In a recent article, I described the city of Lod as a microcosm of Israel. Events of the past week support this definition.
An Arab family’s illegally-built home in Lod was demolished by Israeli police this week, leading to protests and clashes. Israeli police were accused of forcibly suppressing peaceful protest. Lod’s Arab residents, like many Arab-Israelis, face ongoing challenges in receiving government building permits. In Lod, the municipal government has been accused of attempting to drive out the Arab-Israelis and create a “Jewish city.”
Orthodox Jews held protests of their own, reacting to a movie scene in Lod’s Social Film Festival that showed a man and a woman kissing. The film festival is intended to bring movies and discussions on social issues to this complex and fractured city.
In the midst of this week’s events, I was fortunate to meet with Shirin Natour-Hafi, the principal of the New Arab High School, Lod’s first Arab state high school. The school is in the mostly-Bedouin Rakevet (train) neighborhood, one of Lod’s poorest and most dangerous areas. Mrs. Natour-Hafi is renowned around Israel (and the world) for her efforts to build tolerance, peace, and educational equality among Israeli Jews and Arabs.
Conflicts between Arab-Israelis and Jewish-Israelis, and conflicts between Orthodox and Secular Jews. Bedouin. Building permits. Peaceful and violent protest. Forceful suppression of protest. Education inequality. Tolerance. Peace.
One week in Lod tells stories from Israel’s present and past. Building a better future for Israel requires addressing the issues at the root of these stories. As shown by the past week, Lod is a fitting laboratory to try to figure out how this can be done.