The Beersheva Turkish Train Station Museum

During our visit to Beersheva we visited the new (6 months) Turkish Train Station Museum.  Both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have renovated their former Turkish train stations as cultural centers, with exhibitions, restaurants and boutiques.  But the one in Beersheva is different.

In 1915, in the middle of WWI, the Turks built an extension of their rail system down to Beersheva, which was planned to be their local capital.  They did this mainly to transfer soldiers and materiel to the war front with the British in Egypt.  Of course, they never thought that they would lose so they expended a lot of money and effort in building this new city (now the Old City of Beersheva) and this train station.  It was their intention to capture British Egypt and the Suez Canal to extend their Empire.

But, the British outflanked them by sending the Australian Light Horse regiment to attack Beersheva in 1917 and the rest is history.  Because Beersheva was captured, the Turks were forced to withdraw from Gaza and they destroyed parts of the railway lines.   British Gen. Allenby captured Jerusalem in 1917 and the Turks were forced out of what the British then called Palestine (although the Philistines were long since gone from the scene).   The British used the railway for some time, but by 1927 during their Mandate they closed it down.

The Israeli State built a new rail line and the first train arrived in Beersheva, capital of the Negev, in 1956 .  It was given the same number as the last train that ran on the Turkish route, 70414.  But, the main train station is elsewhere in the city and the old Turkish train station fell into disrepair.  However, recently it was renovated and opened as a museum, with a train of the old type added.  This was a steam locomotive of British manufacture.  There were only a few of them left in the world, several in Turkey, but they would not sell one to Israel.  So Israel managed to get one from Iran, bought by a third party.  It now sits proudly in the Train Station Museum with the number 70414 painted in large characters on its side.

Just outside the Museum is a memorial to the Turkish soldiers who died fighting the British/Australian/New Zealand troops who captured Beersheva in 1917.   There is also a bust of Gen. Kemal Attaturk, the father of modern Turkey.  Interestingly he is thought to be a descendent of the Donme, Jews who followed the false Messiah Shabbatei Tzvi, who was captured in Turkey and forced to convert to Islam.  His followers did the same thing, but secretly retained many of their formerly Jewish rituals while outwardly remaining Turkish Muslims.  Nearby is also the cemetery of the mainly Australian soldiers who died in the battle for Beersheva in 1917.  Towering over all of this in contrast is a group of very high modern apartment blocks, known locally as “Manhatten.”

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2 thoughts on “The Beersheva Turkish Train Station Museum

  1. Dear Jack The contribition of Aaron Aharoson to Allenby’s attack on Beersheba is still clothed in uncertainty. The weeks before the attack we know he was much involved with the idea and planning and a major who worked with Allenby wrote a book talking about Aharonson’s major contribution. The Australian movie about the attack is on Utube and is terrific. Don

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