When I lived in the United States, in Connecticut, a staple part of my daily routine was going on late night walks around my neighborhood. When I moved to Lod in September, I saw no reason not to continue my nightly walks. However, the more I learned about the city, both from personal experiences and from all of the information I’ve gathered while working at The Abraham Initiatives, the more I realized that it was time to put an end to my late-night strolls. Myself and other people in my program have witnessed a lot of intense disputes among residents as well as other unsettling events. Additionally, the strange noise outside that I hear occasionally at night I learned recently was gunfire. But the lack of personal security I feel living in Lod as an American is nothing compared to the harsh reality of what being an Arab resident, especially one living in a mixed city, is like.
The Arab community is currently facing an epidemic of worsening violence and crime. More Arabs were murdered in 2021 than any year prior. A total of 126 Arabs were murdered last year. 20% of Arabs murdered were residents of mixed cities, even though they only constitute 10% of the total Arab population. Through research carried out by The Abraham Initiatives, we know that a majority (60.8%) of Arab residents in mixed cities say that they experience a lack of personal security. Additionally, Arabs in mixed cities feel like they are much less safe than Jews living in mixed cities and even less safe than Arabs on a national scale. When asked about where their safety feels most at risk, the most popular answer for Arabs in mixed cities was their hometown and their own street. And while issues of crime and safety have always been issues that disproportionately affect the Arab community, the problems appear to only be getting worse. A staggering 79.6% of Arab residents of mixed cities feel like violence has increased in their cities. In comparison, only 26.7% of Jews living in the same mixed cities feel the same way.
There is no doubt that an increase in gun ownership contributes to this feeling of unease. Around 98% of Arab residents in mixed cities say that firearm activity has been on the rise in recent years. These issues are especially prevalent in Lod, where memories of May are still fresh on the minds of all residents. And the lack of safety that they must have felt during the riots, as well as the general mistrust in police, have no doubt contributed to firearm ownership in the city.
Luckily, it looks like the government is starting to take meaningful action steps. They recently adopted a massive five-year spending plan specifically targeted at combatting crime and enhancing the quality of life of Arab residents. Billions of NIS are going towards addressing crime, investing in education, transportation, housing, and more. While the budget does not address every problem contributing to the crime and violence (equitable policing, for example, is not a part of the plan) it is a tremendous first step and a sign that the Israeli society and government is ready to take on the issues that are affecting Arab society.