Israel's forgotten sulfur quarry in the Negev

In 1929, during British mandate, an officer who was a geologist found a large percentage of mineral sulfur that was on the soft soil of Bitronot Beeri.

 Sulfur quarry in the Negev. (photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)
Sulfur quarry in the Negev.
(photo credit: ITSIK MAROM)

Sometimes we are surprised by the richness of events and enterprises that took place in our land of Israel, even before the state was established. One of the surprises is the abandoned sulfur quarries and factory near Kibbutz Beeri in western Negev. 

In 1929, during the mandate days of the British, an officer who was also a geologist found a large percentage of mineral sulfur that was on the soft soil of Bitronot Beeri - the Beeri badlands reserve. 

In 1930, geologists opened a quarry and raised a facility to isolate clean sulfur. At the time, sulfur was known as an ingredient in the making of gunpowder. Williams, the officer and geologist who smelled the unpleasant odor of the sulfur, wanted to replace it with the more pleasant smell of money. 

With machinery brought from England and local workers from Gaza and Bedouins from the area work began. He called his enterprise Palestine Sulfur Quarries Ltd. Eventually the one million tons of sulfur that was expected from the quarry was actually only 880 tons. 

Later, TNT took the place of sulfur for making gunpowder. The remaining sulfur quarry was converted to agricultural use and sent to the neighboring countries of Egypt, Turkey and Greece. 

 Sulfur quarry in the Negev. (credit: ITSIK MAROM) Sulfur quarry in the Negev. (credit: ITSIK MAROM)

In 1944, the land was bought and the Jewish National Fund (KKL) helped in the establishment of Kibbutz Beeri in 1946 which was only 3 km. away from the plant. The plant finally closed in 1946.

Time and people have left their mark on the abandoned factory. Nevertheless, it is still is a noteworthy historical and interesting place to stop and explore during your next visit to western Negev