I grew up in Beer Sheva, the capital of the Negev desert,Â a large and quite unpopulated desert. Since my migration to Tel Aviv, I rarely visit. Many of my friends have also left the city and now live in Tel Aviv or it’s suburbs.
The city, with a population of nearly 200,000 has always been dry. Most of the stronger population lives in the community satellite towns of Omer, Lehavim and Meitar. These include university professors and workers of the various chemical plants that surround the city. Beer Sheva got only a few of these more educated people. This includes my parents.
Despite the rapid growth of the Ben Gurion university in the past decade, not many stay in the city. Half of the students don’t come from the south, and most of them return after graduating. Many locals, like myself, say goodbye.
Avishay Braverman, the president of the university until the last elections, raised lots of funds for new buildings and new faculties. In his time, the university built up a reputation of an excellent place to study at, especially socially. He also had a vision of creating more jobs in the city and the area, but that didn’t really work out. Currently he is with the labor party, one of the promising shining stars of the party in the last elections. He hasn’t proved himself yet, though…
Anyway, since I had a birthday and my parents invited me, I was obligated to pay a visit. Just a 100 kms on an excellent empty road and I’m in Beer Sheva. I used the opportunity to visit some old friends down there. My friends that still live there are true patriots of the city. As long as they have a job, they don’t feel any need to move to the center of the country. They prefer not having traffic jams and like the good desert air at night. They still aren’t frustrated from the lower salaries and from the serious lack of bars, cafes, restaurants and more cultural leisure options. They barely leave the city, not even to visit me….
Well, not much has changed. The bright sun still blinds my eyes and the depressed town is still “dry”. A new Irish pub didn’t convince me that a serious change in the atmosphere has arrived. The students still leave town after graduation, so that the new blood goes elsewhere.Â The city is just a big provincial town. Except being felt, it is also seen in the calm housing market. Apartments for sale or rent are always available and at rock bottom prices.
So, I don’t look back in anger, and not with nostalgia.