I spent a few fascinating hours yesterday in Lod.
Lod is unique, because it has a 6000-year history. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world. There are layers and layers of history and depth when you walk through its streets and sights.
And yet …
The city is filled with negative forces – drugs, crime, neglect, weapons, prostitution. The army’s Border Patrol (not the police) has been called in to fight gang warfare, and until recently the city didn't even have an elected mayor. It’s usually seen as the drug- and crime-capital of Israel. It’s a dangerous and unpleasant place, in some areas.
So young people leave as soon as they can. And you have a negative spiral, with the weak and vulnerable pulling the socioeconomics even further down. One-third of the population of Lod is treated by welfare authorities.
There’s no cinema (in a city of 75,000 people).
There’s no cultural life.
There's only one café (just opened last month; it’s not very good. The food is awful and the service is worse).
I was walking with some friends and colleagues around the city and we saw a group of Polish tourists come visit the Church and Mosque of St. George. “They come to see the holy site, maybe buy some holy water, then they get back on the bus,” said my colleague Lior, Director of our new Center for Young Adults. “There’s nothing else for them to do here. Living here is a sacrifice. What we need is to be normal: tourism, trade, personal security.”
Lior and his team were interviewing new candidates two weeks ago for the new Center for Young Adults. One of the candidates, a young and promising woman with a good resume, called from the parking lot. She refused to come in to the interview because she was too afraid to leave her car and come across the lot.
That’s the challenge we’re facing there.