Be’er Sheva to Close Century-old, Bedouin Market: ‘Lost Uniqueness’

While officials hope the closure will boost Be'er Sheva's other market, locals are split on the issue, with some fearing the loss of an important piece of Bedouin identity in the city.

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The Bedouin market in Be'er Sheva.
The Bedouin market in Be'er Sheva. Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

After over a century of operation, Be’er Sheva says it plans to close the city’s open-air Bedouin market.

Municipal officials say the market has lost its unique character and the closure will boost the Negev city’s “regular” market, which is slated for renovations. The city said a number of proposals for the space are being considered, including the completion of Be’er Sheva River Park.

The Bedouin market is open on Mondays and Thursday, while on Sundays and Wednesdays the space is home to a flea market.

The Bedouin market once offered unique items such as coins, tobacco and spices, but it has lost much of its distinctiveness.

A 60-year-old man from Dimona who sells used goods in the space was surprised to hear of the closure.

He said that a third of the flea-market merchants were economically disadvantaged and that some were former prisoners for whom tending a stall at the market twice a week was a way to keep out of trouble.

“What will they do tomorrow? Instead of selling, the old people will stay home, and the younger people will look where to break in and steal,” said the man.

After the announcement there were intensive discussions by Bedouin on social media, with some claiming the market was no longer viable, while others arguing that it had cultural and historical importance to the Negev Bedouin and should be preserved.

Ibrahim al-Sayed, 32, of Hura, told Haaretz that the decision “was very offensive to Bedouin citizens,” adding, “We would have liked to hear of a decision to make the market more modern and not to uproot it. It’s an effort to erase the history of the Bedouin in Be’er Sheva; first there was the closure of the mosque and now the closure of the Bedouin market is the continuation of the precedent.”

Sayed said he was concerned that in the future the city’s Muslim cemetery might also be removed.

“I call on [Mayor] Ruvik Danilovitch to take the market and make it more modern,” Sayed said.

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