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By Ilan Ben Zion
and David Goldman

The Associated Press

LOD, Israel — Israeli security forces guard the streets of Lod, weeks after rioters torched patrol cars, synagogues and homes. Attackers who killed an Arab and a Jewish resident are still at large. And a mayor whom some blame for setting the stage for some of the worst domestic unrest in Israeli history remains in office.

Israel and Hamas reached a truce two weeks ago to end 11 days of fighting in the Gaza Strip. But the roots of the upheavals that wracked Israel's mixed Jewish-Arab cities during the war have not been addressed, leaving those communities on edge.

"It's hard for me to say what tomorrow will be like. To say that I will have the same trust, it's hard to say," said Rivi Abramowitz, a Jewish resident of Lod's predominantly Arab Ramat Eshkol neighborhood.

Lod, about 16 kilometers (10 miles) southeast of Tel Aviv, next to the main international airport, is home to 77,000 people. About a third are Arabs — many of them descendants of Palestinians who formed the majority of the city before a mass expulsion amid the 1948 war around Israel's creation.

An urban landscape of low-rise housing projects from the 1950s and '60s, the working-class city also is a bastion of hard-line Jewish politics. In the March 23 election, staunchly nationalist parties, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, won more than 60% of the vote in Lod.

Any tensions were largely below the surface — until last month.

Clashes between Jerusalem police and Palestinian protesters in and near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, and the planned eviction of Palestinians from homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood drove some Arab residents of Lod into the streets in protest.

On the night that war began between Israel and Hamas, the shooting of an Arab man by a Jewish resident of Lod touched off over a week of violence, and the city was placed under a state of emergency.

Similar disturbances, fueled by longstanding Arab grievances over discrimination and lack of opportunities, quickly spread to other mixed areas across the country.

In Lod, two residents were killed: Musa Hassuna, 32, by a suspected Jewish gunman, and Yigal Yehoshua, 56, by a suspected group of Arab attackers. No charges have been filed in either case, and police say investigations are ongoing.

Some Arab residents point to the election of Mayor Yair Revivo eight years ago as a turning point. Revivo has close ties with a religious nationalist movement known as the "Torah Nucleus," which promotes what it calls Jewish values in impoverished cities.

Critics say Revivo, a member of Likud, has incited hate against Arabs, advanced discriminatory policies and empowered the Torah Nucleus in harmful ways. The group's presence in Lod goes back some 25 years, but its numbers have swelled from two founding families to over 1,000 families today.

Before the rioting, Revivo railed against "Arab crime" in his city, calling it an "existential threat to the state of Israel."

"Jewish criminals have a drop of compassion. Arab criminals, you don't understand, don't have any inhibitions," he told Radio 103 in December.

In April, he urged the government to launch a military-style operation to clamp down on the "nightmare of gunfire, explosions, fireworks and calls to prayer amplified abnormally at 4 a.m."

In a letter to Israel's police chief and public security minister, Revivo described "an atmosphere of terror, a Wild West" perpetrated by Arab residents.

Days before the May 10 riots, Revivo toured Lod with Itamar Ben Gvir, an ultranationalist lawmaker with anti-Arab views, outraging Arab residents.

Ruth Lewin-Chen of the Abraham Initiatives, a nonprofit group based in Lod that promotes coexistence, said its Arab population has grown increasingly frustrated.

She cited socioeconomic disparities between Jews and Arabs, violent crime and the absence of effective policing, planning and housing policies. She also pointed to the growing influence of the Torah Nucleus.

Many Arabs in Lod view the group with suspicion because of its ties with the West Bank settler movement. Some Arab residents refer to all of them collectively as "settlers."

During the unrest, Arabs targeted property belonging to the religious nationalist community. In response, armed West Bank settlers and other ultranationalists mobilized to Lod, fanning the flames.

"We are observant from the religious Zionist community. I don't see why we're put into the rubric of 'settlers,'" said Abramowitz, who has lived in Lod for six years with her husband, who was born in the town and whose parents were among the founders of the Torah Nucleus. "Nobody has come to throw out anybody."

Arab politician Mohammed Abu Shikri said that in his decades on Lod's city council, "I've never seen a mayor of a mixed city of Arabs and Jews who incites against Arabs, brings in settlers."

"I've known eight Lod mayors," he said. Until Revivo, "the mayors always had good relations with the Arabs."

Arabs comprise about 20% of Israel's population and are citizens with the right to vote. But they have long suffered from discrimination, and their communities are often plagued by crime, violence and poverty. They largely identify with the Palestinian cause, leading many Israelis to view them with suspicion.

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