Most of the original Palestinian residents of Lod, known as Lydda in Arabic, were expelled and moved east, never to return. Bedouins from the Negev arrived in the following decades, as did families of Palestinians from the West Bank who had collaborated with Israel, seeking safe refuge.
The rage of the Arab youths now is steeped in a smarting sense of inequality born of decades of discrimination and a lingering fear of displacement. Many Palestinian residents of Lod expressed frustration on Thursday over government neglect. Weeks ago, a couple of homes that lacked building permits were demolished by the authorities.
The anger has been stoked in recent years by a process of internal Jewish settlement in Israel. Instead of settling in the already well populated Jewish communities of the West Bank, organized groups of young, ideological, Orthodox families are now moving into economically weak and mixed cities like Lod, perceiving a religious calling to strengthen the Jewish presence there.
Many of those newer Jewish families are scattered around Ramat Eshkol, living in shared apartment buildings with Arab neighbors, Israeli flags flying outside their windows. Others live in a newly built, specially designated neighborhood for them nearby.
“We feel it is important,” said Yehezkel Cohen, 43, the principal of the community’s elementary school, showing religious books that were burned. “It’s our mission. Our presence has only improved the neighborhood.”
The trouble in the city began when Arab youths protested outside a mosque in the old quarter on Monday night and raised a Palestinian flag. They were roughly dispersed by police firing stun grenades and tear gas, residents said, igniting the charged atmosphere.
Later that night an Arab man was fatally shot during a riot, and three Jewish men were arrested. Their neighbors claimed they acted in self-defense, but the death may have set off a blood feud.