The government is looking for the solution to the problem of Lod under a street lamp. After a handful of Border Policemen, who were brought there in the wake of two murders, failed to prevent another murder and an attempted murder, the prime minister himself came to the rescue and two days ago brought a comprehensive plan for government approval.
The Public Security Ministry will run the "City Without Violence" program in Lod and carry out projects to establish a situation room, complete a network of surveillance cameras, construct a monitoring and control center with advanced technology, and draw up an enforcement plan for illegal construction. The Social Affairs Ministry will add five slots for social workers. The Culture and Sport Ministry will allocate NIS 800,000 (for two years ) for cultural activities, and the Minority Affairs Ministry will transfer about NIS 3 million for activity earmarked to advance the Arab population. The Tourism Ministry will prepare a preservation plan for tourism in the old city, and the Transportation Ministry will implement transportation projects to make the city and its environs more accessible. A real End of Days scenario.
But the solution to the problem of Lod is located far from the beam of light emanating from the government street lamp. All the abovementioned steps are like aspirin for a chronic illness in the area of planning, which is the responsibility of the Interior Ministry and the Housing and Construction Ministry.
Since the capture of Lod Israeli governments have turned it into the country's junkyard. First they caused the destruction of the old city and replaced it with housing projects. The old city's destruction robbed Lod of its beating heart - a city without a center is a dead city. Later, in the best Israeli planning tradition, new neighborhoods were built with only an incidental connection to the city, and the satellite neighborhoods of Ganei Aviv and Ganei Ya'ar were promoted; their developers tried to refrain from having them identified with Lod, in an attempt to attract a well-to-do Jewish population. But very soon the bluff was discovered and property values plummeted.
Currently the Lod municipality, the Interior Ministry and the Housing and Construction Ministry are promoting a plan to expand the city's area of jurisdiction by annexing thousands of dunams of agricultural land. Acting Mayor Ilan Harari says that "within the confines of the city there are no new areas suitable for developing a large residential neighborhood. Attracting a strong population to Lod could help a great deal in changing its image," (TheMarker, October 21 ). His predecessors made similar statements when they initiated the construction of Ganei Aviv and Ganei Ya'ar, and Lod's image only continued to deteriorate.
The government preferred to invest in new cities. Modi'in and Shoham, both within 5 to 10 kilometers of Lod as the crow flies, have created attractive alternatives for an affluent Jewish population, and Airport City is developing as an attractive employment alternative.
The solution for Lod can be found within the present municipal boundaries. The city, and mainly its center, look like after a bomb attack. Housing projects for the poor are scattered randomly in open and neglected areas. The city is crying out for a massive "evacuate and construct" urban renewal project while at the same time there should be denser, multi-functional construction and investment in the public space. In the short term, it's easier to flee from the problem and build on available agricultural land. The problem is that a high price will be paid in the future, in both blood and money.
Had Israeli governments invested in Lod - and also in Ramle and Acre - a quarter of what they invested in building cities and communities from nothing in the territories and within the Green Line, they would have prevented turning the mixed cities into centers of poverty, backwardness and crime.
All those who are partners to this ongoing planning failure should consider themselves partners to the murders that have taken place, and those to come.
The writer is an architect who teaches at Tel Aviv University and a founder of Merhav - the Movement for Israeli Urbanism.
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