Lod struggles to find way forward after Israeli-Arab riots

Published date03 June 2021
The Arab driver rolls down the window of the car's passenger side and shouts at Noam Dreyfus, the head of the academy, "I want to ask you a question: Why did you lie?"

With a short-cropped beard and a brown knit kippah, Dreyfus approaches the car, puts his hand on the rolled-down window, and says, "OK, brother, tell me what is the truth?"

"They didn't come with petrol bombs and rocks and burn houses. And I'm against burning synagogues. There were not 10 synagogues burnt in Lod."

"There were three," Dreyfus says.

"Two," the man answered. "One was only the door."

"What did I lie about?" Dreyfus asks.

"You made it seem as if we are the invaders. You came here, we did not come to you."

"But who was here first?" Dreyfus asks about the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood where he was standing, the epicenter of the rioting that rocked the city and jolted the country on May 10. "In the beginning, this was a Jewish neighborhood."

A car behind the driver honks, as traffic is beginning to pile up while these two Lod residents discuss who had the earliest claim on the neighborhood. The Arab driver drives off, leaving the issue hanging, unresolved.

TWO WEEKS after Jerusalem Day, when Lod Arabs rioted in solidarity with four Palestinian families facing possible eviction in Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and with east Jerusalem Arabs who rioted at al-Aqsa Mosque, so much in Lod still remains unresolved: why it all started, who is ultimately responsible and, most importantly, how to move forward.

Four days of rioting that made Lod feel like Belfast during the "Troubles" left one Arab and one Jew killed, several people injured from gunshots, a few hurt in knifing incidents, four synagogues burned, a number of apartments firebombed and destroyed, dozens of cars set alight, and numerous windows broken on cars, synagogues, mosques and stores. The rioting took place as Israel was coming under attack from Hamas rockets in Gaza.

"What happens now? Where do things go from here?" Dreyfus is asked.

"That's a good question," he replies. "I don't know.

"I'm originally from Bet El. There we had a fence. Here there is no fence. I want to create a normal life. For years we lived the left-wing dream here, Jews and Arabs living together in the same apartment buildings. A community center – 'Chicago' – had programming for Jews and for Arabs. I wouldn't call what we had coexistence, but living together."

Dreyfus spoke while giving a walking tour of the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood, which bore the brunt of the rioting. On the "tour" he points to one building where the staircases were repaired and the exterior spruced up only after Jews moved in some 15 years ago. He points to the exterior of another rundown-looking building, where Jews and Arabs live side by side, noting that Jews are living in the apartments from which Israeli flags are flying.

He notes a pile of rubble, including aluminum sheets and rods, in the corner of a parking lot, and says it was once a temporary structure the city recently destroyed after a rock was hurled from behind it onto a neighborhood preschool that now – only now – has a guard in front of it. It is a Jewish preschool. The Arab preschool directly next door needs no guard.

Dreyfus points out where shots were fired at Jews on May 13, and where several cars were torched. He shows a video of rocks being thrown and people running for cover in a parking lot. It is the same parking lot where he is standing at that moment.

Dreyfus's tour culminates in the apartment of Sivan Danin. Apartment is a misnomer. It is a charred shell of an apartment. On Thursday night, the fourth night of the violence when Danin and her husband went to her parents in Yavne to get out of harm's way, rioters and looters pounded a hole in an outdoor wall – a pounding noise that must have been audible to other neighbors in the building who did not stop the carnage – and set the place alight.

Last Wednesday Danin was with an assessor assessing the damage. The assessor did not need much experience to realize that this gutted apartment, with a half-burned piano still standing in the living room, was a "total loss."

"We were with our parents," Danin says. "It's a good thing. Had we been here they would have killed us, simply killed us."

Danin lived in the apartment, along with five other Jewish families in a building of 16 apartments for some 15 months. One of the most chilling things about the incident, one that bothers her the most, she says, is the question: Where were the neighbors, and what did they do?

"Do you intend on...

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