Festival to light up Old City of Lod

"Thousand Nights and Lod" will bring Israeli musicians to the crime-ridden city after murders and threats to shut it down.

lod festival 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
lod festival 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Forgotten corners of the country like Lod usually only grab the spotlight when gunshots leave bodies in the streets. Now an organization is looking to shine a light on the more positive aspects of Lod, with two nights of outdoor festivals in its Old City.
The “Thousand Nights and Lod” festival will bring a wide-range of Israeli musicians to the Old City, including the Andalusian Orchestra and Edan Yaniv on October 21, and David Broza and Aviyahu Shabat on the 28th.
The festival, which will be free of charge and run from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. each night, will include art exhibits, a food fair, and light shows on the walls of the historic district.
The first night will be hosted by Israeli Survivor finalist and Lod native Mirit Vaknin, while the 28th will be hosted by actor and model Guy Arieli.
The event is funded largely through contributions from, among others, the city of Lod, the European Union, Office Depot, and the Bronfman Fund. It is the brainchild of Ruth Wasserman Lande, whose husband, Aviv, founded the Lod Community Foundation in 2008. The private organization cooperates with the municipality to find ways to improve Lod, which Wasserman Lande told The Jerusalem Post this week is “one of the cities in Israel with the greatest gaps between the potential and the reality.
“Our purpose is to take this city that is only 15 minutes from Tel Aviv and only two minutes from Ben-Gurion International Airport and take it to a greater place, in cooperation with the municipality and the government.
It’s not an easy task, but it’s something that needs to be done for the sake of the community and needs to be done from the bottom up,” she said.
“What we’re trying to do is take a city that’s in the center of Israel and has every reason to succeed, and trying to put it where it belongs instead of where it is right now.”
The organization’s board is made up of seven members from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian communities of the city. Wasserman Lande, who moved to Lod following doctoral studies at Oxford and after working in the office of President Shimon Peres, said the cross-section on the organization’s board is intended to represent the “huge mosaic of different communities in this city of 75,000. We have Jews from Russia, India, Morocco, Georgia, plus the Muslims, and the Christians who make up around one percent of the community.”
Lod made headlines last week when over the course of 30 hours two locals were gunned down in front of their children.
Following media attention and threats by the mayor to shut down the city, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch deployed a company of Border Police officers, as well as undercover police, in a large, openended public security campaign supported by the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
The city, which has struggled for years with the social ills brought on from being the center of the nation’s drug trade, found itself again seared in the Israeli consciousness as a place where life is cheap and gunshots part of the nightly soundtrack.
Wasserman Lande said improving the image of Lod is at the center of the foundation’s goals, and that of the upcoming festival.
“Most Israelis have no idea about the Old City, all they know about Lod are the blood, drugs and crime. People don’t know it’s an 8,000- year-old city, older than Jaffa and Jerusalem, and that Rabbi Akiva [c.50–c.135 CE] lived here. It’s a very important city for Jews. For Christians, it is the home of the Cathedral of St. George, the patron saint of England and Georgia, among other countries.”
Wasserman Lande hopes the Old City can be a magnet for tourists and also attract locals, who rarely venture down to the area at night, when it is all but deserted. At the center is the “Peace Triangle,” a complex shared by the Mamluk mosque, the St.
George Cathedral and the Georgian Synagogue.
As part of the festivities, Theophilos III, the Greek- Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem, will open the doors of the cathedral to the public, and the nearby Indian synagogue will welcome visitors who want to experience some of the town’s multi-cultural tapestry.
Though it hasn’t been battered by rockets or terrorism, the problems facing Lod demand a helping hand from other Israelis, Wasserman Lande said.
“Just like Israel embraced Sderot, though for completely different reasons, Lod needs embracing and the people here need embracing too,” she said.