Lod’s new city hall had a festive if a bit somber atmosphere on Thursday, as
about two dozen protesters sat outside three tents set up as part of a protest
against recent home demolitions in the city.
The complex had homemade
signs set up reading, among other things, “Abu Eid Refugee Camp,” “the ongoing
Nakba [the Arabic term for “catastrophe” used to describe Israel’s victory, and
the Arab countries’ defeat, in 1948],” and “Tahrir Square,” the latter being a
reference to the city of tents set up by the tens of thousands of protesters in
Cairo’s central square who brought down President Hosni Mubarak after 18 days of
The protesters, around half of whom appeared to be
children, looked no worse for wear on Thursday afternoon, even though activists
said at least 30 of them had spent the night in the tents and on the front lawn
the night before.
The tents were set up Wednesday following a new round
of protests over home demolitions in Lod. In December, seven homes that housed
around 70 members of the Abu Eid family were demolished by the Israel Lands
Authority, following years of court battles.
Activists and residents said
that since then, no viable solution has been found for the family, and recently,
foundations were laid by the family to place a caravan. On Wednesday, ILA
officials escorted by police took apart the concrete surface. During an ensuing
skirmish, three family members were lightly wounded and a few family members
were arrested, including minors, according to witnesses.
Later that day,
residents and activists set up a protest tent at Lod City Hall, and during
clashes with police, five people were arrested, but the tents
Police said Thursday that “on Wednesday, while trying to clear an
illegal protest at Lod City Hall, people began interfering with the police work,
and began disturbing the peace. At this point, five people were taken into
custody for questioning.”
Police added that they “operate according to
the law, and if people say there was unusual force used, they should issue a
complaint to the police internal affairs division.”
Outside the city hall
on Thursday, 45-year-old Lod resident Louie Abu Eid, said he and the other
protesters “plan to stay here as long as it takes until we are given a
Abu Eid said the solution should be to supply a house for each
family whose house was demolished in the Helen Keller street
When asked if he would agree to pay municipal taxes if he was
given a home with legal status, he said “if it’s arranged well, with sewage
infrastructure, we are ready to pay. But why should we pay when we aren’t seen
as legal? Until now, all we‘ve received is lies.”
spokesman Yoram Ben-Arush’s office sits on the second floor of the new city hall
building, directly overlooking the tent protest. On Thursday, Ben-Arush told The
Jerusalem Post, “It’s not a nice thing to see. I’ll be honest, I got here this
morning and just looked out the window for five minutes wondering, ‘How did we
get to a situation like this?’” Ben-Arush said the people holding the protest
were not from the families whose homes were destroyed, and characterized them as
“people from extremist organizations in Tel Aviv or elsewhere who have come down
here to inflame the situation,” but added that the city had no plans to remove
them by force. He also stipulated that the demolitions are carried out solely by
the ILA and are not the responsibility of the city.
Ben-Arush said that
on city hall chief Meir Nitzan’s first day in office in early February, he went
to meet with the Abu Eid family and told them that it would take some time, but
that he would reach a solution to their problem. Ben-Arush wouldn’t go into the
details of the plan, but said that part of it was an agreement that illegal
construction would stop for the time being, a deal he said the Abu Eid family
He also touted a plan he said Nitzan has put forward to
make 700 houses in the predominantly Arab neighborhood of Pardes Snir
retroactively legal, a plan he said will require the cooperation of the local
Arab communities to carry out.
“The city wants to improve these
neighborhoods, but they must pay taxes like everyone else.”
Ben-Arush, the city estimates that some 2,500 to 3,000 houses in Lod are
illegal, out of a total of 20,000 houses in the city. This figure represents
around half of the 6,000 Arab houses in the city.
Ben-Arush described the
problem of illegal housing as one that directly affects the city’s coffers, in
that well over 10 percent of the houses are not paying municipal taxes. This is
in addition to an untold number of business, mainly in the Arab sector, who he
said operate without building permits or paying taxes.
Arab neighborhoods of Pardes Snir and the Rakevet, among others, reflect a
haphazard and chaotic building culture that is partly due to a lack of municipal
or state building initiatives, but also, according to many locals, a land-grab
culture by Arab residents who build illegally creating facts on the ground. In
these neighborhoods, particularly the Rakevet, slapdash cinder block structures
and ramshackle corrugated steel buildings stand side-byside with multi-story
villas on multi-dunam plots. In between lie large tracts of open land and
illegal trash dumps, with sheep and horses lazily grazing in the middle of it
In conversations with local Jewish residents, the blame inevitably
rests for the most part upon Arab newcomers, in particular the Palestinian
collaborators from the West Bank who were relocated by the Shin Bet to Pardes
Snir and other neighborhoods of Lod in recent years.
Whoever is to blame,
the issue is something of a moot point at the moment for the members of the Abu
Eid family whose homes have still not been rebuilt.
The complex doesn’t
seem to have changed since the initial demolitions took place in December.
Concrete and twisted iron rubble still stands meters high, and ruined mattresses
and furniture still lie in the mud. The only new additions seem to be a sign at
the entrance to the compound reading “Abu Eid Refugee Camp”, and three tents in
which beds have been set up.
One of the tents even had a small structure
ladder set up outside, upon which a satellite dish had been rigged, its cable
running into the tent to a TV screen set up at the foot of a cot.
of the rubble-strewn lot, “Faina,” who lives with her family in an adjacent
four-story building she said is slated for demolition, said “they have no mercy,
not even for women or children”, referring to the Israel Police.
added that her family had taken in some of the Abu Eid family members who had
lost their homes, and that in the meantime, they would wait and see whether or
not their home would be demolished.