Yeroham appears in the Bible as a personal name, and in the list of the cities of Judea conquered by King Shishak of Egypt in the 10th century BCE. Arabic tradition identifies the ancient well near the town with the well revealed to Hagar when expelled with Ismael by Abraham (Genesis 21). The origin of the modern name is from the Arabic: Bir Rahma (meaning “well of mercy”) and Tel-Rahma. Additional names (before Yeroham): Tel-Yeroham and then Kfar Yeroham, reflecting plans to develop it as an agricultural settlement in the 1950s.
Situated in the Northern Negev, 15 km from Dimona, 520 meters above sea level. Yeroham enjoys the clean air and dry (100 mm average annual precipitation), warm and sunny climate of the desert. Only 29 km south of Beer Sheva, Yeroham is becoming an attractive “bedroom suburb” of the Negev’s capital, because of the quality of life it can offer – peace and quiet, good climate and scenery, inexpensive housing, excellent educational institutions, and a warm, welcoming community. Yeroham’s neighbors are MakhteshYeroham to the east, and, to the west, the Yeroham Lake Park and Nabatean-Byzantine fortress of ancient Yeroham.
Born in January 1951, but appears younger, perhaps because of the rapid development and new look acquired over the past years, including a well-maintained and landscaped main street, lovely new neighborhoods, expanded industrial zones, a renovated commercial center and weekly market, and beautiful, intensively-used public buildings.
Claim to Fame:
The first ma’abara (immigrant transit camp) located far from the center of the country and far from any existing urban centers, eventually the first development town in the Negev built “ex nihilo” in the heart of the desert.
First came olim (immigrants) from Romania, many of them Holocaust survivors, followed by olim from North Africa, Persia, India and elsewhere, who make up the majority of the towns’ population today (appr. 40%, 5%, 15%, 10% respectively). Since autumn 1990, Yeroham is actively involved in absorbing hundreds of olim from the Former Soviet Union, who comprise 28% of the town’s nearly 11,000 residents. In recent years young couples, individuals and families from other localities have moved to Yeroham, and many have purchased lots and built their homes in the town’s new neighborhoods. Members of the “Young People in Yeroham” (Tzvi) Student Settlement Group are involved in local social action projects, organize cultural events for young people, attract young people to settle in Yeroham and coordinate demographic growth. There is an Ayalim Student Village, pre-army preparatory program, and a neighborhood of caravans for young couples.
The Yeroham Local Council, together with the Ministry of Education and other bodies, invests many efforts and funds to advance education on all levels. There are tens of kindergartens, nursery schools, and day care centers for pre-school children. Yeroham’s formal educational system includes 4 elementary schools (HaMe'uhad State-General, AMIT-Kol Yaakov State-Religious and 2 smaller Ultra-Orthodox schools), and a well-equipped comprehensive high school affiliated with ORT, where the successful “Anyone Can Do It” program consistently raised the number of those eligible for Bagrut Matriculation certificates to twice the national level. All schools in Yeroham use GBS, an online system which enables pupils to work at home on material from school, thanks to a personal code. The “City Plays Music” program provides musical education to pupils in all the elementary schools, and organizes two orchestras for more advanced pupils.
The two religious high schools – AMIT-Bilvav Shalem yeshiva for boys and AMIT-KAMAH for girls – attract pupils from all over the region and the country. The Yeroham Yeshivat Hesder (institute of higher Jewish religious education for men combining study with army service), well-known nationally and founded in 1992, attracts students from all over the country, and runs a special leadership program for Ethiopian young men. Midreshet AMIT-Be’er offers a challenging and enriching track for religious young women who graduate high school: a year of study and communal-educational volunteer experience in Yeroham, two years of IDF or National Service, usually in educational roles, and a final half-year of social action projects in Yeroham.
Over 400 residents study in institutions of higher education. Education and training for over-30 adults are coordinated by the Ofek Center for Human Resources Development. More and more educational personnel are residents of the town. Joint programs with the Weizmann Institute, Ben-Gurion University, the Open University, the Hebrew University’s Center for Enrichment in Education, and volunteer tutoring by scientists from the Nuclear Research Center aim to improve educational achievements. The impressive Science Center runs the Havayeda Center and informal science education programs that serve the entire region. Yeroham is a regional “robotics empire”, mentoring robotics teams in other Negev towns - and abroad (Ethiopia, Miami, and more)!
