Behind the storms sweeping the Levant, a Haaretz report just in casts some break-through rays of light on a grim corner of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that begs a double take.
A place called Lod (Lid if you’re Arab-sided) is experiencing what the Arab Israelis of this community are terming a veritable ‘settlement’ by the Zionist vanguard.
What business would the Jewish pioneers have in settling their ‘own’ community in Israel-proper, you might ask. These newcomers to the hood feel charged by their religious remit to redress some of the blatant signs of inequality between Arab and Jewish Lod-ites, co-existing side-by-side.
According to the Haaretz survey, a quarter of the population of Lod is Arab-Israeli. And you can tell. There are no upmarket housing projects for the Arabs in their run-down shanty-town. These inhabitants lend a more down-trodden feel to the distinct Arab part of town. But an enervated community have had some new and very Jewish neighbors recently step in, bringing with them a touch of class and healthy town-planning aspirations (sponsored by the “Israel Lands Administration”)- but it comes at the cost of nasty chants and intimidation of a God-given-right to clean up the neighborhood of its un-collected trash. These groups, Garin Torani and Ahuzat Nof Neria, are those new Zionists families about town.
To add insult to injury, the holier-than-thou foundations of at least the Garin Torani project are holy burial sites to the Muslims being forced out.
Local arabs have taken to calling these new neighbors ‘settlers’. And they say they won’t budge without a fight. Answering religious justifications to land-rights, a local imam says they’re not about to leave alive; they'd have to be buried on their land, according to his comments to Haaretz.
They feel like they’re being elbowed out of their home-land. Not an alien feeling for Arabs in the Holy Land, you might think. But not so common a predicament for Israeli Arabs traditionally, whose living arrangements are not usually at odds with those of the Israeli state’s plans.
The mayor says its all part of saving the city and resurrecting its cultural capital by injecting it with more Jewishness. After all, things took a nose-dive when the Jewish members fled for nearby towns over the last 20 years and the town needs regeneration. But does development have to be accompanied by provocative parades?
The Arabs wouldn’t deny that their neck of the woods is the worse for wear, and that they own the 'ghetto' quarter of the city. Parts of Lod look like old-time Beirut, with routine gunfire ringing out. But even in the knowledge that the return of more Jewish residents might up the quality of life, and get their own trash collected, they are not comfortable with the ‘provocateurs’ waving flags and torches and making claims in sing-song fashion to have ‘come to banish the darkness.’
So the strike back has been pronounced and Palestinian: The Arabs in the area were convinced the Hanukkah message this season was a thinly veiled agenda to expel and Judaize Lod, settler-style, and one of them, a teacher, went tit-for tat, raising a Palestinian flag in response. Nearly 2 weeks ago, there was a rally of all the Arab youth groups in the city, whose members congregated to march with Palestinian flags.
What do you think? Is this Jewish influx to the Lod a sign of town-planning taken too far or a more foreboding political settler ideology visiting Israel proper?