Why would anyone drive from Tel Aviv to Beersheva?
Until recently, that may have been a fair question. Though the unofficial capital of the Negev has always boasted several sites of historical interest, it’s only in the past five years that Beersheva has significantly beefed up its tourist attractions and has transformed into Israel’s cyber-tech hub.

“As Israel’s ‘fourth metropolis,’ Beersheva is just beginning to get noticed and is in the early stage of being seen as a destination,” says veteran tour guide Zel Lederman,  who helped ISRAEL21c compile this list of seven stopovers.

Most people do the 90-kilometer drive on the fast Toll Road 6, but Highway 40 provides a more interesting route to follow if you want to make a true road trip of this adventure. You’ll be surprised how many fascinating sites are found along the way in addition to those we’ve listed.

TEL AVIV->MIKVEH ISRAEL VISITOR CENTER, HOLON, 3.2 KM

From the Kibbutz Galuyot Interchange on the Ayalon Highway (Route 20), take Levi Eshkol Boulevard to the Mikveh Israel Visitor Center on the outskirts of Holon.

This reconstructed 19th century “French” village housed the agricultural school that taught pioneering new immigrants how to work the land. There’s a sculpture commemorating the meeting here between Theodor Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm II; a famous palm boulevard; an architecturally unique synagogue; stone wine cellars; a reconstructed mechanical workshop in which the Davidka, the first Israeli mortar, was invented in 1948; a botanical garden; and an informational film.

Arrange a guided tour ahead of time in English: 972-(0)3-503-0489, orly@shimur.org.il

Motti Mizrachi’s sculpture of the famous meeting of Theodor Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm II at Mikveh Israel Agricultural School. Photo: PikiWiki Israel
Motti Mizrachi’s sculpture of the famous meeting of Theodor Herzl and Kaiser Wilhelm II at Mikveh Israel Agricultural School. Photo: PikiWiki Israel

MIKVEH ISRAEL->DESIGN MUSEUM HOLON, 4.1 KM

The Design Museum Holon,  which opened in March 2010 on Pinchas Eilon Street, is considered one of the world’s leading museums of its kind. Housed in an iconic steel-wrapped building designed by architect Ron Arad, the museum houses one main exhibition at a time. On display from June 7 to October 29, 2016, is “The Space in Between,” the first-ever large-scale retrospective on the renowned Japanese design studio Nendo.

Book guided tours two weeks in advance: 972-(0)3-502-1551, sales@dmh.org.il

Design Museum Holon. Photo: courtesy
Design Museum Holon. Photo: courtesy

Among other attractions in Holon are the Israel Children’s Museum, the Egged Bus Museum  and 40 story gardens scattered through the city.

HOLON->RISHON LEZION MUSEUM, 8.7 KM

Take a guided or self-guided tour (English, Spanish, Russian or Hebrew) through the historic buildings of one of the pre-state’s first settlements  to see where the Israeli flag and national anthem were created. Guides dressed in period costumes recreate the lives of the first settlers on their farms, in the first school that taught in Hebrew, and in the pharmacy, post office, clinic, founder’s house, barber shop, stable and other reconstructions. There are exhibitions on early agriculture and fashion. Details: 972-(0)3-959-8890

One of Rishon LeZion’s historical buildings. Photo: PikiWiki Israel
One of Rishon LeZion’s historical buildings. Photo: PikiWiki Israel

RISHON LEZION->WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE, REHOVOT, 9.7 KM

The campus of this world-renowned graduate science institute offers visitors both indoor and outdoor discovery experiences: the Levinson Visitor Center  with interactive and multimedia exhibits for adults and kids; the historic Weizmann House Visitor Center;  and the Clore Science Garden encompassing 10,000 square meters of green lawns on which an Ecosphere and nearly 80 hands-on exhibits are set up. Information: 972-(0)8-934-4499, visitors.center@weizmann.ac.il

The Clore Garden of Science. Photo courtesy of the Weizmann Institute of Science.
The Clore Garden of Science. Photo courtesy of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Near the Weizmann is the Minkov Citrus Orchard,  the historic orchard responsible for Israel’s world reputation as the producer of coveted Jaffa oranges. Information on tours in English: 972-(0)8-946-9197, pardes@shimur.org.il

REHOVOT->PHILIP CARRIAGE FARM, KIRYAT GAT-LACHISH, 50 KM

Go for a ride in a donkey-drawn cart at Philip Carriage Farm, a refuge for rescued donkeys and dogs. Enjoy a light Bedouin dairy meal, learn the history of the area from the ancient Canaanite era to Israel’s War of Independence, and buy farm-fresh produce, olive oil, pita, jams and olives. To reserve a donkey cart, call 972-(0)50-969-3187.

Donkey carts at Philip Carriage Farm. Photo via i-travelisrael.com
Donkey carts at Philip Carriage Farm. Photo via i-travelisrael.com

Optional side trip: At the Kiryat Gat intersection, drive 8 kilometers east to the caves of Beit Guvrin-Maresha, a 1,250-acre national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

KIRYAT GAT->PURA NATURE RESERVE, 8.1 KM

Hiking in Pura is always a treat, and especially in the spring when it’s bursting with wild anemones. The full three- to four-hour trail is mostly flat except for a climb up to Tel Nagila, a settlement established in the Chalcolithic period. You’ll pass the remains of a Turkish railway bridge that once connected Beersheva with Lod, a seasonal lake and a dam.

PURA->MONUMENT TO THE NEGEV BRIGADE, BEERSHEVA, 35.3 KM

This famous monument overlooking Beersheva from the east is a good entry point to the city. The Monument to the Negev Brigade  (Andartat Hativat HaNegev) was designed by Dani Karavan in memory of the 324 Palmach Negev Brigade soldiers who fell in the 1948 War of Independence. Constructed between 1963 and 1968, the 10,000-square-meter sculpture of raw concrete consists of 18 symbolic coverings. Engraved in the concrete are the names of soldiers, passages from the brigade diary, the battle registry and poems.

Monument to the Negev Brigade. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism
Monument to the Negev Brigade. Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism

Now that you have reached Beersheva, be sure to visit some of these local attractions: the Negev Museum of Art,  the Israel Air Force Museum,  the Negev Zoo  Carrasso Science ParkAbraham’s Well Visitors Center, Lunada Children’s Discovery Museum, the Engine 70414 Ottoman train station historical site and the Park of the Australian Soldier (with play equipment for children with disabilities).