BET ESHEL (Heb. בֵּית אֵשֶׁל), former Jewish settlement in southern Israel, southeast of Beersheba. It was founded in 1943 as one of the first three observation outposts in the Negev. The settlers, immigrants from Central Europe, lived as a kibbutz but intended to make Bet Eshel a moshav. They succeeded in growing grain crops with dry farming methods. A water well drilled at the spot enabled them also to grow vegetables and plant fruit orchards, thus proving the feasibility of agricultural settlement in the northern Negev. In the Israel War of Independence, Bet Eshel was besieged for over 10 months (December 1, 1947–October 21, 1948). It suffered heavy losses and was destroyed by continuous shelling. After the lifting of the siege, the settlers consented to leave and they established moshav Ha-Yogev in the Jezreel Valley. "Bet Eshel" means "House of the Tamarisk," this tree being characteristic of the Beersheba desert flora. (Efraim Orni)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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