The moment I got off the train and my foot hit the ground in Be’er Sheva, I felt the need to convince myself that I would like it here.
“Why would you choose Be’er Sheva?”
“Be’er Sheva is boring! You’re going to hate it”
Comments like these came pouring out of people, flooding my brain with their pessimistic thoughts. The second I told people about where I would be living for 6 weeks, they felt the need to share their very strong opinions.
Visiting a country for the first time and hearing that about a city that would become my home was not a great feeling. The feeling of excitement immediately disappeared. How am I going to be able to enjoy a place with a dreary reputation?
I try to always approach new situations with an open mind. This way no expectations are set. But I felt as though all of my expectations were laid out for me. My ability to make my own judgments about Be’er Sheva were gone.
I began my first time in Israel with a jam-packed birthright trip, where I was surrounded by people at all hours of the day and night. So, it was a hard transition to living in the Old City of Be’er Sheva, where the streets around our apartment were empty by 8:00pm.
As the days went by, I started to find my own groove. Waking up every morning and passing by the corner store became part of the routine. Smiling at the guard at the grocery store, ordering shawarma at my favourite place (Beit HaFul on KKL, for those interested). I began to appreciate that I could choose my level of engagement – to stay on my quiet, cozy street, to walk a few blocks to find vibrant restaurants, pubs and parks, or take a bus to the university and join the student buzz. Be’er Sheva has a unique, warm character – it is big enough to have everything I need, but small enough to feel comfortable in and find my place within it.
While I love the other major cities I visited in Israel, the feeling Be’er Sheva brings is unique – It feels like home. Does creating a routine mean that anywhere can feel like home? I struggle with this question, and wonder if I was placed in any other city, if it would have conjured the same feelings of warmth and home as it does in Be’er Sheva. Maybe. But I was placed here, in this majestic desert city, and I am thankful for that – because I cannot imagine my time in Israel being spent anywhere else.
Now that I have settled in, I tell everyone how Be’er Sheva has become a second home and about the treasures this city has to offer. However, they shrug off the greatness, unconvinced. I know that if they visit, and spend the day here with my friends and I, they would see the city differently than it’s been painted in their mind for decades. That’s why organizations such as Eretz-Ir are so important – the perception of cities outside the center needs to change.
This has driven me to become an advocate for Be’er Sheva. I want people to come visit with an open mind – ready to have fun.