For a long time, Jews and Arabs lived together in Lod but this week, everything fell apart
A synagogue with charred walls and incinerated cars testified Wednesday to a breakdown of Arab-Jewish coexistence in the mixed city of Lod against the backdrop of the latest Israeli-Palestinian showdown.
For a long time, Jews and Arabs lived together in Lod. This week, everything fell apart.
On Monday night, as Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza fired hundreds of rockets into the skies over Israel and Palestinians demonstrated in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, violence swept mixed cities of central Israel.
In Lod, an industrial city with rows of beige and grey homes with barred windows, where 40 percent of the population is Arab, groups of Arabs and Jews have confronted each other.
Mussa Hassuna, a 32-year-old father, was shot and killed in the clashes.
At his funeral on Tuesday, protesters torched cars, and hurled stones and Molotov cocktails.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared a "state of emergency" in Lod, at a time when Israel was being targeted by a deluge of rockets from Gaza and carrying out deadly airstrikes on the Palestinian enclave.
A small synagogue was set ablaze, its windows blackened by flames.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, who celebrated a Ramadan "iftar" meal just weeks ago, condemned what he termed a "pogrom" by a "bloodthirsty Arab mob."
Outside the synagogue, Yoel Frankenburg, 34, remains furious.
"The Arabs are trying to kill us! And why they want to kill us I have no idea!" he said.
"I've been living here for 12 years and most of the time I've been a good neighbour.
"They attacked me, they threw stones at me...I had to send my (five) children out of town," to their grandparents.
He said several Jewish families had their guns ready, because "the police do nothing".
'Things have changed'
Arabs say families like Yoel's are no different than the Jewish nationalists who settle in the occupied West Bank.
"Things started to change about 10 years ago, when extremist groups began to move into the neighbourhood," said Wael Abo Sharkh, an Arab resident.
"As soon as these extremists started to arrive, things changed," and Arab youths have reacted against the transformation of their city, he said.
Many of Lod's Arab citizens accuse the mayor's office of facilitating the influx of "extremist" Jews.
Outside the local courthouse, dozens of Israelis held a demonstration Wednesday in support of three Jews arrested in connection with Hassuna's killing.
A semi-automatic weapon slung over his shoulder, Meir Layosh marshalled the crowd with a loudspeaker while cradling a baby in a stroller.
"We're not violent...but we have to protect ourselves against terrorists and anti-Semites," said Layosh.
"These people don't want us here, but I have a message for them: We're staying put," he said.