Informal Education and Culture:
The Yeroham MATNAS (Local Community Center) organizes many social and cultural activities: plays, performances, summer events, subscription series for children and adults, music lessons in the Music Conservatory, sports activities and workout room in the Sports Hall, nature-education extracurricular activities, neighborhood clubs, immigrant absorption activities, a Yiddish choir, and communal theater groups. The beautiful Library has 60,000 books in Hebrew, Russian, English, and Maharati (an Indian language), and offers enrichment activities for kindergarten and school pupils, meetings with authors, computer training, workshops for parents and children, a creative writing group, and more. The Youth Department of the MATNAS is responsible for the “Machsan 52” youth club (drama, music, radio, youth rock bands, robotics teams which have won international prizes and more), two youth councils (older and younger), and the Scouts and Bnei Akiva youth movements. Midreshet Beyahad seminar center and youth hostel provides guided hikes, workshops, and other programming for visiting groups, mainly school pupils, as well as Jewish programming in local schools. Atid Bamidbar NPO initiated the Teudat Zehut (Yeroham Identity Card) project for community empowerment through documentation, and runs study-encounter programs, leadership training, cultural events and communal projects for children, youth and adults of all backgrounds from Yeroham and all over the Negev. Nekuda Tova offers Jewish study, family enrichment and guidance, and many other cultural/communal programs and events.
Welfare and Health Services:
The Local Council’s Social Services Department, in cooperation with other organizations, runs family clubs, a Family and Child Therapeutic Center, a Sheltered Factory for the physically and mentally challenged, a Day Center for Golden Agers, the Bet Havah afternoon enrichment club for children and youth with special needs, summer camps for children of families on welfare, a "Social Supermarket", and cultural, educational and welfare programs for all ages. There are two health clinics (Klalit and Maccabi), a drugstore, Magen David Adom station with tens of volunteers of all ages, Mother and Baby Clinic, dental clinic, and nighttime emergency medical service. A heated swimming pool is open all year.
The main employers are local and regional industry (53% of employed residents) and services and commerce (47%). Most of those employed in industry work in local factories such as Emilia Cosmetics, Perrigo pharmaceuticals, Negev Ceramics, Phoenicia Glass, Brand Metals, Ackerstein, Yehu Clays, and more, some of which utilize raw materials from the region. The rest of those employed work in regional industries, such as Ramat Hovav, the Nuclear Research Center, and the Dead Sea Works, or in Beer Sheva, at the hospital, Ben-Gurion University or other institutions of higher education, in Dimona, and in Sde Boker. The small industries include garages, catering, carpentry, computers, etc. Yeroham suffered in the past from high unemployment rates, but the current rate is lower than the national average. Yeroham faces the future optimistically, with plans for tourism development in the Lake Park and Large Makhtesh and the Mindcet new educational high-tech incubator, established with the Center for Educational Technology. Special professional training programs prepare young people for careers in computers, chemistry, engineering and other fields needed by industry. Local industrial zones have doubled in size and offer space for rental and construction.
The Yeroham Religious Council and other bodies run services such as a mikveh, higher yeshivas, Torah classes, and the Hevra Kadisha (Burial Society). There are 30 synagogues in Yeroham, including central ones for the Indian, Persian, and Bukharan communities, where ethnic traditions are preserved.
Yeroham is blessed with many unique communal and educational projects and initiatives and a rich multi-cultural mosaic of people and institutions. The Municipal Tourism Forum coordinates joint activities. Atid Bamidbar runs community-based tourism programs for tens of thousands of visitors annually. Visitors meet residents and entrepreneurs, taste ethnic delicacies and enjoy the Culinary Queens of Yeroham's home hospitality, experience interactive study and creative workshops in nature, performances of local musical ensembles (e.g., Yiddish choir, Indian band), or see works of local artists in the Designers' Terminal and "Gifts from the Desert" Art Gallery. Two incredible natural wonders attract tourists from Israel and abroad: Yeroham (Large) Makhtesh on the east, and Yeroham Lake Park on the west, jointly being developed by JNF and the municipality. The Lake, one of the largest in Israel, has over 270 species of birds, and houses the Hoopoe (Duchifat) Ecology and Bird-watching Center, which offers bird-tagging, research, and "nighttime safaris". Vitamin C Biking Center offers bicycles for rent and ODT activities. Bedouin tourism initiatives also offer unique experiences to visitors. Yeroham Fortress on the Spice Road, Ein Yorkeam, and other nearby sites boast breathtaking landscapes, with hiking and cycling routes. There is the 47-room, 4-star boutique Irus Hamidbar (Desert Iris), Israel's first "social" hotel, the White Hill Guesthouse, and tens of B&Bs, as well as other tourist attractions; information available via Atid Bamidbar and Yeroham Tourism Forum.