But the shell of a burnt out car is on a downtown street, and there are burn marks on a synagogue just around the corner. An unusually large number of Israeli police are stationed in mostly empty streets. Lod has been under a state of emergency since last week, when a vicious and unprecedented wave of inter-communal violence erupted between Jewish and Arab Israelis.
Suliman Zabarqa confronts some of the officers leaning against the walls outside his restaurant, which is also closed. He asks why they stayed there when Jewish rioters burned down his property.
A Palestinian citizen of Israel, Zabarqa says the police did not act as they should, allowing hard-core Israeli nationalists “outside Lod” to take justice into their own hands.
The neighbors are now afraid of each other
The riots began after Israeli police broke up a protest organized by Palestinian Arab Israelis at the start of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza that began more than a week ago.
A man named Musa Hassuna was shot and killed on May 10, apparently by a Jew. The next day, Yigal Yehoshua, a Jewish man, was hit on the head by a brick and attacked by young Arabs, according to reports. He died on Monday from his injuries.
The anger was out of the bottle. Five synagogues were set on fire as Israeli Arabs reported firebombing attacks on their homes. Crowds took to the streets and the unrest quickly spread to other mixed towns in Israel.
Now the people who used to call themselves neighbors are afraid of each other.
“I’m afraid for our lives. I have two children and I am unarmed, ”said Tamer Nafar, standing at the edge of a square known as the“ Triangle of Religions ”in Hebrew.
“Look how beautiful it is,” he said. “You have a mosque, you have a church, and you have a synagogue. “
Nafar is a well-known Palestinian rapper, born in Lod. He is also an activist who says that the anger that has recently taken to the streets among Israeli Arabs stems from decades of racism and discrimination.
“I mean, Israel doesn’t consider me Israeli. [national] the hymn says the land for the Jews, ignoring the Muslims, ”he said.
“The things we go through here, housing, house demolitions, the media only see it when it gets out of hand, and we’ve been trying to create a dialogue for years. “
On the second day of the riots, Nafar says, he and his wife saw armed Jewish extremists arrive at the scene.
“So I call the cops because I’m a taxpayer f-parent, and they take my money every week.
He says the police finally hung up on him.
The arrival of the settlers changed the character of the city
Palestinian Arabs make up about 20% of Israel’s population and 30% of Lod.
But in recent years, there has been an addition to the mix in Lod in the form of die-hard nationalist and religious settlers who have settled in the city, part of the Garin Torani movement.
“The main strategy was to establish settlements in the mixed towns,” said Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu of the Abraham Initiatives, an Israeli think tank promoting equality for Arab Jewish and Palestinian citizens.
“Judaize the places where there is more Arab presence or where there is an ongoing conflict between communities where it is necessary to demonstrate Jewish sovereignty or to recover, if you will, the region”, he said. said.
The arrival of settlers slowly changed the character of parts of the city, and when riots broke out in Lod, Be’eri-Sulitzeanu says reinforcements were called in from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Around the corner of the Triangle of Religions, cars stop at a large yeshiva still bearing the scars of the riots of last week.
Young men wearing the uniforms of nationalist religious Jews – knitted kippas and long beards and earrings – arrive for a meeting of volunteers. They are setting up a sort of neighborhood watch group to protect the property of Jewish families who fled during the unrest.
Police stand guard outside, and seedy apartment blocks loom in front of them, Israeli flags hanging from some of the windows. Arab women carry groceries into the building and go up the stairs.
“We are standing in front of a building [where] two Jewish families and four, six or seven Arab families have lived together for 10 years, ”said Ayelet Wadler, a physicist and mother of six who lives a few blocks away.
“They help each other change the tires, do the shopping. And Tuesday night, Monday night, suddenly, they saw their neighbors who have lived with them for 10 years point out to the rioters: ‘Here, it’s theirs, it’s a Jewish car. Burn it. “”
Wadler has lived in Lod for 15 years. She says she thinks the Israeli Arabs are responsible for what happened and that she is happy to see the men across the street gathering, some of whom are watching passers-by and have the look threatening.
“I don’t see vigilantes,” she said. “I see people defending the house. “
Wadler says she is extremely distressed that a number of Jewish families do not feel safe enough to stay in their homes.
“They were refugees in their own country. It is inconceivable. This is something that cannot happen. “
“They are not leaving and we are not leaving”
His failure to relate his words to the history of his fellow Palestinians speaks volumes about the challenges of reconciliation and understanding in the country.
Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line between Israel and the Occupied Territories call the creation of the Israeli state in 1948 al Nakba a disaster. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced to flee from Israeli troops in the accompanying war.
WATCH | The ongoing conflict is amplifying tensions in mixed cities of Israel:
Be’eri-Sulitzeanu says that many Jewish Israelis simply don’t know the story.
“They don’t know that in Israel proper, about a fifth of the Arab population in Israel are also internal refugees, including most of the Arabs who live in Lod. They are themselves refugees because they arrive in Lod after having been destroyed in 1948 villages all over Israel. ”
Likewise, many Palestinian Israeli Arabs fail to understand the heartbreaking thrill many Jews will have felt at the mention of pogrom-type attacks on Jews.
” Most [Arab Israelis] I don’t understand the connotation and what I call the baggage of pain that we Jews carry on our backs, “Be’eri-Sulitzeanu said.” They just aren’t aware of it.
It is difficult to imagine how the city will evolve. Be’eri-Sulitzeanu says the Arab-Israeli community’s problem is not with the Jewish community in Lod but with the national religious settlers who infiltrated it.
But they seem more and more entrenched, a colony in an Israeli city.
Suliman Zabarqa is convinced that it comes down to local leaders, a mayor who only serves the interests of the Jewish community.
“I live in the State of Israel, and I have rights like any Israeli. But the state doesn’t give me [them]. I hope the mayor of Lod will treat everyone the same. I hope he pays attention to the Arab sector in this city. ”
Tamer Nafar says it’s a symptom of a much deeper problem.
“When the dialogue between us is ‘This is my country, the land for the Jews, not for you,’ all the dialogue has the color of being superior,” he said.
“They must understand that coexistence needs two sides to exist. They are not leaving and we are not leaving. “