,392 (a real change of -4.8%) versus ILS 3,533 for females (a real change of 4.7%). The mean income for the self-employed is 5,153. There are 429 people who receive unemployment benefits and 2,838 people who receive an income guarantee.
Beit Shemesh Railway Station provides hourly service on the Israel Railways Kfar Sava–Jerusalem line. The station located in the north industrial zone of Beit Shemesh. It was most recently opened on 13 September 2003, having existed for over a century at the same location. The station has three platforms.
Bus transportation within Beit Shemesh and most inter-city routes is operated by Superbus, which began service on 5 January 2009. The Egged Bus Cooperative, which previously operated all bus service in and to Beit Shemesh, still operates a limited number of bus lines from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem and Bnei-Brak.
Beit Shemesh is home to numerous sports clubs all under the main sport associations (Beitar, Hapoel, and Maccabi). The city has soccer teams including juniors seniors and over-35s teams and also boasted a franchise in the Israel Baseball League. The Beit Shemesh Blue Sox represented Beit Shemesh in the league's only season, though they played their games at Gezer Field in Kibbutz Gezer due to a lack of proper facilities in Beit Shemesh.
Martial arts are also well represented in Beit Shemesh and there are martial arts clubs and schools. In the field of judo, Elitzur Beit Shemesh has won many prizes. Israel Kung Fu and world Nunchaku champion (2001) Eli Ivgi was born in and lives in Beit Shemesh.
Rabbis of Beit Shemesh
- Shimon Bitton - Chief Rabbi of Beit Shemesh
- Avishai David - Rabbi of BMTL synagogue
- Yaacov Haber - Rabbi of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun
- Efraim Kirschenbaum - Rabbi of Beis Medrash Pnei Shmuel
- Elimelech Kornfeld - Rabbi of Kehillas Hagra
- HaAdmor Kalman Menachem Shapira - Rebbe of Piazeczna - Rabbi of Aish Kodesh
- David Avraham Spektor - Rabbi of the Givat Sharet neighborhood
- Aryeh Mordechai Yudelowitz - Rabbi of Mevakshei Hashem
Twin towns - Sister cities
Beit Shemesh is twinned with:
On October 7, 2007, the city became a sister city with Cocoa, Florida. Mayors Mike Blake (Cocoa) and Daniel Vaknin (Beit Shemesh) both signed two copies of a contract declaring them as official sister cities.
- ↑ "Table 3 - Population of Localities Numbering Above 1,000 Residents and Other Rural Population". Israel Central Bureau of Statistics. 2008-12-31. http://www.cbs.gov.il/population/new_2009/table3.pdf. Retrieved 2009-06-08.
- ↑ Beit Shemesh - Biblical city on the border between Judah and Philistia, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved November 23, 2007.
- ↑ "With condolence visit to Israel, King Hussein spurs talks", CNN, March 16, 1997. Accessed July 22, 2007. "King Hussein of Jordan knelt in mourning Sunday with the families of seven Israeli schoolgirls gunned down last week by a Jordanian soldier, saying they were all 'members of one family.'"
- ↑ Ettinger, Yair (2007-12-04). "Haredi dominance of Beit Shemesh 'is only matter of time'". Haaretz. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/930995.html. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
- ↑ Beit Shemesh rally reflects haredi-modern Orthodox tensions
- ↑ Friedman, Jane. "SLOW TRAIN TO JERUSALEM", The New York Times, August 7, 1983. Accessed September 23, 2007. "Built in 1892 by the French during the Turkish reign, the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem line is one of the few early Middle East train lines to have survived the effects of wars and sands."
- ↑ http://www.tapuz.co.il/Forums2008/Popups/ShowAttach.aspx?file=http://img2.timg.co.il/forums/1_123724512.jpg&msgid=123724512 (Hebrew)
- ↑ Schaefer, Gayla. "Communities create ties: Cocoa, Israeli town become sister cities with ceremony"[dead link], Florida Today, September 28, 2007. Accessed October 7, 2007. "As of Sunday, October 7, the city of Cocoa and the city of Beit Shemesh, Israel will become sisters."