Lod, or what the British called Lydda, has seen better days. During the 30-odd years of the British Mandate in Palestine it was an important urban center. It had the airport and it was the most important railway junction in the country at a time when the local railroad grid was connected to Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. Since then its importance as an urban center has declined considerably, and Ben-Gurion Airport is still the country's major civilian airport, no one associates it with Lod. Lod has 74,000 residents and is growing rapidly, especially to the east. Mayor Ilan Harari wants to enlarge the town and upgrade its population, which from a socioeconomic point of view is quite low. "Lod is the gateway to Israel and is very centrally situated with easy access to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and all other parts of the country," he said. "At a time when real estate prices in Tel Aviv and the surrounding areas are reaching new highs, Lod... is a relatively inexpensive residential alternative." Harari is interested in attracting new residents of a relatively higher socioeconomic standing. But he will have a very tough time. Lod is not a very popular place. It is considered to be very unsavory place in which to reside; many of its residents are poverty-stricken, crime is rampant and it has a drug problem. Even though the problems are less acute than they were a few years ago, that is what most people think about Lod. Nevertheless, in the eastern part of the city there is a new neighborhood, Ganei Ya'ar, and another one in the planning stages, Ahisemah, that are attracting young upwardly mobile professionals. The attraction of these neighborhoods is that they are separated from the main part of the city by a main highway. Migdalei Meirav Building Company CEO Daniel Yitzhaki is very bullish about eastern Lod. "The combination of Ganei Ya'ar and the adjacent Ahisemah is virtually a new city," he said. "The Lod Municipality has authorized construction of 4,000 residential units, which means approximately 16,000 new residents - 4,000 in Ganei Ya'ar and 12,000 in Ahisemah. This large concentration of residents will create an entity of its own with commercial centers, cultural centers, shopping malls, religious institutions and places of entertainment." "My company is constructing 120 four- to five-room apartments that are designed for the needs of religiously observant families," Yitzhaki said. The new neighborhoods can possibly become an alternative to Modi'in, where price are rising fast. Like Modi'in, which is about six kilometers from Ganei Ya'ar and Ahisemah, eastern Lod is practically midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Prices also compare very favorably with prices in nearby Ness Ziona and Be'er Ya'acov, and the price differential is substantial. Prices for an average four-room apartments in Ganei Ya'ar are NIS 380,000 to NIS 500,000, Ronen Sheetrit, who represents Anglo Saxon Real Estate in Lod, told The Jerusalem Post. Comparable apartments in Ness Ziona cost from NIS 1 million to NIS 1.1m., in Be'er Ya'acov they cost NIS 840,000 to NIS 940,000, and in Modi'in they cost NIS 1.3, he said. This means that prices in Ganei Ya'ar are approximately a third of what they are in Modi'in.