The Palestinians who on May 15 lived the 73rd commemoration of the Nakba through the events in Lod, Sheikh Jarrah and the Gaza Strip, have reclaimed the bitter reality that has been theirs for over seven decades.
On Tuesday, May 11, a video spread on social media showing Jewish residents leave the city of Lod, some 15 kilometers east of Tel Aviv, in a scene reminiscent of the Palestinian “thirst march” that followed the notorious 1948 massacre that took place here.
In recent years, Lod had not appeared much on the map of protests, but now the city’s Palestinian residents responded en masse to calls to demonstrate against the practices of the Israeli occupation forces in Jerusalem and their attempts to forcibly remove residents from their homes and hand them over to settlers brought in from abroad.
As demonstrators chanted against the occupation, young Musa was shot dead by a settler. The next day the Israeli army prevented the funeral from taking place, which triggered the riots and confrontations, after which a state of emergency was declared.
The events seem to echo the tragedy the city lived through 73 years ago.
Lod in the 1948 war
Following the declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, its leaders in July of that year launched Operation Danny, a large military campaign in the region of Lod and Ramla in order to seize Lod Airport (today’s Ben Gurion Airport), reach Jerusalem and expel the Jordanian Arab Legion that had entered in May.
The Zionists entered Lod deceitfully, as they dressed in Jordanian uniforms, after spreading rumors that part of the Arab Legion would enter the city to prevent its downfall.
The Israeli army attacked Lod on July 10, 1948. As a result of the massive assault, which killed many people, most residents and refugees left the city. The following day Zionist gangs launched a coordinated attack.
The Israelis killed 426 people in Lod, 176 of whom died on July 13 in what is known as the massacre of the Dahmash Mosque. What happened was that, as the Israelis had gathered many residents in the Great Mosque and Al-Khader Church, others fled to the Dahmash Mosque, thinking that would protect them.
The opposite was true, as the Israelis entered the mosque, killing a large number of people. The mosque remained closed for many years. It was only restored and reopened in 2002.
The killing of hundreds of people within hours spread terror among local residents, many of whom decided to flee. Only 1052 of the original 19,000 Arabs decided to stay.
With the signing of the 1949 Rhodes Accords, Lod became an Israeli city, and Israeli citizenship was granted to all residents who had remained. In the years that followed, more and more Jewish Israelis moved to the city, who today make up three quarters of the population
Testimonies of a Massacre
In a play on Socrates’ famous words, we can say that the only thing we do know about the Palestinian Nakba is that we know (almost) nothing about the Palestinian Nakba.
Documenting the testimonies of Palestinian residents, refugees and their ancestors, is very important, to know the exact chain of events and the identity of those who contemplated them.
Founded in 2002 in Tel Aviv, the Zochrot Association aims to raise awareness of the Palestinian Nakba, including the 1948 exodus, and acknowledge Israel’s (moral) responsibility for the injustice inflicted upon Palestinians.
One its most important projects is the publishing booklets with memories of occupied lands and cities such as Lod, which bring together a multitude of material, including personal testimonies, historical facts, maps and photos.
The booklets, which are also published in Hebrew, aims to inform the Israeli people of what state agencies have been trying to hide for decades.
The Lod booklet includes testimonies and confessions from Israeli fighters who participated in the conquest and occupation of the city. They speak of premeditated murder, the mosque massacre, forced displacement and looting.
The following are some excerpts from Zochrot’s booklet Remembering al-Lydd (Lod) regarding the Dahmash Mosque massacre.
“The army attacked the Dahmash Mosque and started to kill people in the mosque. When not all of them had died, the army announced: Whoever still lives, whoever lives stands, let us help him. So, the poor people arose from among the corpses, and were killed …”
Born in 1934 in Lod, Raifa Abu Minna’s testimony was documented in September 2012.
“I fired one shell, that was enough.
– How many people were inside?
– What do you mean?
Lots. I opened the door, I looked, and closed the door again.
– What did you see?
– The hall was empty, and they were all against the walls.
Born in 1929, Rahmiel Kahnovi was a fighter in the Hagana’s Palmach force. His testimony was documented in July 2012.
Why Lod? And what is it like today?
A few days after the commemoration of the Nakba, Lod rose up to upset everything.
Today, large residential buildings surround the city’s central core, which includes the old markets and shops. Modern Lod only appeared after the influx of the many immigrant Jews.
The city became a an industrial center with factories producing anything from warplanes and foodstuffs to paper, carpet, machinery and electronics. Despite the establishment of the new city of Lod, the old city still retains its Arab character.
Lod’s total surface area measures some 12 square kilometers and is home to some 75,000 people, 27 percent of whom are Arabs, mostly living in poor neighborhoods and in difficult humanitarian conditions. Almost daily demolition orders are carried out against them, while there has been a significant increase in violence and crime, especially drug-related.
Today, some 30,000 Arabs in Lod face some 70,000 settlers backed by their soldiers and an Israeli “sovereignty” that has lost those trying to retake the city from the military, and avenge the blood of a 73-year-old old.