Beit Shemesh

Beit Shemesh

Infobox Israel municipality
name=Beit Shemesh

caption=Emblem of Beit Shemesh

caption3=The modern city of Beit Shemesh, taken from Tel Beth-Shemesh
hebname=Hebrew|בֵּית שֶׁמֶשׁ
meaning=House of the sun
altOffSp=Bet Shemesh
mayor=Daniel Vaknin

Beit Shemesh ( _he. בֵּית שֶׁמֶשׁ; officially also spelled Bet Shemesh) is a city in Israel's Jerusalem District, at the end of 2007 home to 72,600 people.Cite web|url=|publisher=Israel Central Bureau of Statistics|title=Table 3 - Population of Localities Numbering Above 1,000 Residents and Other Rural Population|date=2008-06-30|accessdate=2008-10-03] The modern day city was founded in 1950, although settlement has been on the site since pre-Biblical periods.


Archeology and Early History

The ancient city of Beit Shemesh ("house of the sun" or "temple of the sun" in Hebrew) was 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. [ Beit Shemesh - Biblical city on the border between Judah and Philistia] , Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Accessed November 23, 2007.]


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.

Biblical References

Beit Shemesh is first mentioned in the Book of Joshua 16 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 23 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.

In the book of Kings II, Beit Shemesh is again mentioned as being the site of the battle between Amatzia king of Judea and Jehoash king of Israel.

Modern history

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 between 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.

Birth Of the City

Today's city of Beit Shemesh started out when on 6 December 1950 the Har-Tuv displaced persons camp "Ma'abarat Har-Tuv" was established on the site of the current-day Moshav Noham. The first inhabitants of the "Ma'abarah" 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.

Development Town

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.

The 1990s onwards

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.

A negative day in the history of Beit Shemesh was March 13, 1997, when seven 11 year-old girls from the city from the Feurst School in the city 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. [ [ "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.'"]

Beit Shemesh has remained a Likud stronghold.Fact|date=February 2008 This, as well as because of its population of Religious Zionist and Moroccan Jews, has meant that it has been host to some major politicians such as the 2006 visit of Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Ehud Olmert, who later became Prime Minister, and a visit by Shaul Mofaz who announced his plans to take leadership of the Likud Party only to later change his mind and join Kadima. Furthermore, Beit Shemesh was chosen by Amir Peretz as the place to launch his campaign to run for the Labor Party as candidate for Prime Minister. Natan Sharansky had one of his largest followings in the 2001 elections from Beit Shemesh, representing the feelings of Russian, Anglo, and Israeli born populations together.Fact|date=February 2008



Beit Shemesh itself is divided into the following neighborhoods:
* 'Early' Beit Shemesh (where coordinates are, and where originally the army post was), consisting of private housing on one hand and lower-income high-rise simple apartment blocks on the other, and housing a mixture of the descendants of the original residents of Beit Shemesh plus Russian and Ethiopian immigrants
* Givat Sharett, a mixed Israeli neighborhood of mostly private houses
* Migdal Hamayim, a newer area of better-quality apartment blocks, with a very mixed population
* Nofei Aviv, a richer area of private villas with a mostly English-speaking and mostly Modern Orthodox population
* Sheinfeld, a mixed area of native Israelis and English-speakers with both apartment blocks and private houses

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 convert|18|km|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'.cite news
title=Haredi dominance of Beit Shemesh 'is only matter of time'

Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef

Ramat Beit Shemesh Alef as well as neighborhoods within Beit Shemesh have become the home to a growing number of American, British and other English-speaking immigrants to Israel during the past decade.

Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet

Ramat Beit Shemesh Beit is home to large groups of Haredi Jews, mainly belonging to the following groups:
* Toldos Aharon
* Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok
* Dushinsky
* Satmar
* Neturei Karta


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 2001 there were 24,500 males and 24,600 females. The population of the city was spread out with 47.6% 19 years of age or younger, 17.1% between 20 and 29, 18.8% between 30 and 44, 9.4% from 45 to 59, 2.1% from 60 to 64, and 5.0% 65 years of age or older. The population growth rate in 2001 was 11.2%.

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 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.

An ever increasing amount of 'friction' has been noted between various Satmar and Neturei Karta groups and the Orthodox Religious Zionist population. [ [ Beit Shemesh rally reflects haredi-modern Orthodox tensions] ]


According to ICBS, as of 2000, in the city there were 12,518 salaried workers and 849 are self-employed. The mean monthly wage in 2000 for a salaried worker in the city is ILS 4,858, a real change of 7.3% over the course of 2000. Salaried males have a mean monthly wage of ILS 6,631 (a real change of 8.9%) versus ILS 3,162 for females (a real change of 1.3%). The mean income for the self-employed is 5,840. There are 744 people who receive unemployment benefits and 2,701 people who receive an income guarantee.


According to CBS, there are 40 schools and 9,322 students in the city. They are spread out as 29 elementary schools and 6,619 elementary school students, and 15 high schools and 2,703 high school students. 50.1% of 12th grade students were entitled to a matriculation certificate in 2001.


Among other crops, grapes are grown here. A local wine is produced by the Berry Ridge Winery, that produces small batches of high quality wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Meritage. Grapes are also processed by winemakers in neighbouring areas, e.g., Cremisan cellars near Beit Jala, Flam Winery, Domaine du Castel, Clos de Gat, Tzora Vineyards, Ella Valley Vineyards, and many others.

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.

During the hi-tech boom of 1996-2001 it was host to several hi-tech startups.


Beit Shemesh Railway Station provides hourly service on the Israel Railways Kfar SabaJerusalem 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. [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."] At present both northbound and southbound trains terminate at Beit Shemesh station. The station has three platforms.


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 boasts a franchise in the Israel Baseball League. The Beit Shemesh Blue Sox represent Beit Shemesh, though they play 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.


*Beit Medrash Torani Leumi (Rabbi Avishai David)
*Ohel Yonah Menachem - (Rabbi David Avraham Spektor)
*Beit Knesset Hamerkazi, Ramat Bet Shemesh - (Rabbi Itiel Ariel)
*Netzach Menashe
*Ateret Shalom
*Kehilla Datit Leumit, Migdal HaMayim.
*Beit Knesset Feigenson (Nofei Aviv Synagogue)
*Beit Knesset Etz Chaim (Kehilat HaGivah) - (Rabbi Shalom Kurtz)
* [ Shivtei Yeshurun] - Rabbi Baruch Rubanowitz
* [ Kehillas HaGra] - Rabbi Elimelech Kornfeld
* [ Kehillas Ahavas Shalom] - Rabbi Avraham Baruch Zecharish
*Mevakshei Hashem (Katlav 6) - Rabbi Aryeh Mordechai Yudelowitz
*Masat Mordechai (Bnei Hayeshivot)
*Beis Medrash Pnei Shmuel - Rabbi Efraim Kirshenbaum

=Twin towns=


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. [Schaefer, Gayla. [ "Communities create ties: Cocoa, Israeli town become sister cities with ceremony"] , "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."]



External links


* [ Shemesh OnLine]
* [ Netzach Menashe Synagogue]
* [ Feigenson Synagogue]
* [ Beit Medrash Torani Leumi Synagogue]
* [ Etz Chaim Synagogue]
* [ Ohel Yonah Menachem Synagogue]
* [ ShemeshDirectory]
* [ Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun]
* [ Talmud Torah Yishrei Lev]
* [ Rambash Information]

Local companies

* [ Beit Shemesh Engines Ltd.] - Jet engine repair and manufacturing

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