August 11, 2021

“Groundwork: The Mixed Cities Edition” explores activism in Lod in the wake of May’s intercommunal violence

In the second episode of our new podcast, “Groundwork: The Mixed Cities Edition”, we spoke with activists in Lod, also known as Lud or Lydd. Lod is a working class city about 20 minutes from Tel Aviv, located close to Ben Gurion airport – Israel’s main international airport. Its roots as an international crossroads date back to ancient times, as it sits along the intersection between the Cairo-Damascus and Jaffa-Jerusalem roads. In May, as war broke out between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Lod became the epicenter of the worst inter-ethnic fighting between Israel’s own citizens since 1948. That date is important, as Lod was also the site of some of the most controversial and historically significant events during the 1948 war, with mass expulsions from what was at the time a wholly Arab city, and is today around 80% Jewish and 20% Arab.

Lod saw the first serious violence outside of Jerusalem, as events escalated on the 10th of May. There were shootings in the streets, neighbors attacking one another, lynching, and the burning of cars and homes, as well as attacks on synagogues, mosques and cemeteries. A state of emergency was declared, with martial law being applied for the first time in over 50 years, and Israeli border police– usually seen in flash points along the Green Line– brought in to police the streets of an Israeli city in Tel Aviv’s commuter belt. Two men were killed in the violence, one Jewish, the other Arab, while a rocket from Gaza killed a father and daughter from the same Arab family when it struck their courtyard. Although the violence was quelled after about a week, the scars run deep and continue to fester. 

The tensions include the pre-existing issue of the presence of religious Jewish residents who moved to the city as part of what is called a “Garin Torani,” which are groups organized around the idea of bolstering the national-religious Jewish presence in cities with large non-Jewish populations. Yet there is also the presence of activists and organizations who have been working for years to try and close not just the ethnic and religious divides, but also the socio-economic gaps that plague one of Israel’s most unequal communities. Listen in on our conversation with Rula Daood, a co-director of  Standing Together, and Dror Rubin, a community organizer who works at a Jewish-Arab community center in the city. Both are activists in the city, who see the violence as a wake-up call to change Lod, finally, for the better.