The Negev Brigade's Memorial

The memorial for the Negev Brigade which overlooks Beer-Sheva - the capital of the Negev - commemorates the deeds of the Palmach's Negev Brigade during the Independence War.

The Negev Brigade was formed in March 1948, under the command of Nahum Sarig . Its force eventually consisted of 4 Palmach battalions. Initially it was given the difficult task of securing the road between the north and the Negev and guarding the water pipe-line to the Negev. On May 15th, the Egyptians crossed the border with the aim of reaching Tel Aviv. They attacked Kfar Darom and Nirim but were repulsed. Later they moved north and set their headquarter in Majdal (the town of Ashkelon today), captured Yad Mordechai, but failed in their attack on Be'erot Yitzhaq and from then on, the initiative passed from their hands. However, the Israeli operation aimed at clearing the road to the Negev failed, and as the second truce came into force, the Negev was still cut off.

At that time, Yigal Allon became the commander of the Southern Front. He was joined by Yitzhaq Rabin who became the front's operations officer. The Southern Front comprised initially the Negev and Givati brigades. The Negev Brigade was temporarily moved north, but in October it went back south and took part in Operation Yoav to reopen the road to the Negev and capture Beer-Sheva. This was followed by the reopening of the road to Sedom and the taking of the Egyptian's Bir Asluj - Nizana (then Uja) line (Operation Khorev; the advance was actually deeper into Sinai, to Abu Agila near El Arish, but political pressure forced a withdrawal). The Negev and Golani brigades then went on to capture Eilat (Operation Uvda), thus achieving their objective to liberate the Negev "from sea to sea".

About the memorial: the desire to provide a tangible memorial to those who fell in Israel's wars gave sculpture a new impetus from the 1960s on, and many monuments, primarily nonfigurative, were introduced into the Israeli landscape. The Negev Brigade Memorial is one of the best examples of this genre.

The architect-sculptor, Danny Caravan, sought to create something more than just a memorial to the fallen. Caravan designed the monument to illustrate the story of the Negev Brigade and the besieged Negev settlements. He achieved this by including in the memorial structures which are imitations of a water tower, shells, a Palmach tent, a look-out post inside a communications trench, a bunker, a well, a water supply line, acacias and a serpent-shaped building which symbolizes the defeated Egyptian army. He wanted to create a memorial that would not merely be a piece of sculpture, but would be a happening' in which the visitor could take part. Thus the monument is made up of sculptured forms which one can climb over or wander through. The visitor doesn't simply stand to one side to admire, but walks through the memorial, goes up and down and looks into every corner to see what is hidden there.

The monument is made of rough grey concrete, which blends well with its surroundings. From a distance, it looks like a tiny Negev settlement standing out in the bare desert. Its walls are inscribed with excerpts from the Brigade's diary, and items of poetry and prose especially composed by Chaim Gun and Natan Shacham.

In the centre of the monument is the memorial dome, where the names of the Brigade's fallen are recorded, and where the Memorial Light is located. On the eastern wall are inscribed the words "To all who visit here - you have reached the Negev, a part of the country hallowed by our fathers".

The stamp was issued in 1986 to commerorate Israel Memorial Day (Yom Ha'Zikaron). Designer: R. Dayagi.