Yeruham (Yeroham) is a town (local council) in the Southern District of Israel, in the Negev desert. It covers 38,584 dunams , and had a population of 9,078 in 2015. It is named after the Biblical Jeroham. The mayor of Yeruham was Amram Mitzna, but his term ended in early 2011, and he was succeeded by Michael Bitton of Kadima, who was elected mayor in November 2010.
For many years, Yeruham was economically depressed and suffered from image problems, but major efforts to improve the quality of life are under way.
Yeruham is the site of Tel Rahma, dating back to the 10th century BCE. On the outskirts of Yeruham is an ancient well, Be'er Rahma (באר רחמה). Some archeologists have identified it as the well where the biblical Hagar drew water for her son Ishmael.
Modern Yeruham was founded on 9 January 1951 as Kfar Yeruham (Hebrew: כְּפַר יְרֻחָם) and was one of Israel's first development towns, created to settle frontier areas in the early days of the state. It was located near the Large Makhtesh, an area thought at the time to be rich with natural resources.
The first influx of immigrants came from Romania, many of them Holocaust survivors, followed by immigrants from North Africa, Persia, India and elsewhere, who make up the majority of the town's population today (appr. 40%, 5%, 20%, 10% respectively). By 1961, the town's population was 1,574. The name was changed to Yeruham in 1962. Yeruham was founded on the Petroleum Road in the Negev (today roads 224 and 225) and its initial growth was stymied by the construction of Highway 25 and the Beersheba – Mitzpe Ramon section of Highway 40, which created a new route to Eilat and made the Petroleum Road obsolete.
Since autumn 1990, Yeruham is actively involved in absorbing hundreds of olim (immigrants to Israel) from the Former USSR, who comprise 25% of the town's nearly 10,000 residents. In recent years, young couples and families from other localities have moved to Yeruham, and some have purchased lots and built their homes in the town's new neighborhoods.
Members of the "Young People in Yeruham" Student Settlement Group are involved in local social action projects, organize cultural events for young people, and attract young people to settle in Yeruham. In April 2008, the Ayalim Student Village opened in Yeruham to allow students in Negev institutions of higher education to live and volunteer in the town. North American students from Nativ College Leadership Program engage in volunteer community service in Yeruham every spring. They help teach English in the local high schools and yeshivot, work with the Magen David Adom ambulance corps, teach in preschools and much more.