Separate But Equal?

by Robyn Carolyn Price, USC “Reporting on Israel” Journalism Student

These two women, Aumhasan and Muti, were born, raised, and married in the Israeli city of Lod, just a short drive away from Tel Aviv. In 2010, the Israeli government finished construction on a wall to separate the Arab population of Lod from the city’s Jewish population. Citing security issues, Israel said that the city, once described as a melting pot, needed to build a wall as a means to protect the Jewish residents from Arab crimes. The Arab residents, however, liken the wall to ethnic segregation.

“Look at the conditions that we are living,” says Muti. ”Look at the infrastructure. For our kids there is no garden. There is no library. There is nothing they have that makes a normal life. They play in the street. There is no transportation. It is very difficult for buses to come in here. And we are paying the same money as the Israelis, but we don’t have any services.”

According to The Economist, a “study by a liberal Israeli group called Shatil (“Seedling”) estimates that 70% of Arab homes in Lod lack legal status.” Therefore, “many municipal services, such as street lighting and rubbish collection, stop at the boundaries.”

On the other side of the wall, there is a different narrative. The Jewish community is not denied the services such as waste removal, paved roads, and a standard quality of life. According to The Economist, “Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, encourages building for Jews to proceed with abandon,” while the Arab residents in Lod say that they are denied building permits and many of their homes are demolished.

“Mixed neighborhoods,” according to Sheera Frenkel in an NPR report, ”have become a rarity. Highly guarded, Jewish-only building projects have sprung up across the city, most of them sponsored by religious Jewish groups.”

“There is one street separating us and them,” says Muti. ”They can build and they have all the services. They have all these streets and infrastructure. It is one street separating between us and them. And look at them and look at us.”

Photos by Robyn Carolyn Price

Editor’s note: Krista and the On Being team are in Israel this week and working with Diane Winston’s graduate students from the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism. We’ll be sharing some of these students’ reports as part of our collaboration and to add to the diversity of observations of this complex place.

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