This morning we drove to the town of Lod, which is near Tel Aviv, and about a one hour bus ride from Jerusalem. The town consists of three neighborhoods, the first is Jewish settlements. The second neighborhood is mixed, however primarily low income families live in this area. Jewish residents usually cannot afford to leave. The third neighborhood is Israeli-Palestinians. Our guide Tamer Nafer is an Israeli citizen born in Lod. Before the war of 1948 Lod had a population of about 98% Palestinians. Today the population has dwindled to about 25% Palestinians and 75% Jewish. Approximately 2-5% of the original families from Lod still live in the town.
To reach the Palestinian neighborhood we had to cross over a several rows of busy railroad tracks. Tamer pointed out that the side of the tracks closest to the Jewish neighborhood has a wall to protect the people living near by, but there is no wall on the other side. Today there is gate and booth with guards at the place to cross, as well as a bridge, but they have only existed for 8 years. Before that residents would have to drive or run across as quickly as possible.
Once we crossed the tracks it was easy to see the stark differences between the neighborhoods. We stopped near a playground with a shade. There where very few people around. Most people seemed to have cars, and drove by. The playground was abandoned, and missing swings. Most of the houses where in poor condition, and had high walls. Some even had barbed wire and cameras. A few of the houses and walls where well kept, and even had green lawns. Tamer explained that the area has huge drug problems. People are unable to get permits to add on to their homes. About 60% of the homes have demolition warrants. 300 homes have already been demolished. The police for the town spend most of their time harassing children, and do not go after drug criminals. Education is poor in the area, and many families will choose to send their children to private schools run by christian organizations.
On a positive note Tamer spoke about using art as a means of social activism, and to bring about change. Tamer is a hip hop artist, and one of the first to rap in Arabic. His group is called DAM which stands for Dabke on the Moon. His song Born Here helped to bring awareness of the problems in Lod. It brought the town to mainstream channels, which led to the construction of the crossing gate, and bridge by the train tracks. Unfortunately the song did not bring an end to home demolitions.
This evening our group was considering joining a pride parade in Jerusalem. In the end we arrived back to the city late, and where unable to go. Soon after dinner we learned that six people attending the parade where stabbed by an ultra-Orthodox-Jew. Fortunately we are all safe.
We were also informed that there will be protests tomorrow in the old city of Jerusalem near the Temple Mount. However, none of us will be going to the protest. Some people from our group will visit the Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.