Beersheba is the largest city in the Negev desert of southern Israel. Often referred to as the "Capital of the Negev", it is the seventh-largest city in Israel with a population of 194,300.
Beersheba grew in importance in the 19th century, when the Ottoman Turks built a regional police station there. The Battle of Beersheba was part of a wider British offensive in World War I aimed at breaking the Turkish defensive line from Gaza to Beersheba. In 1947, Bir Seb'a, as it was known, was envisioned as part of the Arab state in the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine. Following the declaration of Israel's independence, the Egyptian army amassed its forces in Beersheba as a strategic and logistical base. In the battle for the city waged in October 1948, it was conquered by the Israel Defense Forces.
Beersheba has grown considerably since then. A large portion of the population is made up of Sephardic Jews who emigrated from Arab countries after 1948. Second and third waves of immigration have taken place since 1990, bringing ethnic Jewish immigrants from Ethiopia and the former Soviet Union. The Russian immigrants have made the game of chess a major sport in Beersheba. The city is now Israel's national chess centre, with more chess grandmasters than any city in the world