In response to a ‘crime wave’ in the ancient Israeli city of Lod, the Jewish residents have built a wall to separate them from the predominately Arab Israeli neighbourhood.
This documentary explores the rising tension that this wall has created and explores what exactly it means to be ‘Israeli’ in a country where walls are being built to separate its citizens.
Lod has the highest murder rate in Israel, which police say is due to infighting among Arab families. But the Arab families who live there says it’s a stark example of racial segregation.
Not long ago, Lod was a sleepy backwater. Its 20,000 Arabs among 45,000 Jews peppered their Arabic with Hebraisms, voted for Jewish parties and described themselves as Israeli. The Arab population, drastically reduced in the 1948 war that marked Israel’s birth, has revived, exceeding its previous total.
But the calm has been disturbed. Located just 16-kilometres from Tel Aviv, Israel’s richest city, sewage flows through some of Lod’s Arab streets.
Once mixed districts are separating. Ramat Eshkol, a housing estate built for Jewish immigrants in the ruins of Lod’s old Arab city, bulldozed after the 1948 war, is today a squalid slum, housing mostly Arabs. Piles of rubbish make it grimier than refugee camps in Gaza, the blockaded Palestinian territory 35km to the south. Gangs cruise the streets. The local community centre has been shut for the best part of a decade, says its last employee: the Jewish Agency, a welfare organisation, does not want it “overrun with Arabs”.
Lod’s 120-strong police force is Muslim free. Tension and fear increasingly mirror the West Bank. Arab locals refer to the Jewish newcomers as mustawtineen, meaning settlers. They also suspect the municipality of denying them services, to prise them out by stealth.
Jews says that “the Arabs” pose a security threat because they could fire mortars at planes landing at Ben Gurion airport nearby. Some suggest raising bands of vigilantes. Voting patterns reflect the divide. Arabs who once voted for Jewish-led parties now vote for Arab ones, if at all. A growing number veer towards Islamist groups that fill the vacuum left by the municipality with their own services.
The most extreme consider co-operation with state institutions to be kufr, or unbelief. Jews, too, are attracted in growing numbers to hard-right parties.