Nestled on the northern edges of the Negev desert in southern Israel lies a city at odds with its dusty, arid environment.
Beersheba, with more than 200,000 residents, boasts an eclectic mix of architecture. It is home to a historic Ottoman old city, a chaotic collection of monolithic concrete structures built during the heyday of Israel’s experimentation with neo-brutalist styles and a shiny business centre surrounded by a dizzying network of more than 250 roundabouts.
Hebrew, Arabic, Tigrinya, Russian, Spanish and many more languages can be heard on the city’s streets.
The city has been growing fast in recent years and is part of an ambitious plan by the Israeli government to become a southern hub for the technology and defence industries.
However, since October 7, when the armed wing of the Palestinian group Hamas broke out of the Gaza Strip, launching a surprise attack on southern Israel, life in the city ground to a halt.
Israel has responded with a relentless, deadly aerial bombardment of Gaza and severed essential supplies from reaching the 2.3 million people who live inside the besieged enclave.
Hamas has responded by firing missiles at Israeli cities but about 90 percent of them are struck down by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system.
Some shops and local businesses are beginning to reopen but people remain extremely cautious.
There is a sense of deep suspicion among locals, with many preferring not to give their last name or be photographed.
Simon, a cafe owner in his 30s with Tunisian and Polish heritage, says the attack rattled the local community because it showed they had become complacent to the risk posed by Hamas.