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.
A Palestinian Nest with No Babies
A hummingbird’s nest sits in a high branch of the ficus tree on my porch in Los Angeles. Knitting together twigs, leaves, and small scraps, a mama bird has prepared a home for the babies she expects this spring.
I thought about that nest when I saw the ruins of the Abu Eid home in Lod.
This past December, the Israeli police demolished the Abu Eid’s home, and six others on the street, because the families did not have building permits for an area that is zoned “agricultural” instead of “residential.” Authorities acted despite the fact that the families have lived in the neighborhood for years and have repeatedly sought but been refused permits. Meanwhile, adjacent sites have been reclassified as “residential” for an Israeli housing development and a Jewish school.
Standing on the ruins of the Abu Eid’s home, I imagined the slabs of broken cement, bound together by a tangle of brown steel rods, as the building blocks of a nightmare nest. Its hollows are filled with a brown door, a flattened washing machine, and a plastic chair; its sides built up with a white sneaker, a tattered blanket, and a pink blouse with lace trim.
Tragic yet compelling, the smashed house bespeaks the home/no home predicament of Israel‘s Palestinian citizens. An art project befitting an inscrutable God, this nest will hold no babies come spring.
Diane Winston holds the the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism at the University of Southern California. A national authority on religion and the media, her expertise includes religion, politics, and the news media as well as religion and the entertainment media. A journalist and a scholar, Winston’s current research interests are media coverage of Islam, religion and new media, and the place of religion in American identity. She writes a smart blog called the SCOOP and tweets too.
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