Yeruham was established in 1951 in the northern hills of the Negev as a transit camp. The name was derived from an Egyptian inscription, from the10th century BCE, about a place in the Negev mentioned by Pharaoh Shishak, arad leveit yeruham. It was called Tel Yeruham at first and later Kfar Yeruham or Yeruham Village.
Its first residents were new immigrants from Romania. In 1959, Yeruham was granted the status of a regional council, and immigrants from Morocco and India were brought there. For many years, the town suffered from a dearth of employment opportunities, from social problems and population decline. Efforts were made in the 1970s to establish industries, which would provide employment for the residents.
Yeruham Park is just west of the town. In the 1950s, right after Kfar Yeruham was established, KKL JNF joined the settlement efforts and planted trees at the site. In the 1980s, KKL JNF planted more trees around the lake and added large green lawns and a playground. The trees in the park include Pine, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Pistachio, Tamarisk, Date Palm, Olive and Jujube.
Yeruham Lake is in the middle of the park, a manmade lake created in the Nahal Revivim streambed. The dam that created the lake was constructed in the late 1950s in order to utilize the floodwaters of Nahal Revivim for irrigation and to make a tourist attraction for boating, fishing, bird watching and more. Against the desert background, the lake and the greenery provide the unique scenery of a desert oasis. When the plan for agricultural use of the water failed, the site turned into a cesspool, since water from the nearby oxidization pools was leaking into it. Even prior to the leak of sewage into the lake, toxic groundwater had been polluting it. In the early 1990s, Yeruham Park was rehabilitated.
The water purification plant produces 800,000 cubic meters of water annually for supplying the lake and for irrigation of the park areas and the other public parks in the town. As a result, the entire area is like a closed system, transforming the effluents into a vital and useful resource for the benefit of the local population.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Future plans include turning Yeruham Park into a major urban park for people visiting the Negev. The park will help promote the city of Yeruham, improve the town’s image and create a commercial resort for vacationing, hotels, water sports and education, all in the context of a desert environment. The park will also stimulate construction of high quality residential neighborhoods, which will contribute to the development of the town as well.
In the autumn, October to November, the Yellow Crocus blooms in the Yeruham Nature Reserve. The reserve is located about one kilometer south of Lake Yeruham and can be reached by a dirt road that branches west from Highway 204 (Yeruham – Sede Boker).
The Yeruham Iris blooms February to March, and an impressive concentration of this flower may be found about 3km northeast of Yeruham. Access to the site is from Highway 204 (Yeruham – Dimona), which passes to the west of the nature reserve.