Beer sheba or Beer-sheva (Beh Ehr - Sheh vah Hebrew: בְּאֶר שֶׁבַע) is a city in Israel. It is the largest city of the Negev desert, and often known as the "Capital of the Negev" in the Southern District of Israel. In 2003 Beersheba had a population of 184,500 making it the 5th largest city in Israel, 20 years previous the population was just 110,800. It is the administrative center for the southern region and home of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Soroka Hospital, and the Beersheba Symphonietta. The city dates back at least to the time of Abraham. The city has expanded considerably since the founding of the state in 1948. Today the town is inhabited mainly by Jews who originally immigrated to Israel from Arab countries and the former Soviet Union. Beersheba is surrounded by a number of satellite towns: Omer, Lehavim and Meitar are mainly Jewish towns and there are a number of Bedouin towns around Beer-Sheva the largest are Rahat, Tel-Sheva and Laqiya.