Signs of a tumultuous night in Lod, signs of things spinning out of control, are clearly visible in the streets the following day. The enormous rocks that were thrown at the police litter the street. Damaged traffic signs are only being slowly repaired. On every street in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood in this central Israeli city with a mixed Arab and Jewish population, is what’s left of a cars that had been damaged or set on fire in rioting by hundreds of young Arab male residents of Lod.
Roughly 30 vehicles have been torched, most of them owned by Jews. No one has bothered to tow them away. For now, they remain there as a tangible reminder of how things spun out of control in this city against the backdrop of the fighting between Israel and Hamas and its allies in Gaza. “Believe me when I tell you that I have no idea how it happened, where all this hatred came from,” said Mahmoud, 50, as he looked at the blackened hulks of two burned-out cars. A resident of Lod with a business on Tzahal Street, a main thoroughfare, he’s still trying to fully absorb the recent events in his city, which is not far from Ben-Gurion International Airport.
“We’ve lived here for decades in coexistence, I have Jewish customers who are like brothers to me. Where are these young people getting all their hatred from? I don’t know,” he wondered out loud.
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A friend, Amir, joins in. Like Mahmoud, he was forced to close his business due to the riots. “There’s a group here that wants to set the country on fire. They’re not the majority here,” Amir remarked.
Both men think it’s just a matter of time before everything returns to normal in the town. “One more week and you’ll see people lining up for hummus,” Mahmoud said hopefully, but he and Amir don’t seem to represent the city’s young people.
“This will end only if there’s blood in exchange for blood,” said 20-year-old Hamid. He’s a cashier at a local supermarket and a regular participant in the recent protests, by his own admission. He, like everyone interviewed for this article, declined to provide a full name, due to concern over the police. The younger people were the most reluctant to talk. “We don’t want Jewish journalists or the settlers’ media here,” one said.
They dress in black and some wear black face masks, and not for protection against the coronavirus. “Everyone is riled up over the death of the young man,” said Hamid, apparently referring to Musa Hasuna, who was allegedly killed by armed Jewish residents defending against rioters.
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In another incident, a Jewish man in his 50s sustained serious injuries when a mob in Lod stopped his car and beat him up. He was admitted to nearby Shamir Medical Center, where he is in serious condition. “So how do you want it to end? One for one, blood for blood.” In the case of the motorist, he said, it was “one of yours.”
“It’s all Al-Aqsa,” said another young man who refused to give even his first name. He was referring to the recent clashes in the vicinity of the Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and police that preceded the flare-up in military hostilities. He was standing outside an apartment building on Struma Street, where the car of the only Jewish resident was set on fire. The man’s apartment was also broken into.
“I said don’t do it,” the young man said, but then added, “Let it burn for all I care.” He lives nearby. “It’s all because of those [Jewish] religious people, looking to buy apartments here that Arabs can’t afford. They pay 1.5 million shekels ($456,400) for an apartment worth 1 million. Enough. Do you think you can bring in Netanyahu’s police against us so the religious people can take our homes? That the religious people would murder people here while we sit idly by? This city will burn until one of theirs dies. In the end, we will prevail and they will leave. It won’t end tonight, and it won’t end when the mess in the Gaza Strip ends. We have stopped being afraid.”
The fearlessness of the young Arab men is palpable on the ground, as is the lack of control over the situation on the part of the police. At the synagogue on Brenner Street, which was set on fire, Asher, who manages the facility, was in tears over what had happened.
“Never in my life did I think it would happen here,” said Asher, who has run the synagogue for decades. “The Arab neighbors had protected this place.”
The building was burned, but the firefighters were able to stop the fire from spreading to the sanctuary. The Torah scrolls were rescued and the next morning were smuggled to a safe place.
“I don’t know how we will continue on from here,” he said with tears in his eyes. “Anyone who is willing to burn a synagogue would be willing to burn everything.”