Beer Sheva is a hodge podge of architectural styles. There are run down areas of urban decay, dreary blocks straight out of the post-war east European style of mass public housing. Other older tower blocks have been renovated and beautified, their gardens well tended. In between are neighbourhoods of private homes, a child's drawing of a simple white house with a red roof or Mid East style boxes with wrought iron gates and enclosed courtyards.
Only the swish modern buildings are built according to the post-1991 Gulf War construction codes that require homes to each have their own personal "secure room" shelter. For everyone else a siren means either a mad dash to an outside shelter or holing up in whichever room has the fewest windows or external walls.
I always take lots of photos from my wanderings around Israel for our friends and family abroad, many of whom I know have never visited Israel or have done so only briefly. My photos from Beer Sheva are nothing earth shattering - a street view, historical site, a park, a couple of museums.
Stormclouds over scrub and farmland on the outskirts of Beer Sheva
When (if) you see reports of southern Israel coming under rocket fire, this is what those reports mean, just ordinary places you might live or visit, except that every so often, way too often, the folks in Gaza lob rockets at them.
To me it is walking around the very ordinariness of a place like Beer Sheva on a quiet day without sirens that truly brings home the craziness of the situation. Just walking in the park or praying in the synagogue or enjoying a family dinner with friends and thinking that any minute the peace might be shattered by the eerie sirens of my mother's childhood in wartime London. It boggles the mind.
Waiting for rain in the countryside around Beer Sheva
Soldiers from Australia and New Zealand played a pivotal role in the British fight against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. Perhaps their most famous battle was the Beer Sheva cavalry charge, one of the last in history.
The Joe Alon Bedouin Heritage Centre in the Lahav Forest just north of Beer Sheva offers an insight into the traditional lifestyle of the Bedouin tribes of the Negev and Sinai, employing local Bedouin to guide visitors.